Monthly Archives: January 2014

12 Years a Slave

Following on from the ciritcal success of Hunger and Shame, British director Steve McQueen brings to the screen an adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name.

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man in 1841 New York. He is a successful musician and lives with his wife and children. When he’s betrayed by two men who promise him work he is sold into slavery where he remains for…well take a guess?

This is the first film I’ve seen of  Steve Mcqueen and he’s produced a powerful and emotional movie. Its fair to say that 12 Years a Slave is not an easy watch-and nor should it be. Some viewers may be put off by the violence displayed in the film, and yes it is hard to watch at times. I know in some films the violence can seem gratuitous or just there to be controversal but the violence in 12 Years a Slave is a necessary part of the story. I”m not sure how you would tell Northup’s tale -or indeed any tale about slavery and not have the subject of violence play a major part.

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor is outstanding as Solomon. There are scenes where McQueen just keeps the camera on Ejiofor’s face and he is able to express so much pain and emotion with just a look. In some films-especially ones considered to be ‘Oscar-worthy’- no matter how well acted a performance is you’re always reminded that you’re watching a ‘performance’. Here Ejiofor transends so far into the role I was forgetting I was watching an actor-I was just seeing Solomon. Which must be one of the biggest compliment an actor can get (although I’m sure he’d rather have the Oscar than my praises 🙂  ). I’m glad Ejiofor is finally getting some recognition as he’s a talented and diverse actor-just watch him as the villian in sci-fi action film Serenity or as a drag queen in Kinky Boots.

McQueen’s lucky charm Michael Fassbender also shows why he’s one of the most in demand actors at the moment. His slave owner Epps is a vicious monster and can be hard to watch at times. Another standout is Lupita Nyong’o as one of Solomon’s fellow slaves Patsey forced to suffer so much at the hands of her master. I really hope we see more from her in the future as it’s an impressive turn from such a newcomer to the film scene.

What I also liked about this film is that it doesn’t fit easily into the usual Oscar movie of having to be an inspirational tale. Yes Northup does end up out of slavery but this was after 12 years of immense pain and torture, in which many slaves were left behind long after Solomon was freed. I’m glad McQueen doesn’t try to force in a sentimental message about the human spirit or something equally as twee. He just lets Soloman’s tale be told as simply as possible and it’s a great adaptation of one man’s story.

Rating5/5-powerful and emotional, this film deserves all the Oscar glories coming to it

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Byzantium (2013)

It seems you can’t go anywhere nowadays without a new film/tv/book/whatever being added to the vampire franchise. Going for more grown up fare than the Twilight/Vampire Dairies is this 2013 British film directed by Neil Jordan whose had previous with the vampire genre 20 years ago with Interview With The Vampire.

Mother and daughter vampires Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) have been surviving by themselves for two hundred years. While mum Clara makes money the only way she knows how-stripping and prostituting, eternal teenager Eleanor longs to tell her story and not be always on the run in order to hide their secret. They arrive in a seaside town which Eleanor recognises from their past. Soon they are not only trying to cover their backs with the local townspeople but also from the haunting figures of their past.

The characterisation of the two women are strong. Clara is a someone whose been forced into horrible situations and uses her cunning and survival instrincts to help her and her daughter survive.  You’re never exactly sure what Clara is thinking and whether she cares for human life at all or whether they are just a means to an end. Her daughter Eleanor is more empathetic and only kills those who are looking to die. She is also desperate to tell someone about who she really is, repeatedly writting down her life story and then ripping it to pieces.

As with Neil Jordan’s previous works there is a great sense of atmosphere and distrubing visuals which are somehow mesmarising at the same time. Scenes such as Clare being bathed in river of bloods in the cliffs for example are both disturbing and sensual. There is also great acting from the two leads as well as the supporting cast. Jonny Lee Miller in particular makes for a thoroughly discpicable villian and Sam Riley is interesting as one of the more nicer vampires looking for Clara.

The movie does attempt to have some original features. The vampires don’t have fangs but grow an enlarged fingernail instead to cut their victim’s skins. The way they turn into vampires also involves some weird island and a cave. Overall though in spite of these features I woudn’t say that Byzantium is the most striking or memorable vampire film I’ve seen, although its probably one of the better acted.

Some of the aspects just didn’t work. Eleanor has an awakward romance with a local boy which is initally sweet but you wonder why Eleanor wants to share her story with a guy she’s only just met. She’s been around two hundred years but sometimes she doesn’t seem that smart. Clara’s reluctance to share with Eleanor the real reason why they are on the run is also grating-they would have avoided a lot of trouble if they had just been honest with each other. I was also a bit bored of seeing Clara in her underwear/naked for half the movie as well-although I’m sure some viewers will find that a positive thing and it has to be said Gemma Arterton does look great. It just felt like some of the scenes were not relevant to the plot and basically just there for Arterton to get her kit off.

Rating 3/5- an enjoyable and bloody addition to the genre but not memorable enough after the credits roll.

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Why is there no movie for Marvel’s The Runaways?

There have been a lot of news recently about Marvel’s film franchises with the casting for Ant Man being released and promotional stills and artwork for The Guardians of the Galaxy being shown to the public. However the Marvel project I’m most excited about (apart from the next Captain America film) is one that doesn’t seem to be heading to our screens anytime soon.

I was in the library looking through the graphic novel section when I came across a Marvel series called The Runaways. Intreaged I had a quick look at it and quite liked the idea behind it all. However the volume I picked up was number four and I hate starting in the middle of a series, so unable to find a copy of it anywhere I ordered the first volume Pride and Joy online. Here’s a brief discription:

At some point in their lives, all young people believe their parents are evil – but what if they really are? Meet Alex, Karolina, Gert, Chase, Molly and Nico – whose lives are about to take an unexpected turn. When these six young friends discover their parents are all secretly super-powered villains, the shocked teens find strength in one another. Together, they run away from home and straight into the adventure of their lives – vowing to turn the tables on their evil legacy.

I read the first volume and I was hooked. It’s a great idea. The characters were likeable and feel like real teenagers put into an extraordinary situation. I was also impressed at how diversed the characters were and for once there were 4 girls to 2 boys which made a nice change. The plot was exciting and thrilling while also having plenty of humour that I love. I liked the way it was drawn too.

Granted I’ve only read the first volume but I’ve read lots of reviews saying how good the series is. Which leads to the my title question-why does Marvel have no plans to bring The Runaways to the big screen?

According to the internet there was plans to make a film of The Runaways and were even begining to cast some of the lead roles. But then they decided to focus their attentions on The Avengers instead. I loved The Avengers film but its a shame The Runaways never got their chance to shine. But actually I think that it would perhaps work better as a tv show as the episodic narrative would suit the story and allow the multiple characters room to grow each week. However it seems like the powers-that-be are focusing their attentions on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and their new Netflix Defenders shows so any plans for The Runaways seem to be on the backburner. But still I thought I’d share with people this fun and exciting series, so if you’re looking for new seires to follow The Runaways is definately worth your time.

Has anyone read the series? Is this the type of show you would want to watch? Or are you sick of Marvel and superhero movies/films and want something completely different? Let me know in the comments below.

For those who want to find more on this series can follow this link:

http://marvel.com/comics/characters/1010747/runaways

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The Versatile Blogger Award

Hi readers, I’m thrilled to say I’ve been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award by Cara over at Silver Screen Serenade

versatile blogger award

So here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award and include a link to their blog.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly for the Versatile Blogger Award including a link to their sites.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself

So a big thank you to Cara at Silver Screen Serenade who nominated me a while ago and I’ve only just gotten around to writing it up. Cara has a great blog and we’ve had some lovely conversations. I’ll be forever grateful to her for showing me the video clip of Benedict Cumberbatch reading out the lyrics to an R Kelly’s song. Hilarious!

Now for the 15 Bloggers I’m nominating which is a mixture of awesome blogs I follow and some new blogs I’ve read recently. Please check them out:

Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews

Hypersonic55

liam does film

Meera Darji

My One Precious Life

My Reel POV

Film Grimoire

Oh! That Film Blog

Another Bloody Film Review Blog

The Horror Booth

Frame Rates

Popcorn Nights

Charlie Derry

Eyes Are Out

Lasers, monsters and barbarians on, my!

Lastly I have to say seven things about myself:

1: I can’t drive and I’ve never taken a driving test, partly because I’m convinced I would be a really bad driver and secondly because it’s so expensive to drive and where I live it’s easy to walk around and get public transport.

2: Ever since I was eleven I’ve been scared of Freddy Krueger-the guy freaks me out

3: After being recommended to me by my parents I have just watched the first series of The Bridge and it is amazing. I’m currently recording the second series so I can watch them all in one go.

4: As a child I used to name all my dolls Sarah until my twin sister got really annoyed with me and told me to give them all separate names (apart from original Sarah who was allowed to keep her name). I must have really loved that name for some reason.

5: My favourite James Bond film is Skyfall.

6: I love murder mystery programs like Poriot and Miss Marple. Basically I like Agatha Cristie.

7: My favourite Pixar film is probably the Toy Story films although I loved UP as well as its one of the few films that have made me cry in the opening five minutes. Not many films can do that!

This is the second time I’ve been nominated for this award and it really means a lot so thanks again to Cara and everyone who takes the time to read this little blog of mine.

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Static (2012)

Sometimes you go into a film blind knowing nothing or very little about what you’re going to see. You have no idea if the movie has been reviewed as a complete dud or a hidden gem. Being bored one evening I stumbled across Static and decided to take a trip into the unknown.

A distraught couple are coping badly after the death of their young son. One evening a stranger arrives at their door claiming that some men are after her.  Can she be trusted? Will the men come after them?

I am so bored of mediocre horror films. The ones that can’t even be bothered to be properly awful and instead just float along on other films’ cliches. Unfortunately Static is one of those movies.

It starts off promising. Leads Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Shahi, while not always likebale, were convincing as the grieving parents taking their misery out on each other. The arrival of Kate Bosworth’s Rachel into their home was intreaging. Is she telling the truth about why she’s there? Why does she know so much about Jonathan? The tension is building up during these early scenes and when the shit hits the fan you really start worrying for this couple.

However this is one of those films that lives or dies on its ending, with everything being based around the final ‘twist’. Here the ending was a complete let down. The movie leads you to think it will be one type of horror cliche then has the ending of another. However this change is not successful, and the resulting twist end ups not being original, scary or make any sense. You’re more likely to finish the film thinking really was that it? That was the reason for all this?

Can Hollywood please come up with some new ‘twists’ instead of recycling old ones. Is that too much to ask? Probably. Lets hope 2014 gives us more orginal-and scary-horror films.

Rating-2/5 A creepy beginning gives way to a cliched ending

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Dredd (2012)

Over the busy Christmas period I finally got round to seeing this reboot of Judge Dredd. I can’t remember much of the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd film back in 1995 but I do remember it wasn’t very good. So can this remake be one of the few that’s superior to the original?

Set in future America where  crime is high and the only ones upholding the law are the Judges who go out and sentance people on site for their crimes. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is given a new partner- rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a psychic, to see if she sinks or swims on her first day. Unfortunatly Anderson’s first day includes being sealed inside a tower block where gang leader Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) orders it’s residents to kill the judges.

It has to be said that this is a big improvement on the previous Judge Dredd film, and having Karl Urban in the main role is one of the film’s high points. Fans of the comic books will be pleased to know he keeps his helmet on the whole way through the film. Dredd is a difficult character to pull off due to his unflinching stance on the law and the fact that he seems to have very little sense of humour or warmth. Luckily Urban seems to have a good handle on the character and makes this steely character worth watching.

Dredd’s partnerhsip with Anderson is one of the more interesting aspects of the film. She is the rookie who is a bit of an outcast due to her psychic abilities and Dredd doesn’t think she’ll make it through the day. She is more compassionate and emotional than Dredd however she’s no pushover either and handles herself well as the situation dissolves into extream violence. Luckily she is never made as the typical damsel in distress, nor is she depicted as the love interest for Dredd.

So the film starts off well but eventually the fighting gets a bit monotonous. It doesn’t help that the plot is strangely similiar (on the surface anyway) to Indonesian actioner The Raid.  However while that film was able to come up with several inventive fight sequences  in its clasustraphobic setting the action in Dredd gets boring with its continuous gun fire. Another problem is that though the city of  Maga-City One sounds interesting we don’t get much of a chance to see it due to the fact we’re stuck inside the tower block for the majority of the film.

Still this is still an improvement on the 1995 movie and Karl Urban makes for a better Dredd than Stallone did. Fans of the comics and Karl Urban will enjoy this film but it still has a long way to go before being the classic action film it hopes to be.

Rating 3/5-B movie fun that doesn’t outstay its welcome

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American Hustle

Combining key cast members from The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook director David O’Russell brings us this crime comedy drama  based partly on a true story.

When con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are caught by FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they strike a deal that they won’t get prosecuted if they assist Di Maso with four additional arrests. Things get complicated when a politican Mayor Carmine Polito comes on the scene and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets herself involved.

As a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook I was excited to see this movie. However the experience left me rather cold. It may have been that I was expecting to see a different type of film. I thought it would a fun heist flick  with some great twists up its sleeves and although American Hustle has its moment it’s more a case of style over substance. I’m not sure what enticed a cast this talented to be a part of the movie-I guess they enjoyed working with O’Russell on his previous projects. 

The performances however are great. Bale, Cooper and Renner are all convincing in their respective roles but it the women who really shine in this film. Ever since I saw Adams in Enchanted I’ve been a huge fan of hers and she is fantastic as hustler Sydney, a woman who will do whatever she has to in order to survive. She’s tough, intelligent and more than a match for the men around her. She’s already bagged a Golden Globe and Bafta nomination for this role and I expect an Oscar nom will also be on the horizon. Lawrence also gives another amazing performance as Irving’s boozy, wildcard wife Rosalyn. A whirlwind mess of big blonde hair and ballsy attitude, she manages to be funny, hideous and vunerable often within the same scene. Another possible Oscar nomination should be within her sight.

Good performances aside the story is just not as strong. The plot rumbles on well enough but fails to captivate or intrigue as a good crime drama should do. I guess I was waiting for a really great plot twist or character reveal to come. However I just found myself not caring what happened to anyone in the film or how things would work out. It looks great and the cast perform well but all in all it’s not the modern classic I thought it would be.

Rating 3/5-a great cast elvates an otherwise average movie

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