Beauty and the Beast (2017) Film Review

3/5 stars

Unless you’ve also been trapped in Beast’s castle then you’ll know that Disney are hard at work by revisiting their animated classics in live action format. This can be traced back to the billion dollar grossing Alice in Wonderland (2010) which was followed by Maleficent in 2014. Not crediting Cinderella (2015) completely to Disney’s now traditional approach to revisiting its animated classics, however since then we’ve seen Disney take less risks with remaking its animations.

Ever since the beginning of 2015 when Emma Watson was cast as Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast, the hype has been high and audiences have been eagerly awaiting Disney’s new interpretation of it’s 1991 classic. For years I’ve been looking forward to this film, but months before once all of the promotional material was being released I had this sense that it wouldn’t be the grand and extravagant remake I was hoping for…sadly I was right.

TALE AS OLD AS TIME

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Starting with the positives I thought the film looked the part. Visually it was eye catching and I thought they captured the look and vibe of the original quite well. The characters of Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip etc. were all effortlessly integrated with the live action characters (something I felt that The Jungle Book – 2016 failed to do with its CGI animals and live action characters) and I thought those characters were fun to watch and it wasn’t a huge let down from the animated versions of these characters.

With $462 million worldwide (against a $160 million budget) at the Box Office (so far) and with a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, fans are clearly loving this film (for some reason). It is a tale that is as old as time (1991 feels like a century ago to most people) and since the animation’s release it has always been a part of people’s childhoods and it has grown up with people still retaining it’s relevant and popular appeal. My worry is that now Disney see that being unoriginal and not taking chances works, they’ll rehash it’s upcoming live action adaptations. I guess from a business point of view fair enough but where are the visionaries that want to do something exciting and new meaning that it can stand side by side with the originals and now replace them.

GASTON THE MOVIE: FEAUTRING BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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If I had to single one performance out as the most committed and most convincing it was Luke Evans as Gaston. He played the arrogant bachelor to perfection, down to his singing and characterisation it was flawless. Out of all the cast I felt Luke Evans was the only one who gave 100% and the scenes with him in were more exciting than others…and that’s saying something when you’re meant to be watching the film for the leading performances of Belle and Beast.

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Speaking of the cast; Emma Watson is a great actress (she was amazing in Perks of being a Wallflower -2012 and The Bling Ring – 2013) and on paper she IS Belle. However, there were moments (especially the first half or so) where her performance felt half hearted. I know she’s singing about how everyone are peasants and she’s superior to everyone but even the animated Belle seemed more kind to the locals and in general the animated Belle was more fun to watch. It was rise and fall with Emma’s performance; the iconic ballroom scene and when she goes back to her provincial town to rescue her father were the highlights of her performance. She wasn’t bad but I expected more from her (no offence but after watching her performance as Belle I’m happy she dropped out of La La Land – 2016 for Oscar winner Emma Stone to replace her). I would say Dan Stevens as the Beast was slightly better with his performance, but I would argue that the animation team who worked on his look did an amazing job of effortlessly blending his character with the live action characters. Overall, not exactly the most exciting leading couple that have graced our screens.

TAKE CHANCES

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I will be that person that says that the animation is far more superior than the 2017 live action remake. The original is more atmospheric, dramatic, emotional, heartwarming and grand in everything from its characters to the look of the film. In 1992 Beauty and the Beast became the first animation to be nominated an Oscar for Best Picture, I seriously doubt this new version will have anywhere near that same impact today. This is why it should have done differently so that it honours the original but offers something new to today’s audience. Scenes like when Belle runs on the hill and sings, Beast offering Belle the library, even the iconic ballroom dance scene etc. were adapted half heartedly and it almost felt like they were just there because the audience were expecting them to feature in the film. The animation did all of those scenes and more with a sense of grandeur and wonder. The danger rehashing everything from the animation is the audience knows what to expect so there’s no sense of mystery and wonder.

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I understand that director Bill Condon was unapologetic about honouring the 1991 animation with only the addition of a few new songs (which added nothing new to the film) and Emma Watson’s few tweaks (which were hardly revolutionary to the character) however I would have loved it if Disney took a risk and brought something new to the table. The reason why Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficent (2014) worked so well, in my opinion, was because they took a new approach to a tale that in embedded in our brains from childhood. I have no issues with remakes, only if they offer something unique and something that is worth watching again in a different format. I would have loved to see Guillermo del Toro’s version as he definitely would have bright a refreshing take of a tale so universally known and loved. Sadly he departed from the project a few years ago making way for Bill Condon to direct his unoriginal remake.

I’ve heard about a live action update for several years and I thought the decision to approach the remake in a more traditional manner was more down to the the success of Cinderella (2015) however I read that Bill Condon decided to take less chances after the success of Frozen (2013):

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“Before I arrived, they were rethinking Beauty and the Beast more radically, more like Snow White and the Huntsman. There was a lot of conversation about the War of the Austrian Succession that didn’t interest me. But then after Frozen opened, the studio saw that there was this big international audience for an old-school-musical approach. But initially they said, “We’re interested in a musical to a degree, but only half full of songs.” My interest was taking that film and doing it in this new medium — live action — as a full-on musical movie. So I backed out for a minute, and they came back and said, “No, no, no, we get it, let’s pursue it that way.” 

Even without Guillermo del Toro we could have seen a more radical and exciting version of Beauty and the Beast, because the story is far bigger than Disney itself so why not try something new?

I’ve expressed my fears for what impact the success of this film may have, however overall I would say it’s a enjoyable film which is easy and fun to watch. But it’s worrying that 26 years later Disney we’re basically seeing Disney revisit their greatest hits in the most unoriginal way possible. My advice is watch this film so you can tick it off your list, it’s not a total waste of your time, but please watch the original animation as it’s far more impactful than the 2017 version.

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And The Oscar Goes To….(Part 1)

As a self confessed film geek it’s easy to assume the Oscars are the most exciting time for film during the year. I’ve always been aware of the Oscars but it wasn’t until 2011 when I started watching the televised show (from 11:30pm until 5am the next morning in the UK). From that moment onwards I’ve been obsessed with all things Oscars and really enjoy discussing the list of nominees and debate who was deserving or more deserving of the award.

Instead of doing an in depth analysis of the 2017 Academy Award nominees I thought I would go through the past 6 years and pick out some highlights.

NATALIE PORTMAN – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role 2011 – Black Swan (2010)

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During the first year of watching the Academy Awards live I was cheering on Natalie Portman to win the Oscar for her leading role in Black Swan. I think this is her strongest performance (Jackie – 2016 showcases yet another powerful performance however) as she effortlessly portrays the complexities and emotional range of her character Nina. She gives it everything and more for a bold performance with conviction. The third act where we actually see the performance of Swan Lake is like a mini film in itself and Portman gives a impacting performance that will be talked about (at least by me) for years to come. I can’t believe it was 6 years ago since she won.

This year Portman is nominated for her third Oscar for her leading performance in Jackie (2016). I would say that with Black Swan it was the journey of her character from a mindset of a little girl into becoming a woman and with Jackie it’s showcasing Portman at more of a mature and levelled performance of a headstrong woman. I would love for her to win her second Oscar but if Emma Stone wins for La La Land (2016) instead I’ll think, “…at least Portman has won an Oscar for my favourite performance from her.”

The King’s Speech v Inception: Dawn of the 2011 Best Picture Winner

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It’s exhausting to make a list of who was snubbed or deserved to win because at the end of the day it won’t make a difference and the world moves on. However, only on certain occasions will I voice my upset at injustices that occur on Oscar night.

First of all I love The King’s Speech (2010), it deserved the critical acclaim and Oscar nominations. Yet 6 years on and I still wish that Inception (2010) had won Best Picture and any award that Christopher Nolan was up for (I can’t believe he wasn’t nominated Best Director). This film was a spectacle that had a sense of realism and depth, Nolan had made an epic blockbuster that could be taken seriously and that was pure quality on every level.

That being said, I guess at the end of the day it’s not all about the awards and Inception is still an incredible film regardless…but still.

J-Law Reigns Supreme

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You’ll be shocked to know but in 2013 I only knew Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games (2012) but knew she had been previously nominated in 2011 for Winter’s Bone (2010). Despite the fact I hadn’t seen Silver Linings Playbook (2012) I was still happy that she won because Jennifer Lawrence deserves all the Oscars in the world.

Since then I have watched Silver Linings Playbook and I’m glad to say she is deserving of the Oscar. She plays Tiffany who is bold and unapologetic yet still has insecurities and wants to be loved like everyone else, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly portrays the character which cemented her as the second youngest Oscar winner at the age of 22. She also broke records as being the youngest actress to have received 4 Oscar nominations in 2016 after being nominated for Joy (2015).

The Year I Learned To Pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Name

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2014 saw 12 Years A Slave (2013) take the Academy Awards by storm. The film won Best Motion Picture making history with director Steve McQueen being the first black director/producer to win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year. A well deserved win for its brutal and honest portrayal of one of the most horrific times in history carried by stellar performances.

Amongst the nominees was Chiwetel Ejiofor, and it was in 2014 I finally learned to pronounce his name so I could tell people who I wanted to win for Best Actor. He won the BAFTA (Matthew McConaughey wasn’t nominated a BAFTA so that’s why, but Ejoiofor still deserved to win) but lost out on the Golden Globe and Oscar to McConaughey. In all honesty I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club (2013) so I can comment on McConaughey’s performance, all I can say is that Ejiofor gave one of the most convicting performances I have ever seen. So for him to lose out on the Oscar was quite disheartening, that being said at least he was nominated which is still an achievement. Oscars aside Ejiofor’s performance is still one that I remember as being one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen.

If anything the best thing I can take out of 2014 Academy Award experience is now I can correctly pronounce his name.

It Got Real

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2015/2016 wasn’t the best time for the Academy Awards. It was the years where no person of colour was nominated in the acting categories. I think it’s definitely a conversation that needed to take place and it’s great to see diversity in this years list of nominees, however people looked at the situation in a black and white perspective (sorry for the pun).

Yes the acting category was lacking in diversity however overall it was actually not as bad as people made it out to be. Here are some examples:

  • Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu won 3 Oscars for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014).
  • Oscar winning actress Marion Coitllard was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Two days, One Night (2014) who is French and her performance is entirely in the French language (her second nomination to do so).
  • Whilst Selma (2014) was criminally overlooked it was with great pride that John Legend and Common (both black musicians and actors) took home the Oscar for Best Original Song (Glory).
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu again took home an Oscar for Best Director in 2016 for The Revenant (2015).
  • Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress, won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Danish Girl (2015).
  • Asif Kapadia, a British Indian director, won the Oscar in 2016 for Best Documentary – Feature for his work on Amy (2015).

I’m not saying that there wasn’t an issue and something to talk about however let’s not take away that special moment for these filmmakers and actors who are from diverse backgrounds. Diversity doesn’t just mean black and white but it means different walks of life being reflected. Chris Rock hosted the show in 2016 did a brilliant job at addressing the controversy. Basically he was saying how it’s interesting how now people are going mad and boycotting yet there has been harsher discrimination in the past, he also mocked the impact of Jada Pinkett Smith’s decision to boycott the Oscars and he concluded by saying basically all that needs to be done is actors of colour need to be given equal opportunities in securing roles.

That being said it’s so good to see so many great and diverse films being recognised this year: Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Loving, Lion etc. and may it long continue.

Leo’s Moment

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I loved all the memes where Leonardo DiCaprio was searching for his Oscar and of course all the jokes were based in the truth that he should have won an Oscar long ago. However, at the end of the day he is still an incredible actor; whether he is an Oscar winner or not. I would say let’s enjoy his work and appreciate it rather than focus purely on the awards, plus being nominated for 5 Oscars before The Revenant (2015) is impressive.

Then his most brutal, gruelling and committed performance was seen in 2015 with Oscar winning Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest effort The Revenant. I remember reading reports of how the film had gone over budget and how it was taking longer than it had planned to due to the visceral filming conditions so it was a relief to see that not only was it a critical success but a box office hit, grossing over $530 million worldwide against a $135 million budget.

The Revenant was an spectacular; visually and performance wise. It may have not been the best film ever but it was more of a film that showcased the skills of Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and performances from the cast including Leonardo DiCaprio. This is the film that finally saw the legendary actor win an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role in 2016. His Oscar glory came 22 years after first being nominated for his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Many have said whilst he deserved it that really he should have won for other performances; to that I would say fair enough but if anything his performance in The Revenant showcased the level of sheer dedication and determination to fully immerse himself in a role. I don’t care what anybody else says, this was his moment and the moment the world had been waiting for. As his name was announced as the winner he received the loudest applause and a standing ovation, a touching moment showing how everyone was behind him and overjoyed for his win.

Funnily enough I never saw him as a serious actor until Inception (2010) and then discovered his work previously and have kept up to date with it since. Whatever your opinions of his relationship with the Oscars, the wait was worth it and he is a terrific actor Oscars or no Oscars.

To Be Continued

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

As I was writing this blog I realised I had a lot to say about my experience with the Oscars since I started watching them live in 2011. It won’t be in chronological order as I recount favourable or memorable moments but it will be a good overview of recognising incredible talent and interesting moments in Oscar history. Do you have any moments where you were happy or unhappy with a certain win? Feel free to post your comments and share this blog post.

 

Let’s Talk About ‘Passengers’ (2016)

2/5 Stars

 

*SPOILER FILLED POST*

 

 

Two months after its release and I’m still hurt by what I witnessed on screen. Passengers (2016) was meant to equate to an exciting film starring hugely successful actors who on paper are perfect for each other on screen. Not to mention the exciting concept of an original space adventure directed by Oscar nominee Morten Tyldum.

Sadly Passengers was a huge let down and has left me baffled as to why Chris Pratt and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence would sign on to a film with a horrendous script.

I Can’t Look At Chris Pratt The Same Way Again

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Chris Pratt has smashed through Hollywood with Box Office hits such as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Jurassic World (2015). He’s an actor that can also do comedy (TV’s Parks and Recreation) and Drama (Her, Zero Dark Thirty and Moneyball), we’ll excuse Bride Wars (2009) and The Five-Year Engagement (2012) from our minds. So of course he was going to be a box office draw for Passengers…so we thought.

In Passengers we are introduced to his character Jim as a likeable everyday guy who unfortunately finds himself in a sticky situation (being awoken 90 years earlier due to a malfunction with his hibernation pod). Then time passes by and yes he’s still lonely and contemplates doing something unspeakable…waking up Jennifer Lawrence’s character Aurora just because he’s bored and is sure she’s his soulmate after staring at her in a hibernation pod one time. It’s that point in the movie that you think, “ok, he’s lonely and desperate so don’t blame him for thinking it but of course he won’t do something so unimaginably creepy and insane…” and then it’s that moment when you realise a film released in 2016 would follow through with this stupid narrative.

Throughout the whole film I lost a huge amount of respect for Jim and now can’t look at Chris Pratt as the all round good American hero.

Seriously J-Law? 

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Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong…kind of. Her character Aurora was the only saving grace of a deeply flawed film…kind of. I’m struggling to understand why Jennifer Lawrence would sign onto this ridiculous film…the pay check must have made it easier.  Aurora is falling in love with a stalkerish creep which makes the whole “love story” hard to watch yet the moment where she discovers the truth behind their budding romance is the best part of the film.

Jennifer Lawrence has not a look of anger or horror but complete shock. It’s a powerful moment in the film which J-Law plays with conviction. Fast forward to when Jim can’t take a hint and speaks to Aurora over a tannoy to which she screams back her anger and frustration with his character. At this point in the film I’m thinking, “ok, I’m glad they’re acknowledging what a despicable human being Jim is.” Oh how I was wrong. That being said Jennifer Lawrence had the strongest performance in the film especially during the scenes where she is disgusted by Jim’s actions.

Again, Seriously J-Law? 

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Long story short Jim has to potentially sacrifice himself to stop the spaceship from blowing up. I’m thinking that he gets what he deserves but by this point Aurora is devastated and shouts, “If you die I DIE!”. Has she not seen the film and what Jim did to her?

So Jim survives (oh dear) however the film (again) has a chance to redeem itself. Jim figures out that the medical pod can act as a hibernation pod and offers the last one to Aurora. I’m thinking that Jim has found a way to redeem himself and all is forgiven. However Aurora stupidly turns his offer down and lives out her 90 years or so left on a spaceship with a guy who literally took her life, hopes, dreams and ambitions away from her. Jim is back in my bad books again.

I Hate You But I Love You

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Despite the many…MANY flaws with this film…I strangely enjoyed it because it made me laugh due to its ludicrous nature. As mentioned previously it was an unintentional comedy which looked the part of a space adventure. The whole flying in spacesuits scenes were really cool to be fair.

It also annoys me how the film lied to the audience in its marketing. It’s one thing trying to hide the spoilers and leave an element of mystery but it’s another lying and portraying it as a love story for all the ages.  The tag line should have been: Creepy Engineer goes all Sleeping Beauty of Aurora. Enjoy.

Strangely enough Passengers has become a moderate success at the Box Office (not with the critics). Forbes states that…“With $255m and counting worldwide, it is the biggest live-action “not based on anything” Hollywood release of 2016.” The article was written a few weeks ago and Passengers has now gone on to gross over $290 million worldwide. This film is still laughable and I’m shocked that this film was allowed to be made.

 

Arrival (2016) Film Review

 

3 STARS

Arrival has received universal critical acclaim and has grossed $130 million worldwide at the box office against a $47 million budget. Arrival also received 2 Golden Globe nominations including a nomination for Amy Adams in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama category. One would assume that Arrival is a great film that everyone should see, I hate to say it but I was not blown away by this supposedly fresh and unique take on the sci-fi genre. I’m conflicted because there were aspects I appreciated and I think I know what they were aiming for, however it never really clicked with me.

WHAT I LOVED

AMY ADAMS

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Amy Adams was the standout. The 5 time Oscar nominated actress can do no wrong and deserves her Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Arrival. Amy Adams has to be one of my favourite actresses because she gives powerful and diverse performances in films such as Enchanted (2007), Doubt (2008), American Hustle (2013) and Big Eyes (2014). She isn’t afraid to tackle any genre as she takes on a role and gives it her all.

This time she strips it back and there’s power in the stillness of her performance; we meet her character Louise at a moment in her life where she is numb from the hardships that life has dealt her and when the aliens arrive she has to find her purpose again. Amy Adams is captivating because you’re constantly watching trying to decipher what her character is feeling and processing as she’s dealing with the current state of events as well as dealing with the repercussions of her past.

DIRECTION

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The only other film I’ve seen from Denis Villeneuve is the Emily Blunt fronted Sicario (2015) which I loved. There are similarities in terms of his direction; he doesn’t rush the pace or tone of the film and he lets moments just be. It may be slow for some but for me it’s Denis allowing the audience to be in the moment and take in every little thing in. As I was watching Arrival I could detect the sense of direction from Denis, however towards the end it never really took off and the pay off was quite anti-climactic (which I’ll expand upon later on) but on the whole I loved his directing style.

SUBVERTING GENRE

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The one thing Arrival has going for it is that it isn’t a flashy and loud sci-fi blockbuster extravaganza; it’s very stripped back and quiet. Going back to the points about Denis’ directing style and Amy Adam’s performance there is a stillness which is refreshing and the film does it’s best to try to be thought provoking and giving little bits away to keep the audience watching.

 

WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE

ALIENS (not the film)

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What were up with those aliens? The design of the aliens were so bland and unoriginal. The whole concept of the aliens were wasted and I was disappointed thinking that Arrival would offer something we haven’t seen before and yet it was very generic in design.

THE MESSAGE

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The overall message as well didn’t really connect as much as I wanted it to. I understood what the film was going for and there’s a moment where Amy Adams asks Jeremy Renner’s character Ian whether if he knew what life would deal him would he still go for it. Without giving too much away I understood what the film was trying to convey to the audience but found it pointless and a wasted opportunity be told through a sci-fi film; there was no need for aliens to come down and serve the purpose they served. I remember the film finishing and just thinking what on earth have I just watched? Because even though I understood the overall message of the film there were still some unanswered questions.

 

CONCLUSION

From the director who brought us Sicario (2015), featuring a great cast consisting of Amy Adams (American Hustle, Her, Enchanted, The Muppets) and Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, Avengers Assemble, American Hustle, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and the fact Arrival had rave reviews I was left feeling very disappointed and didn’t feel the film delivered on what was being promised to the audiences. There are some positives to be taken away from the film viewing (as discussed previously) however ultimately it isn’t a sci-fi that is going to become a modern day classic. Dare I say that I’d rather watch Interstellar (2014) than Arrival.

The Light Between Oceans (2016) Film Review

4/5 Stars

Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander: two reasons why you need to see this film. I think they are incredible actors and they deliver committed performances. The Light Between Oceans tells the tale of a lighthouse keeper (Fassbender) and his wife (Vikander) who rescue a baby adrift off the coast of Western Australia. This is a film that has an engaging narrative and character development which will surprise audiences along the way.

The Light Between Oceans was an emotional roller coaster because it took you places you weren’t expecting or anticipating; I was an emotional wreck and I haven’t had an experience like that in a long time. I was invested in these characters and by the time they learn the true parentage of their adopted daughter you feel their pain and the moral dilemma they face.

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Bringing it back to the leading actors of the film; they were stunning. Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender portraying Tom Sherbourne, a emotionally closed off war hero who opens himself up to heartfelt local girl Isabel Graysmark played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander. They have a lot to explore with their characters as the film covers a long period of time so you see the actors play around with the different seasons their characters go through and it’s exciting to see so much depth in a character.

Oscar winner Rachel Weisz appears later on in the film changing the mood of the film allowing the film to explore other issues and themes. The dynamic between the cast is so natural and they all blend so well together it’s great to watch. The emotion they managed to evoke is incredible and so natural.

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I can’t say much about the film as I don’t want to spoil the different avenues the film explores however I will say that you need to bring your tissues as it definitely isn’t easy on the heart. That being said what I love about the film is how it has a good pace, without the film feeling rushed or dragged along. I’ll also say that the tone of the film is consistent despite the fact events happen which changes the direction of the film yet the tone never feels uneven or abrupt; everything is connected and feels justified to be in the film. The themes explored can be heavy but they are explored delicately and there is no sense of judgement of the characters’ actions. There are so many layers to the characters which creates engaging discussions about how they cannot be easily defined.

You need to watch the film to see for yourself how intricate the narrative development is and how each character is substantial and says a lot about humanity and our need to feel belonged; to be with each other and not isolated. There’s so much I want to say about specific scenes which perfectly sum up the themes explored in the film but I won’t spoil it for you; so watch the film and then take a few minutes to process what you’ve just seen.

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Doctor Strange (2016) Film Review

3/5 stars

Marvel needs no introduction. Pioneering the whole cinematic universe concept they have managed to create one of the most successful franchises of all time. Now Marvel returns with its 14th cinematic outing with Doctor Strange feating Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous character. The premise of the film is that Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly talented yet arrogant neurosurgeon who learns the ways of a sorcerer after trying to find healing. Does Doctor Strange live up to the hype? no.

I really wanted to like this film as Marvel has an impressive track record with producing quality blockbusters (with some blemishes). However the film didn’t quite have the emotional punch it needed for the audience to root for Strange and to ultimately care what happens to him over the course of the film. Speaking of Strange we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch; overall he played the part well yet there were moments where it didn’t feel authentic and at times felt forced. However by the end of the film he comes into his own and despite some rough patches in the development of his character he emerges the hero Marvel were trying to create.

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Doctor Strange boats an impressive cast: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams as well as Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen. There was controversy with the casting of Tilda Swinton with many accusing Marvel of whitewashing the character, whilst this is a problem with Hollywood at the moment I think the decision to make The Ancient One a woman was a great move. It’s refreshing to see a prominent female led character be treated equally alongside the rest of the male cast members (we’re waiting for that Black Widow movie Marvel) and of course Tilda Swinton was incredible.

Speaking of female representation in Marvel films we have to look at Rachel McAdams who was sorely underused in the role of Christine Palmer. Fresh from her Oscar nominated role in Spotlight (2015) and with more of a decade of acting under her belt she was resorted to a forgettable role which could have been played by anyone. It was also frustrating to see her portrayed as quite a weak doctor and being told what to do all the time, Rachel McAdams is capable of so much more which is why it was frustrating to see her in this role.

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The one thing I have to applaud Marvel with is making one of the most “standalone” films in quite a while, rarely relying on numerous mentions of the Avengers to keep audiences interested. Many people complain about origin stories yet I have no issue with them, however Doctor Strange at times felt rushed. We’re first introduced to Strange in the operating theatre and in all honesty he wasn’t as arrogant as other characters tried to highlight, and then in what felt like minutes later he is involved in a fatal car accident changing his destiny forever. It didn’t have the impact it should have had because it just felt like a sequence of events; then after an outburst of not getting his way he logically heads to the mountains in Nepal only to mock the concept of healing and spirit when he arrives. I won’t go on as I don’t want to spoil the film but in short, it felt very underwhelming for what it should have been.

Marvel do have their own “comedic” style which people seem to enjoy yet in this setting it felt out of place. This is a man who has had everything wrenched from him and is at the lowest point in his life so when he arrives Kamar-Taj you’d think he’d be a bit more desperate. At times it felt that the film sacrificed emotional and deep moments in favour of “comedic” efforts, preventing it having that emotional punch. However there is one scene between The Ancient One and Doctor Strange which was my favourite scene later on during the film which showcased what the whole film could have been.

There were some standout moments which were exciting: when Doctor Strange faces off against Kaecilus (Mads Mikkelsen) for the first time and when The Ancient One showed everyone up for example. The action and spectacle was present and great to look at which made the film enjoyable, yet as much as the visual effects were impressive please stop comparing it to Inception (2010) Doctor Strange is no Inception.

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It’s no secret that despite my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe I have issues with the interweaving nature of it’s story lines and the film’s dependancy on each other. Yet Captain America: Civil War (2016) had impact in character development and narrative, so from that film to Doctor Strange was very much of a let down.

Overall whilst Doctor Strange had some flash and exciting moments with some good performances from its cast members; it didn’t delve deep enough in order for the audience to care for Doctor Strange and it felt very underwhelming in how it used some its characters and where it took the story.

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Top Ten Films (1-5)

This has been me for a while now; sitting down and seriously thinking about which films deserve the top spot on my list. These films that have made an impact on me; whether they have stayed with me for years or they completely blew me away there is a reason why these titles have made my top five. These films have depth and thought provoking themes that really fascinate me and I love how there’s always something new to uncover with each viewing.

I don’t believe it should be hard to have a number one film because for me the criteria for your number one should be the one that comes above all other films; it has to tick all the boxes for yourself and it’s a film that you can’t help but passionately defend.

I’ve given a brief description of why these films have made my list. Feel free to comment on whether you agree with some of my choices or some ones that are missing in your opinion.

5. Brooklyn (2015)

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Beautiful. Emotional. Captivating, Perfect. Some of the words to describe this sincere and deeply moving tale of identity. This is Saoirse Ronan’s film (she was nominated her second Oscar for her performance) and boy does she own it! What I love about this film is that you go on the journey with Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and feel what she feels and experiences what she experiences; it’s a coming of age story and you see how the experience of Brooklyn changes her and how she is caught in a moment of how to move on without losing a sense of where you come from. I love personal stories with fleshed out leading characters that you feel you can go on a journey with them over the course of the film.

4. The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Baz Lurhamn adds his own unique stamp on a literary classic. On paper a hip-hop infused soundtrack matching a film set in the 1920’s jazz era doesn’t add up yet it somehow works perfectly and adds a sense of relevance to a story set almost 100 years ago. Having read the book I love this interesting adaption as it keeps the themes and emotions of the book intact. Lead by an incredible cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki and more breathe life into the characters and help in making The Great Gatsby a blast. Yet what makes it even more powerful is it’s tragic nature that adds an emotional depth to the story. This film has everything and more.

The Great Gatsby was a financial success yet in fact received mixed reviews, so it was comforting to read this article where Fitzgerald’s granddaughter supported the film:

Fitzgerald’s granddaughter, writer and filmmaker Eleanor “Bobbie” Lanahan, loved it, too. The other night, Luhrmann said, it “took my breath away” when this “quite regal” woman “came up to me and she took my hand and said, “I’ve come all the way from Vermont and I wanted to see what you did to my grandfather’s book.” Her review? “I do feel Scott would have been proud,” she said, and later wrote to Luhrmann for clarity’s sake.  “It’s got tragedy and comedy and character.” Furthermore, she said, “The movie took little away from the book, but added to it. For me, it is the first time I truly felt sympathy for Gatsby on film.” But what Luhrmann found most touching was when she said, “I think you proved that first person narrative can, in fact, be translated to film.”1

3. Gone Girl (2014)

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I read the book first and thought: WOW. Then I watched the film and the thought: WOW. What I love about the narrative structure is how you are lead to believe it’s a typical missing person case drama but around halfway through escalates into a crazy ride and it’ll blow your mind. I’ve said too much already, but trust me when I say this film will hook you and keep you watching till the very end and then again, you’ll just sit there in silence going over what you’ve just seen. The hypnotic and haunting music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross perfectly accompanies the film creating a sense of mystery and an unsettling nature. Everything from David Fincher’s unique vision to Gillian Flynn’s creation to Rosumand Pike’s Oscar nominated performance is brilliant. A film that requires multiple viewings just to see how amazingly crazy it is.

2. Never Let Me Go (2010)

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This film is perfect. It’s tragically beautiful and carried by the incredible performances of Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. Never Let Me Go is a stripped back sci-fi film full to the brim with raw emotion that will captivate you and have you sitting in silence after watching the film questioning everything about life. If it weren’t for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) this easily would be my number one film. It’s a film that after I first watched it I loved it and always remembered that haunting feeling it had but it wasn’t until I watched it again soon after it quickly grew into one of my favourites. Everyone needs to watch this film. “What I’m not sure about is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.” (Kathy played by Carey Mulligan) Wow. Let that sink in.

 
1. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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This film perfectly showcases spectacle whilst at the same time rooting it in emotion and character depth. The whole trilogy is perfect and should be watched in one viewing, however if I were to select my favourite I would select the third film. The Return of the King is the result of everything that has been building up to this moment and that’s where the emotional punch lies. This has been my number one film since I can remember; it blew me away when I was younger and as I’ve grown up I’ve appreciated it a lot more and it still stands as an epic masterpiece. This is fantasy done correctly.

In this 3 hour epic Peter Jackson manages to fit in so much without it ever feeling overbearing; he manages to give each character their own arc without feeling characters are sidelined. I love how as well as Frodo’s own journey we see Aragorn finally accept his fate and Éowyn completely owning it and not giving into fear. I have to justify the multiple endings of this films because for me it’s closure after the colossal events of the trilogy and allows the audience to breathe and truly see the effects of what has gone before.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is pure fantasy (one of my favourite genres) allowing the audience to use their imagination and getting lost in the magical world of JRR Tolkein but it also has heart and is rooted in something deeper than just pure spectacle. This has always been my favourite film from as early on as I can remember and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

 

So now you have my full top ten list. There will be films that I absolutely love but sadly didn’t make the list, that doesn’t make me think any less of them however my top ten are all films that were different and refreshing. Please let me know what you think about the films that have made the cut and what your favourite films are as well.

 

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/maryclairekendall/2013/05/10/loving-gatsby-all-about-living-fitzgerald/#a470ae23cef3

Top Ten Films (6-10)

Ranking your favourite films may seem like an impossible task. Over recent years my definitive list of my favourite films has evolved into multiple lists of films; you have your favourite animated films, favourite genre films, films to watch when in need of cheering up, films to watch when you’re feeling pensive etc. in short it’s easy to compile many lists when it comes to films and that’s fair enough. So I set the challenge of listing my top ten films of all time.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a singular list of my favourite films and I’ve noticed there is more of a mixture than before and there aren’t as many blockbusters as people might expect and surprisingly no Disney films have made the cut. I noticed that there is only one “classic” film in the mix and I want to assure people I love films from all eras however upon compiling this list they just didn’t make the list. There are films that I love and could re-watch yet they are more personal favourite films that are so good but not “Top 10 List” worthy.

To make things interesting I’ve decided to list my top 10 in two parts: focusing on the lower half of the list first and then revealing the top 5 later on this week in another blog post.

10. Casablanca (1942)

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What’s not to love about this film: Iconic lines (“Here’s to looking at you kid”, “We’ll always have Paris” etc.) Imposing soundtrack led by “As Time Goes By” (which acts as a running motif throughout the film), exotic location, classic movie stars and more. I love how this film takes place mainly in one location (Rick’s Bar) and yet so much is unpacked between the characters. If you need to start watching more classic films then start with Casablanca. 

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

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I love everything about this film. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are mesmerising in their performances as Benjamin and Daisy and the cinematography is beautiful. The incredible thing about this film is how the audience goes on the journey with Benjamin (Brad Pitt) and what an odyssey of life it is. David Fincher manages to allow the audience to feel like you’ve just experienced a lifetime in the space of a few hours by the end of the film. It’s a thought provoking film covering themes such as mortality, identity and making sure we take a hold of life and the experiences it has to offer. It is a lush film and is full of emotion, fleshed out characters and the film really engages the audience.

8. The Artist (2011)

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A story told without any words. It’s a testament to great storytelling that no words are  uttered yet so much was said in the performance of the incredible cast, accompanying music and the interesting look on the rise of “talkies” and the demise of silent films. It’s an ode to the Hollywood of old saying that these types of films are gone but never forgotten. It was such a refreshing film to watch in this day; that’s why it’s on my list because it wasn’t afraid to be different. The Artist was a phenomenal success; making it the first French film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012 and grossing over $133 million world wide (against a $15 million budget).

7. Like Crazy (2011)

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Raw. Authentic. Natural. Organic. Emotional. Effortless. These are the words in how I would describe Like Crazy. It’s a refreshing watch to see everything stripped back and to see the film just be. Lead by the Oscar nominated Felicity Jones and the late Anton Yelchin, these two have perfect chemistry and carry the film with ease. Something to add to their amazing performances is that most of the film was improvised as they only had a 50 page outline of the film rather than a traditional screenplay; this explains how the film feels so natural in its delivery. It’s beautiful, tragic and honest.

 

6. Inception (2010)

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Christopher Nolan is easily one of my favourite directors and if I could fit all of his films in this list I would; yet I think Inception is his best film and here’s why. Nolan has a slick and sophisticated look to his films and I love how bold and ambitious Inception is; led by a stellar cast and thankfully it treats the audience with respect without having to dumb anything down. Inception also has one of my favourite soundtracks of all time, Hanz Zimmer creates an imposing and extravagant sound to compliment the grand nature of the film whilst being able to tap into the more subtle moments of the film. Extra points for the fact this film is an original story; this is how a blockbuster should be done.

In order to find out which films made it into the top five of my top ten list just wait until my next blog post. Feel free to comment on whether you agree or disagree with my list so far and even try and guess which films will be my top choices.

The Girl on the Train (2016) Film Review

I’m always cautious when reviewing a film adaptation of a book because I understand they are two different platforms to tell a story. You have to understand that some changes are necessary in order to make it work for the film, yet it needs to keep the same spirit as the book and when it strips that away then there is a problem.

I heard about New York bestseller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was being adapted into a film and was billed as “the next Gone Girl” (Gone Girl it is not) a while ago yet it was only until recently that I finally read the book. There was a lot of hype surrounding the film and the fact it had done so well would cause you to think that they were actually good….you’d think.

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The Girl on the Train focuses on Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) who commutes to New York every day and becomes fixated with the “perfect couple”. After the disappearance of Megan Hipwell it makes pointing the finger at Rachel Watson easier since she is an alcoholic who was there on the night Megan went missing and can’t remember what happened.

As mentioned earlier I try not to compare the book and film but it’s hard not to do so when one is a lot better than the other. The book isn’t perfect, yet in comparison it has a great pace to it allowing the tension to organically form and it really engrosses the reader to form their own opinions of the events that are unfolding. It’s in diary format and is from the perspective of its three female characters (with leading character Rachel Watson portrayed on screen by Emily Blunt) and in the book it’s really clever how Paula Hawkins manages to weave all timelines together to form a coherent narrative.

If I had to review it objectively then even in that case it would have felt very underwhelming and very immediate in the events that happen in the film. We’re first introduced to Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) and then all of a sudden we’re introduced to Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) without feeling like Rachel has been properly established and THEN we’re introduced to Anna Watson (Rebecca Ferguson). That fast paced “making sure we got all the information in” approach continues until you get to the ending and feel like “how did we end up here?”. The whole point of a mystery thriller is to actually have mystery and have some thrills in the twists and turns; yet in the film we are literally given all the information straight away and it’s not thrilling at all because the information was delivered in a factual manner.

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One positive from the film is Emily Blunt’s performance; a committed performance of a woman who feels like she has lost everything, mourning the past which has escaped from her and is desperate for any form of connection with anyone. However for the other characters they are completely underdeveloped and thinly written, even in the book they were more fleshed out and even in that case they could have been developed more.

There were elements that felt very basic and brushed aside very quickly that in the book were key elements yet in the film it was stated then moved on very quickly. It’s hard to give a spoiler free review as I could go in depth in giving examples of how the film failed to create any sense of mystery. With that in mind that would be my review of the film: Very immediate in its execution and completely underdeveloped in every sense.

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I can’t help but look at Gone Girl (2014) as a prime example of how to do an adaption correctly; the author (who was also the screenwriter) Gillian Flynn was wise in what to keep in and flesh out and what to cut out to give other elements of the book more time on screen to create suspense. Now don’t worry I won’t compare Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train because the former is a stronger film and book than the latter.

I’m not going to tell you to just read the book and not bother with the film (even though I want to) because if you’re like me you’ll still want to form your own opinion and watch the film to see for yourself. So just be warned that the book delves deeper into what the film failed to do. Ultimately that is the failure of director Tate Taylor (The Help) because the film actually had potential to be a quality mystery thriller.

(Star rating: 2/5 stars)

Collision Film Is Getting A Reboot

Hello everyone! It’s been a while but I’ve decided to reboot my blog and continue on with my musings and ramblings about film. Collision Film is an outlet for me to share my views on various topics regarding film; not just regarding recent or upcoming releases but exploring vast topics one can discuss when talking about films. To restart this blog I wanted to share with you my viewing habits and how I approach watching a film.

Film is a subjective medium. That’s the beauty of it; everyone can watch one film and yet have varied responses. I love how film can create discussions and engage people in conversations. The amazing thing about film is that even within itself there is such variety in genres and stories that are being told (I know it feels like we live in a world of sequels and reboots but look closer and there is diversity if you notice it).

People often ask that given the fact I closely analyse films in my head whether that hinders my experience of enjoying a film. My response would be it’s quite the opposite; it enhances my experience and allows me to really engage with the film. I’m that person at the cinema who will gasp or jump during a tense and exciting scene or that will shout at the screen when I’m frustrated with events unfolding in the film. Equally if it’s a really deep film that requires my full attention I’m very quiet and allow myself to get lost in the moment.

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(Shia LeBeouf is movie watching goals)

Following on from my previous point, each film requires us to wear different “hats”. By that I mean if I’m watching brainless action fun like Transformers (2007) or San Andreas (2015) I don’t sit there with my notepad and analyse the narrative structure; I take off my film critic hat and enjoy the ride. Yet if I’m watching films like Never Let Me Go (2010) or Brooklyn (2015) which explore deep themes of belonging, mortality, identity etc. then I definitely analyse those films in my head because to me they are art. On the other hand even though I have my frustrations with the amount of sequels and reboots of recent times, I still give them the benefit of the doubt and pray it was worth making. I’ve written previously about my love/hate relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even though DC Films haven’t quite matched the success of the MCU I still give them a chance to impress me. So in short I approach each film differently and you have to in order to keep an open mind regarding film.

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(Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go – 2010)

Expanding the point raised before about how I often closely analyse films, I need a few moments after I’ve watched the film to digest what I’ve watched and then I can give a basic review. However I need more time to let it sink in and then I can give a fully formed review. If you know me then you’ll know not to ask me as soon as the credits roll if I enjoyed the film or not; my answer will be to let me think about it for a minute. What I find helpful is sitting through most of the credits to just have a moment to think. Sometimes in the moment you can either love it or hate it and then moments later upon reflection reconsider your initial opinion, or you could be undecided and give yourself time to come to a decision of how you enjoyed the film.

One reason I would say my film taste is varied is because I love experiencing different stories and it’s a chance to explore different walks of life. If I only loved one genre then that wouldn’t help me broaden my horizons in my film taste, in order to have an open mind you need to have a vast scope of what you watch. That way you can have multiple discussions because you haven’t restricted yourself to one type of film.

Thank you for listening to me ramble on about how I approach film. By all means read what the critics are saying to get a good sense of how a film is being received, but you’ll only know for yourself if you watch the film and form your own opinion.

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(Singin’ in the Rain – 1952)