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.

I See The Light Of TANGLED (2010)

I See The Light has to be one of the most stunning Disney songs and is the part of the most breathtaking scene in the film. The song was nominated for an Oscar in 2011 (I love Toy Story 3 – 2010 but in my opinion I See The Light is superior to We Belong Together) and is the jewel of the film. Thankfully there are plenty of heartwarming, light, dramatic moments in the film and instead of doing a formal film review, I would like to single out three scenes that represent what a quality film Tangled is.

When Will My Life Begin?

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The opening song in this scene is a great way to kickstart what I would consider to be the best soundtrack to a Disney animation. Rapunzel is introduced to us as her teenage self, and she basically gives us a run down of her day to day activities in the most fun way possible. Whilst on the surface it seems like a nice montage, there’s a lot you can actually unpack.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room; yes, many may question Rapunel’s spirited nature despite her oppressive circumstance. However, this is a Disney film and some could argue if that’s the only life she’s only ever known then I guess she is the walking example of ignorance is bliss (to be fair she has a nice set up).

As soon as you hear the first strums of the guitar strings, you’re instantly put in a good mood. I love the pop vibe that the soundtrack has, filled with hit worthy songs. I love the humour in this scene and that is credit to Pascal (my favourite sidekick, levelled with Maximus) as he doesn’t need to speak because his face says it all. There are moments in the song where Rapunzel uses him to be a puppet for ventriloquy purposes; from him holding a candle triple the size of him to my favourite part…him being in a dress. This shows the unique friendship between the two because Pascal is willing to do anything for Rapunzel. The montage is so quick that it’s only when you actually stop to think about those small moments that it makes you smile and laugh.

As mentioned previously, this scene does give the whole being “locked up in a tower” thing quite the glossy makeover. However Disney acknowledges the truth of her situation by representing her as someone who knows there is more in life. Despite the fact that Rapunzel has made the best out of her indoor situation she still longs for the outside world and her only dream is to see the lights that appear on her birthday. There’s something missing from her life and though she doesn’t know the details as to why, she has a basic understanding that there is something better for her out in the world.

I’ve Got A Dream

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This is such a hilarious scene; Rapunzel and her innocence captivates the group of thugs and eventually she unearths the soft core in all of them. My favourite moment of this scene is when Rapunzel silences the whole pub by summarising her dream of seeing the lanterns and appealing to them by exclaiming, “Find your humanity!” She shows courage and is not afraid to let anyone stop her from fulfilling her dreams.

What seemed to be a rough establishment actually transforms into an almost therapy-like session. Through song and dance, and through sharing everyone’s dreams, the scene counteracts the brutal outward appearances. I love the juxtapositions in this scene. We see a big rough guy singing about his love of being a pianist, others singing about their love of ceramic unicorns and baking. It’s a total subversion of the stereotypes of masculinity but overall the scene is a lot of fun.

In turn, I love how Rapunzel isn’t fazed by her surroundings and saw something in the thugs that others didn’t see. There’s a funny moment where Flynn’s confused facial expression on his face perfectly conveys his confusion as to why this rough crowd is singing about their hobbies all of a sudden. He’s basically mirroring the audience, and that’s what makes this scene genius, it turns expectations of their heads and shows how we can’t judge things from their outward appearance.

I See The Light

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This scene showcases the captivating power that animation has and in my opinion displays Disney as the forefront of animation. Watch it and you’ll understand why I’ve selected this scene to showcase why I believe Tangled is truly one of best Disney films.

There is such an innocence and heartwarming feeling. The fact that Flynn and Rapunzel are naturally falling in love with each other after spending quality time together beforehand makes it feels organic and natural. This scene, in a way, is also the emotional climax of the film in a way. Rapunzel asks Flyn what will happen if this dream she’s had her entire life doesn’t live up to her expectations, to which Flynn reassures her it will be. It is the most sincere moment of this scene:

“…and what if it is? What do I do then?”

Flynn: “Well that’s the good part I guess, you get to go and find a new dream.”

Cue the most mesmerising scene is animation with the glowing lanterns creating a warm and atmospheric feeling, not to mention the beautiful song that is being sung by the two leads. The film has been leading up to this moment and it means a lot to see Rapunzel being lost in the moment and achieving her dream.

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You may have guessed it but I would have to say Tangled is my favourite Disney film. I honestly could have written a lot more to further back up my claim but the best way to convince you is to watch the film itself. Of course films like The Lion King (1994), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Little Mermaid (1989) etc. are iconic and classics but Tangled incorporates classic Disney conventions whilst being modern and exciting (after all I did mention that it would be my Desert Island Movie in my previous post).

It would be criminal of me to leave out mentions of other brilliant moments from Tangled, so here they are in a nutshell:

Honorable Mentions

  • I am a despicable human being/BEST DAY EVERRR!
  • “Mother Knows Best” scene.
  • Rapunzel and Pascal interrogate Flynn.
  • Maximus and Flynn have to settle their differences for a day to make Rapunzel’s birthday one to remember.
  • “Rapunzel Know’s Best” scene.
  • THE WHOLE FILM!

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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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)

REVIEWED: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Star Wars. One of the biggest franchises ever to grace the screens. Roughly 40 years ago Star Wars changed cinema and helped pave the way for the blockbuster phenomenon. George Lucas continued the saga in 1999 by exploring the events that led to the rise of the Empire and the origins of the Darth Vader, arguably one of the most iconic film villains of all time.

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Whilst the prequel trilogy accumulated $2.5 billion world wide at the Box Office, over time fans have grown less fond of these films. It’s an observation that has become more prominent in the lead up to Episode VII as Lucasfilm promises a more grounded trilogy to reinvigorate the franchise.

I’ll get to the point, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) is my favourite Star Wars film. It may be nostalgia and the fact that I grew up on the prequel trilogy, but I love them and think they are important to view so you understand characters origins. I admit that they are cheesy (just like the original films) but the whole point of the franchise is that it is pure fun and fantasy. It allows an audience to go on an exciting journey and completely embrace the Star Wars universe.

That being said, the themes and character relationships in Revenge of the Sith are powerful and engrossing. It’s rare for a film to show the evil side taking power and conquering good, and that is why I love this film. Because at the end of the day you know the end result and that evil does not win forever, but I love how unconventional the film is in showing that sometimes it is hard to resist your natural emotions.

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Let’s be honest, this film plays with your emotions. No matter how many times I watch this film, I keep getting frustrated how Anakin goes on a dark path and those little moments where you see the seeds are being sown into his eventual doom.

Relationships is a strong theme. Relationship of husband and wife, master and padawan and obviously evil vs. good. Anakin encompasses all of these themes and despite the mediocre acting from Hayden Christensen, the character exploration is one of the strongest points of the film. I loved how he struggles with his conflicting emotions and to a degree repressed them because he is going on a journey, unfortunately he ends up at the wrong destination. Anakin allows fear, greed and jealousy to consume him to the point where he is too deep in affiliation with the Sith.

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It reminds me of a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go over.” (Act 3 Scene 4)

It brings up the theme of forgiveness and redemption. The thing that gives the audience hope is that by destroying the Emperor and saving Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, there is redemption for Anakin. However, at the time of the events of Revenge of the Sith, questions about whether people can turn back from their evil ways. Then the audience member in me is crying and begging Anakin not to listen to the Chancellor, even though it has to happen and even though there is some small moment of redemption in the end.

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The Chosen One. The prophecy spoke about an individual who would destroy the Sith and bring peace to the galaxy. Up to this point no one has doubted that destiny over Anakin’s life, until Yoda says a subtle yet impactful statement: “A prophecy misread, perhaps.” Little do they know he actually fulfils the prophecy at the end of Return of the Jedi, however at this point in the film it’s quite a shocking moment thinking all this time has been wasted and in fact they could be back at square one, in trying to find the one who would destroy the Sith. Also referring back to Phantom of the Menace (1999) the Jedi council initially reject the request to train Anakin as they sensed great fear in him, unfortunately how right they were.

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The best scene of the whole film is the incredible fight sequence on the volcanic planet Mustafar between Obi-Wan and Anakin. This is a tragic moment as the little boy on Tatooine is no more, he has thrown away all chances to become a great Jedi Master and thrown away a brotherly bond all for selfish gain.

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The most tragic relationship breakdown is between Padme and Anakin, after everything they had been through it was all thrown away due to the paranoia of Anakin. Gone was the little boy she met on Tatooine, as she states, “I don’t know you anymore, Anakin, you’re breaking my heart!” before Anakin acts out and despite the fact he was trying to prevent her death, ironically he was the cause of her death. There is a subtle moment during the funereal of Padme when you see the necklace (that was given to her when they first met) clutched in her hands, for a single moment you remember they innocence of their relationship. How they had a true and deep love for each other that was sacrificed due to Anakin’s pursuit of power.

I could go on longer, but in short this film is great to dissect and discuss important themes and issues. During the whole film, even the whole prequel trilogy, you see so many moments where the overall outcome could have been prevented. However, we all know what is going to happen and as tragic as it is, the end goal is one of hope and peace and Anakin does fulfil the Jedi prophecy.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

Following up the $1.5 billion smash hit of Avengers Assemble (2012) was never going to be an easy task. This is the moment all comic book and movie fans had been waiting for, the uniting forces of these iconic superheroes that Marvel had been teasing about since 2008’s Iron Man. It may be the sequel to Avengers Assemble, but really it’s the sequel to all the Marvel films. It’s no secret that Marvel plant easter eggs throughout the film universe and the plots all link together. Age of Ultron is a worthy entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however it does have its flaws.

For once Loki isn’t the villain, which makes way for James Spader’s Ultron created by Tony Stark to prevent cosmic attacks. Ultron is a great villain and a worthy advisory to the Avengers, however his motives for the destruction of mankind felt fast tracked. Literally two seconds after he is created he goes on a rant about how he has to extinct the Avengers and mankind, it didn’t feel like a natural conclusion to the characters reasoning to cause havoc. That being said, James Spader really breathes life into the character with his distinctive voice and with such authority.

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Avengers Assemble was about….assembling the Avengers. This time we see the cracks starting to form within their team which is primarily thanks to Ultron. Themes which are no stranger to science fiction are explored here, about just because we can do something doesn’t make it right in most cases. Tony Stark has to deal with the consequences of building an artificial intelligence which is threatening the world with impending doom.

New entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe come from Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Both great editions to the Avengers, though they prove more of a threat to the Avengers at the beginning of the film. The stronger of the pair is Scarlet Witch, Elizabeth Olsen creates her own version of the character making her complex and allowing her to go on a journey to overcome her rocky upbringing. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a good job with Quicksilver, but Evan Peters is a more exciting version of the comic book character.

One of Scarlet Witch’s abilities is being able to manipulate minds which allows us to go deeper into the psyche of the Avengers, seeing their past, fears and potential futures. This allows time for character exploration and that is a gift especially in a film with multiple leading roles.

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If there is a standout character in Age of Ultron it has to be Black Widow. It is criminal that she hasn’t been gifted with a solo film, however in this film we go deeper into her character than we’ve ever seen before. There is one moment where she shares something of her past to Bruce Banner, and it is the most heartfelt moment of the film. Scarlett Johansson really fleshes out her character and adds more depth so we can understand her character more. Please can we have a solo Black Widow film so all can be revealed! The first Avengers film was more fun, classic and exciting.

Age of Ultron is still a great superhero film, however the spark from the first film has fizzled away. The excitement of bringing all the heroes on screen for the first time is impossible to compete with, so with that in mind this is a great follow up. However, it felt like Marvel didn’t exactly deliver in what was promised through the marketing of the film. Yes there is impending doom and there is a darker tone, but it still felt like they were holding back and it could have been a lot more dramatic and impactful.

With Captain America: Civil War due out next year and is basically Avengers 2.5, there is still a lot more that Marvel wants to explore with these characters and this universe.

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

Currently I’m writing my follow up to my ‘Actors Appreciation Season’, but for now I thought I’d grace this post with a film review I wrote for American Pride Magazine. They have been really supportive of my writing and are generous enough to take my reviews and post them on their website. When they asked me to review a film I loved, The Return of the King was an obvious choice. It is literally my favourite film ever.


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has managed to captivate audiences all around the world for the past decade, it was a huge commercial and critical success. The concluding chapter in the trilogy The Return of the King earned over $1 billion worldwide and won 11 Oscars including Best Picture.

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Everything from the first two films has built to this moment, it’s the final showdown and finally we see the conclusion to this epic saga. As audiences we’ve had the chance to go on a journey with these characters, thus seeing them develop and fleshed out. For example, we see the ring taking a deeper hold on Frodo with the help of Gollum. Frodo’s friendship with Sam is tested in this film, this perfect friendship starts to see some cracks as the corruption of the ring and Gollum’s evil intentions intensify. Frodo and Sam’s friendship is the core of the film, as their mission can only be complete with their support and universal goal to destroy evil.

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Aragon is gradually accepting his true destiny as he seeks out additional forces for the final battle of Middle Earth. There is still a reluctance, but he realises the time has come to come into his own and help win the battle for mankind. It seems like a natural profession of the character because you see the journey of dealing with his heritage and trying to run away from it in the previous films, but in this film you see him use it to his advantage. This is very much Aragon’s film as it’s about the fate of the ring.

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One of the strongest characters is Eowyn, she is a great representation of strength and bravery. Defying the norms of gender stereotypes and warfare, she doesn’t let her love for Rohan prevent her from trying to fight in one of the biggest battles of Middle Earth. Her connection with Merry as well, who also intends to fight, is special because by spurring him on to fight for those he loves, she also is given the confidence and reassurance that this is what she must do. Eowyn is an incredibly inspirational female character that becomes a vital part of the film.

Peter Jackson manages to successfully breathe life into these characters and add depth and substance to them, allowing the audience to truly care for them and stay with them over the course of the film. His care for narrative is evident as well as he effortlessly weaves the multiple story lines together to make one cohesive film, with the help of the amazing Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. It truly is on an epic scale, emotionally and physically as we see one of the biggest battles at Minas Tirith, Saurons last attempt to destroy the world of Men.

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Howard Shore is a genius when it comes to composing music for Middle Earth, The Oscar winning soundtrack is a perfect send off for the trilogy. The music is beautiful on so many levels, it can be sinister and yet ethereal and so many other things. The soundtrack is like a character itself, a tool to allow the audience to feel certain emotions and understand the mood of the film.

The Return of the King is an exciting, emotional, epic fantasy film soaked in depth and universal themes that have resonated with audiences across the word after all this time. The trilogy itself is a huge success story, as incredible as the third film is you need to watch the first two first because it’s like one long 12 hour epic. It’s more than a film, it’s an experience