Monthly Archives: July 2015

Dreams of a Life

If tomorrow you disappeared you would think someone-your friends, family, your work colleagues-would notice that they hadn’t seen you and report it. However as Dreams of a Life shows us people can still slip through the cracks.

In December 2003 Joyce Carol Vincent died alone in her home in North London, however her body wasn’t discovered until January 2006 when bailiffs were sent round to her bed sit for unpaid bills. This drama-documentary tries to uncover who was Joyce and how no one noticed she was gone.

The film leaves you wondering how can someone in this day and age can die unnoticed like this. Joyce was a beautiful, outgoing woman in her thirties and yet she died alone in her flat and no one realised for three years. It seems unimaginable and scary that this actually happened to someone.

Director Carol Morley tries to discover the truth about what happens to Joyce, and as she speaks to her friends and co-workers, a picture of Joyce is drawn for us. She had friends, boyfriends and people seemed to like her. Yet some of the pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Through Morely’s meticulous research we know Joyce had four sisters who were still alive but we don’t know why they never reported her missing. As they declined to be interviewed it seems there’s a lot we’ll never know about Joyce.

Zawe Ashton plays Joyce is the film’s reconstruction scenes and Ashton is spellbinding in the role. I’m mostly familiar with her through her comedy work such as St Trinians 2 and TVs Fresh Meat but she handles a dramatic role brilliantly. Ashton displays Joyce as a friendly, outgoing woman yet with a subtle sadness sunder her smile.

It’s not a comfortable film to watch but it is a powerful look at how someone can just disappear from life so easily. It makes you think about how well you really know people. Those you think of as friendly and happy may have something else going on underneath that they hide from the world.

Rating 4/5 – powerful, emotional but worth seeing and remembering someone who was forgotten for so long

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Ant-Man

There is no denying that Marvel Studios is on a winning streak at the moment with their franchise being both critical and commercial successes. Their previous film Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently the sixth biggest movie of all time. But Ant-Man has had a troubled start with the original director Edgar Wright leaving the project after being involved with the development for 10 years (although he and writing partner Joe Cornish still having writing credit alongside Adam McKay and Ant-Man star Paul Rudd). Can new director Peyton Reed rescue the movie from a troubled production?

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from prison for theft. When Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits Scott to help him steal technology from his evil protegé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). To do this he will have to wear a special suit and become Ant-Man.

While perhaps not as offbeat casting as when Marvel picked Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man back in 2006, Paul Rudd still seemed like an odd choice for Scott Lang at first, known more for his comedies like This is 40 than any action/heroic lead roles. However Ant-Man is very funny and it helps to have an actor with known comedic timing and delivery. He also makes Scott, a criminal-in a Robin Hood kind of way-more likeable and sympathetic than he might have been otherwise. His characters arc is satisfying and his parallels with Douglas’s Hank Pym are not over egged.
It may start off a little slow as we get Scott’s back-story and the obligatory scene with his ex-wife and her new husband who are predictably not thrilled to see Scott back in their lives. The film soon picks up though once Scott finds the Ant-Man costume. I also found Scott’s heist team hilarious especially Michael Pena as Scott’s former cellmate Luis. It was also great to have the climax of a Marvel film that doesn’t end with the destruction of a whole city! There is also a few cameos to keep Marvel fans happy and a random, but great use of Thomas the Tank Engine.
The film is able to juggle its subplot well. We go from heist film to comedy to emotional father/daughter and back again. Luckily the film is able to handle these shifts in tone so it does not feel jarring and humour underlies most of the scenes.
Evangeline Lily is also a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe as Pym’s daughter Hope. A good three-dimensional character that’s flawed and complex, but also able to kick ass. The only problem is that the film makes her so capable you can’t help but see her point when she says she should be wearing the suit not Scott. The film does try to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why her father chose Scott over her but it’s still a niggling fact, though not one to stop my enjoyment of the movie.
Some critics may be trying to dismiss Ant-Man due to it having grossed lower than most of the Marvel movies but it was always going o be a more difficult sell compared to the big scale spectacle of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man also had a lower budget compared to the other movies in the franchise. Besides it still managed to be Marvel’s 12th consecutive number 1 opening film even with all the behind the scenes trouble. Hopefully this will leave the door open for Ant-Man 2.

Rating 4/5 – proof that moving things to a smaller scale is sometimes a good idea

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Magic Mike XXL

Three years on from the first Magic Mike movie and we are back in the world of male ‘entertainers’ lead by former stripper Channing Tatum. But with Steven Soderbergh stepping down as director and the fact that sequels in general are worse than it’s predecessors, can Mike work his magic on audiences a second time around?

Having left the male stripping world behind, Mike (Tatum) is struggling with his furniture business and his relationship is in tatters. When he’s given the opportunity by his former co-workers to join them for a last hurrah at the Stripping convention he eventually agrees and the scenes is set for a road trip like no other.

This is a distinctively lighter than the previous movie. While Magic Mike, showed the dark side of the male stripping world alongside the excess and girls, its sequel goes for a funnier light-hearted tone. Your opinion of the movie will probably depend on how you feel about the shift in tone as well as how much you enjoy seeing Tatum and friends without clothes.

Believe it or not there is a plot. It’s basically a raunchy road movie as the guys all prepare to say goodbye to this part of their careers for something that may not provide them with much success. This allows the movie to become more of an ensemble this time around with actors like Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello getting more development this time around.

Personally I really enjoyed the film and not just because of what I said about the lack of clothing. It’s actually very funny and the cast seem to revel in making the movie as outrageous as possible. Manganiello probably gets the best scene stealing moment as he perform a hilarious drug-fuelled, routine in a petrol station. There are also some new recruits to fill the space left by Mathew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer. While I initially found Donald Glover’s presence distracting having mainly known him as lovable duffus Troy in Community, he was really good in the role and also gets to show off his musical talents. Jada Pinkett Smith also made a fun appearance as Mike’s former employer/love interest Rome who knows how to put the boys in their place. There’s also some funny cameos by Elizabeth Banks and Andie MacDowell.

As much as I hate saying something maybe a ‘guy’ film or a ‘girl’ film, the film’s marketing shows that the movie is being directed at a mainly female audience, or at least anyone who fancies Tatum. There is a bit more to it than just good-looking guys in the entrainment world (only a bit ;)) but this is a film that knows what it wants to be and who it’s market is. And it will make a sizeable audience very happy.

Rating 4/5 – over the top and ridiculous but also very funny with it

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Happy Blogiversary!

So three years ago I started this blog! (Technically three years ago yesterday for those being pedantic).

I don’t know if way back in July 2012 I would have thought this blog would still be going. But I’m still as committed to it as the day I started-although I could be better at blogging regularly. That shall be my new aim for the next year.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time out of their busy lives to read my blog. It’s much appreciated.

Cheers everyone! 🙂

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Big Hero 6 (2014)

Last year The Lego Movie was controversially snubbed for a Best Animated Feature and Big Hero 6 went on to win the Oscar. Was it a deserved winner?

Hiro, a 14-year-old robotic genius, lives with his Aunt Cass and older brother Tadashi in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo. After an accident in San Fransokyo Hiro teams up with his friends and Baymax-an inflatable robot invented by his brother – to solve the mystery behind the event.

So while it is universally agreed that The Lego Movie should have been nominated for Best Animated Feature, in my opinion Big Hero 6 was a worthy winner of the award. Perhaps I’m just a big softy but I got really emotionally involved with the story. There was plenty of action and adventure to keep people entertained but the film also wears its heart on it’s sleeve and is the most satisfying part of the story.

The star of the film is of course the loveable Baymax. From his design as an inflatable looking round robot to his deadpan but sincere delivery, Baymax instantly wins the audience over. One minute he’s a caring, medical assistant, the next he’s a kick ass hero but still capable of offering a hug. What’s not to love? Everyone should have a Baymax of their own.

The film looks great, with its setting in San Fransokyo as vibrant and colourful as the film itself. The relationship between Hiro and Baymax is believable and they make for a hilarious partnership. Hiro’s friends are also pretty funny and likeable. I also liked how even without superpowers the characters are able to fight the bad guy using their intelligence and inventions.

It’s not perfect. The story, as entertaining as it is, is not that original. While the identity of the film’s baddie is kept hidden for the first half of the movie the reveal is a bit predictable.

This is an enjoyable and fun movie. And of course no Marvel Comic adaptation is complete without a Stan Lee cameo and he does appear in animated form for those eagle-eyed enough to spot him.

Rating 4/5 – an adorable, energetic and thoughtful adaptation of a lesser known Marvel comic

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Focus

Audiences like a good film about con artists and grifters. Add to the mix charismatic Will Smith and rising star Margot Robbie and surely you have box office gold. But will it be the audience that suffers the ultimate con?

Nicky (Will Smith) is a seasoned con artist. After meeting Jess, a young inexperienced but talented grifter he is persuaded to show her the ropes. Eventually she joins his team and romance blossoms between them. But can love between con artists really work out?

There’s a lot going for this movie. With likeable leads and the directors of Crazy Stupid Love the scene should be set for a fun comedy-drama-crime film. Unfortunately the film falls just short of its aims. It’s not as clever as it thinks it is and while some of the cons are good there’s not a spectacular one that leaves you gasping at the ingenious twist.

It starts off well with the two leads meeting and falling for each other. Smith and Robbie have good chemistry and Robbie is particularly beguiling as Jess. Nicky showing Jess the game of the con is good and you can believe that they would be good as grifters. The action in New Orleans is fun and there are some tense moments when it appears the game could be up at any moment.

However as the movie fast-forward three years later in Buenos Aires and the movie starts to lose its charm. It is too bogged down with trying to come up with clever twists and turns that it just becomes and a bit implausible and uninteresting. Nicky and Jess relationship also starts to grate as the couple goes through the predictable will/ they won’t they scenario, as well as adding who’s conning who dilemmas.

Despite these issues, the movie is agreeable enough to pass the time. As long as you don’t expect too much from the movie you may just find yourself falling into the film’s trap and be enticed.

Rating 3/5 – likeable leads and gorgeous locations but the plot lets the side down

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Jurassic World

Humans, we never learn do we? Thankfully not, otherwise nothing would happen in this third sequel to the dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park. But will the cinema audience experience dino fatigue?

Set 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, we see that a new dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World has been up and running for ten years. But audiences are bored of the regular cloned dinosaurs (really after only ten years?) so as to entice new visitors – and make more money – the Park owners decide to create a new dinosaur The Indominus Rex. Unfortunately the Indominus Rex doesn’t like being locked up and soon escapes leaving Velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) and park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to stop the Rex eating the tourists – including Claire’s nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Grey (Ty Simpkins).

Jurassic Park is one of the first films I remember seeing at the cinema and I still enjoy seeing it repeated on tv to this day. Jurassic World may not be as good as Jurassic Park but it is a fun movie and better than the previous two sequels.

Having Chris Pratt as the lead male was a good call, as he is witty and likeable as Owen, the sole voice of reason in the movie, daring to suggest to the other characters that maybe making your own vicious dinosaur isn’t such a good idea. While Howard doesn’t have as good a character playing Claire, the ice queen/career woman who neglects her visiting nephews, she does get better as the film goes on. She isn’t as good as Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler from the original movie, but she’s infinitely less annoying than The Lost World‘s Julianne Moore’s Sarah Harding. The rest of the cast play their parts suitably well – pesky kids, boo-hiss villains, walking dinosaur fodder etc.

The main stars of course are the dinosaurs, still looking good, and appropriately scary. The film is still able to keep the tension even though we know the dinosaurs are going to get loose and go crazy. Those parts are inevitably the best parts of the film as we see the dinosaurs attack. I was worried the Velociraptors were going to be lame having seen trailers with Owen seemingly taming the rapters. Luckily this is not the case. While Owen can control them to an extent the rapters are still vicious killers given the chance. Clever Girls.

Jurassic World also successfully manages to keep the movie fun and have some amusing moments, including an awkward big kiss moment between two supporting characters. A lot of the good one liners go to Owen although control room employee Lowery (New Girls’ Jake Johnson) also provides some laughs.

Still disapointed there was no Jeff Goldblum cameo though. Maybe for the next sequel?

Rating 3.5/5 – 22 years on and dinosaurs still rule the cinema

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