Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Ciné File Vol. 2

It doesn't matter how busy I am, I'll always make time for a film.

Although I haven't been to the cinema half as much as I'd have liked to this week - the list of new releases I want to see is longer than my arm at the moment - I've still fit in more films than I expected to this week. There have been quite a few on the television that I'm glad I managed to catch, and I've carried on my Harry Potter marathon while doing a lot of baking this week too.

Just because I can't make it to the cinema much doesn't mean I'll let my film watching slip!

DVD (2009) - *

"While attending his brother's wedding, a serial womanizer is haunted by the ghosts of his past girlfriends."


As a rule, I never stop a film half way through and I can count on one hand the number of films I haven't finished. Even if I'm really, really not enjoying it, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and soldier on to the end: after all you can never be sure if it genuinely will be that bad all the way through or if it's going to get better. I tried watching Ghosts of Girlfriends Past a few months ago and switched it off after half an hour as I found it to be so dismally bad it was completely intolerable. This week I found it on Channel 4, and as I felt super guilty for not finishing it before I decided to give it another go.

Well that's two hours of my life I'm never going to get back. I had the right idea the first time round, and really should have trusted my gut instinct and left this film unwatched. Matthew McConaughey plays a thoroughly unlikeable man, who develops very little throughout the duration of the film and thus remains unlikeable even when it's obvious the audience is supposed to suddenly warm to him. The script is poor, the acting is appalling, and there are no characters with redeeming features to really route for. It's only the brief comedic presence of Emma Stone as the Past Ghost that makes the film bearable, but once she's gone it's back to being awful once more.

Given the calibre of the actors attached to the film it's surprising that it's such a disaster, but Ghosts is just a car crash from start to finish.

DVD (1997) - ****

"A seventeen-year-old aristocrat, expecting to be married to a rich claimant by her mother, falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic."


I never cry at films, but I always cry - without fail - at the end of Titanic. It's such a classic, and even though I'm aware it has its faults I won't hear a bad word said about it. From the costumes, to the elaborate sets, to a young Leonardo diCaprio - what's not to love?!

DVD (2004) - ****

"It's Harry's third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards' Prison and is coming after Harry."


It's my favourite book of the series so Prisoner of Azakaban will always have a special place in my heart. Miraculously this seems a pretty faithful adaptation - although it's definitely below par in specific parts - and director Alfonso Cuarón certainly brought an interesting edge to the series. He successfully began to navigate the films into a darker territory that his successors embraced, even without the direct presence of Lord Voldemort.

The adult cast of the Harry Potter films has always been spectacular, but the introduction of Gary Oldman, Timothy Spall and David Thewlis as Marauders Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and Remus Lupin really is inspired. Their scene in the Shrieking Shack towards the end of the film is brilliant, and unfolds pretty much exactly as I pictured it in my head when reading the novel (deviations from the text aside). I also adore Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Richard Harris was fantastic as the gentle, grandfather-style wizard of the first two films, but there's something about Gambon's more eccentric, mysterious, and almost mischievous acting that seems more befitting of the character.

Prisoner of Azakaban ticks all the boxes for me. There's comedy in spades; a werewolf; the Whomping Willow; a first look at the Dementors; Quidditch; a hippogriff; and a blown up aunt. There's so much going on and simultaneously nothing seems to have happened - it's probably Harry's most uneventful year and yet it's somehow it's possible to experience so many different aspects of the Potter universe. What a film!

DVD (2005) - ****

"Harry finds himself mysteriously selected as an under-aged competitor in a dangerous tournament between three schools of magic."


Another Harry Potter film, another director and another change in tone. By this stage the series is starting to feel a little disjointed, so thank goodness the plot is so full and the special effects have stepped up a notch to keep interest high and distract the audience from scrutinising too closely what came before. Given how enormous the book is, there's no wonder large chunks of the plot have been either omitted or largely condensed, but what remains is pretty excellent.

The Triwizard Tournament is an absolute treat. Ignoring the "DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?!" debacle it's all brilliant, from the dragons to the mermaids to the maze to the Yule Ball. The real highlight of the film though has to be Ralph Fiennes' turn as Lord Voldemort. His performance is chilling, and it's here that he cements his place in the history books as a truly terrifying villain.

In cinemas now (2014) - **

"A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue."


On paper Magic in the Moonlight sounds fantastic - Emma Stone, Colin Firth, magicians, spiritualists, deception, romance, the South of France, Woody Allen… Unfortunately the end result is a beautifully shot film with excellent actors that's really boring. The ending is obvious from the beginning, and sadly there isn't enough in between to keep the audience interested when up against a sign-posted ending. The romantic aspect doesn't make much sense at all - it sort of comes out of nowhere - and the age gap between Stone and Firth makes it seem more than a little weird.

For me, the only upside to this film was that I saw it at the Everyman cinema in Selfridges. The Everyman cinemas in London are amazing, and for the same price as a ticket to a chain cinema you have sofas, footstools and waiters who bring you goodies from the bar to your seat. It's much more of an event than just going to your local Odeon, so if you're in London then I can't recommend Everyman enough! As I result I didn't mind paying to see Magic in the Moonlight as I was able to spend a couple of hours curled up in an armchair in the middle of Selfridges, and as far as I'm concerned cinema experiences don't get much better than that!

DVD (1993) - *****

"During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok."


Every time I see Jurassic Park I instantly want to indulge my childhood fantasy and become a palaeontologist. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing John Williams' iconic score, and even when I know what's coming I'll always watch through my fingers as velociraptors tear through the kitchen looking for the frightened children. I saw this in 3D when it was rereleased last year and it was a cinematic experience I'll never forget, but even on a tiny television screen Jurassic Park is still a truly brilliant, suspenseful and exciting film.

DVD (2010) - ****

"With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe."


Unstoppable is the type of film I've been meaning to watch for a while but haven't been keen enough to chase it up and find it on DVD, instead choosing to wait until it's shown on the television. Last night Channel 4 finally programmed it on E4, and I'm really, really glad I stayed up to watch it! I wasn't holding out much hope for it and assumed it would be the typical average movie with big stars - in the form of Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson. However, I was pleasantly surprised: Unstoppable turned out to be an incredibly tense thriller and not at all like I was expecting.

The first half an hour wasn't great, but once the unmanned train starts to gain speed and the options (and time) seem to be running out the film steps up a gear, and director Tony Scott amps up the tension and somehow manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. There's no getting away from the fact that Unstoppable is nothing special, and despite being on screen for the majority of the film Washington and Pine somehow appear woefully underused. However the editing of the action is fantastic, and it manages to turn what could be a ridiculous, poor film into a tightly wound and incredibly tense thrill ride. I'll be watching it again if I come across it when channel hopping!

So, what did you watch this week? Are there any new releases or old favourites that you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

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