Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Ciné File Vol. 3

This has been the best film week I've had in a long time.

Looking over what I've seen it's been a mixed bunch that really highlights how varied and weird my taste in films is - as I've said before the only thing my choices and favourites have in common is that they have very little in common at all!

For me, the films I've seen this week are the type that have made me fall head over heels in love with cinema all over again.

* * * *
Film4 // 2009 // DVD

"The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father's legacy with Mr. Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful, time-traveling Romulan creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time."


I absolutely adore Star Trek, and I don't care who knows it.

I've already done a blog post about my unashamed love for anything to do with the U. S. S. Enterprise following a screening of Star Trek Into Darkness at the Royal Albert Hall with a live orchestra, so I'll save my nerdy enthusiasm for the franchise for another time. Safe to say, though, whenever this film is on the television (as it was this week on Film4) I'll drop everything to sit and watch it, and it's one of my go-to films to have on in the background while I bake.

From the Michael Giacchino's stirring score, to the ensemble cast of new actors excellently portraying well-loved and iconic characters, to the stunning visual effects, there's an awful lot about Star Trek that excites me and I simply can't get enough of. Yes, it's certainly not a perfect film, and there are definitely way too many lens flares, but as far as I'm concerned J. J. Abrams successfully rebooted the franchise with a wonderful film.

* *
Film4 // 2010 // DVD

"A young woman gets mixed up with a disgraced spy who is trying to clear his name."


Knight and Day is a back-up film for me - the type I'll reluctantly leave on if there's nothing else to watch having flicked through literally every channel Sky has to offer. It's not so terrible I'd rather switch the television off and sit in silence, but it's also never going to be my first - or fifth - choice.

On paper it's outstanding and ticks all the boxes: Cruise and Diaz do action better than most, and they've shown over the years that they can also turn their hands to comedy with relative success. Unfortunately, as an onscreen pairing, they're just weird. I don't know whether it's a height thing (both actors being at completely opposite ends of the spectrum) or the fact that they're both Hollywood royalty and putting them together - and not with someone less famous - just doesn't work. Their chemistry doesn't feel right, and instead of their relationship appearing new, exciting and mysterious, the whole film makes both of their characters seem genuinely unhinged.

It's unbelievable and a little bit ridiculous but some of the action scenes are fantastic, most notably shots of Cruise and Diaz speeding through the streets of Spain on a motorbike chased by the baddies towards the end of the film (as seen on the posters). It has its moments, and as it isn't a bad film it's worth a watch (if there's nothing else on…).

* *
DVD // 2007

"With their warning about Lord Voldemort's return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts."


This film makes me angry on so many levels.

I like a lot of director David Yates' decisions with regards to the franchise: in particular the Ministry of Magic set is phenomenal, and the casting of Imelda Staunton as the vile Professor Umbridge and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange is truly inspired. However as far as adaptations go, Order of the Phoenix is terrible. I simply adore the book. Granted, it's so rich in both plot and detail that translating everything to screen would be virtually impossible, but at times it feels like Yates has ignored the source material entirely and decided to start from scratch. Luckily he doesn't destroy too many fundamental plot points but he skims over certain vital explanations - for example, why does Hagrid have Grawp? Why does Harry have visions? - such that makes me wonder how anyone who hasn't actually read the books manages to follow what on earth's happening in the film.

The visual effects might be incredible, but this is such a disappointing film.

* * * * *
Surprise Film: BFI London Film Festival // 2014 // UK Release: 2nd January 2015

"A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory."


Booking the Surprise Film at the London Film Festival is always a bit of a gamble. I took the plunge last year and was faced with the martial arts masterpiece The Grandmaster. In hindsight I loved it, but at the time 2 hours of subtitles and fighting could not have been less appealing in the middle of a week full of gruelling essay deadlines and newspaper editing. Despite last year's mildly unsuccessful foray into surprising myself, I knew that there was no way I was missing out on it this year, so I put my BFI membership to good use and spent the morning tickets were released frantically refreshing the page, joining queues and memorising my card number to minimise typing time. The whole booking experience was a million times less stressful this year, and in a weird twist of fate I ended up booking exactly the same tactical seat as last year (near an aisle so I could make a quick exit if faced with a horror film - I'm such a wuss).

I really lucked out with Birdman, and had to stop myself from leaping to my feet in a standing ovation as the credits rolled. It's genuinely one of the most mesmerising, brilliant and awe-inspiring films I've ever seen, and it strongly reminded me exactly why I want to work in this industry in the first place.

I've already written a full review that I'll post nearer to the UK release in January, but for the time being rest assured that no-one could play Riggan as perfectly as Michael Keaton; the jazzy drum score from Antonio Sanchez is the wackiest and most original I've heard; and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki worked his magic with director Alejandro González Iñárritu to create a visual feast of long sweeping shots taking the audience from the street, inside the heart of the theatre, through the wings and bursting out onto the stage. It's utterly stunning, surprisingly very funny and full of so many layers.

My only complaint - and it's not really a complaint - is that it's not on general release till January, as I want nothing more than to run into a cinema and be immersed in this world all over again. What a film!

Check out the trailer: I defy you not to be intrigued!

* * * * *
Curzon Soho // 2014 // In UK cinemas now

"A young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971."


Jack O'Connell is a force to be reckoned with. He blew me away in the phenomenal Starred Up earlier this year, and given how tense the trailers made '71 seem I had a feeling he would be just as good in this. He really, really is. In a brilliant ensemble cast, O'Connell somehow manages to shine.

It's the first feature film for director Yann Demange, and he has succeeded in creating an incredibly gripping survival thriller that has you riveted from start to finish. This heart-pounding tale of cat-and-mouse on the streets of Belfast during The Troubles is wonderfully edited, resulting in never-ending suspense and surprises. There's oddly dark humour at times, mostly from a feisty young boy with a penchant for profanity, and the lines between right and wrong - good and evil - are blurred despite being occasionally obviously signposted. Demange makes a clear point of acknowledging the political, social and moral ambiguities of the time, and provides a thought-provoking and multi-layered film.

In an industry seemingly saturated with Hollywood action films boasting 'suspense' and 'tension' it's really refreshing to come across such a tiny film that's significantly more entertaining, tightly wound and genuinely tense than its blockbuster counterparts.

If you see anything this week, make sure it's the utterly stunning '71.

* * *
Everyman Selfridges // 2014 // In UK cinemas now

"A look at the mysterious relationship between Victorian art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride Effie Gray."


Effie Gray was exactly like Magic in the Moonlight last week: if I'd seen this anywhere else other than in the Everyman Selfridges cinema, I'd have been annoyed I paid to see it. Despite the ridiculous line-up of distinguished British actors; a script from national treasure Emma Thompson; and all the trappings of an excellent period piece, Effie Gray is supremely dull and unfortunately never really takes off.

For those uninterested in pre-Raphaelite art and life in the mid-1800s, Effie Gray offers little entertainment. As the plot begins to interestingly develop as the Ruskins' relationship starts to unravel, the script sort of falls apart, and the last twenty minutes therefore falls a little flat when it could have finished on a sensational high (as I was hoping it would!). It's incredibly obvious from the beginning exactly where the film is going (even if you have no knowledge of the history) but it takes so long to get there, and with nothing really happening along the way, that it's frighteningly easy to lose interest and succumb to boredom.

However, it's not all bad. The on-screen chemistry between Dakota Fanning (Effie Gray) and Greg Wise (John Ruskin) is perfect, with the pair of them delivering a performance that seems truly uncomfortable - exactly as it should be - and highlights how odd the couple was, with such a severe age-gap and expectations. The suffocation and isolation Effie endures in the relationship is more than evident in the beautiful scenes in rural Scotland and Venice, and in the imposing Victorian interiors of John's parents house. Julie Walters is characteristically fantastic as Margaret Cox Ruskin, an overbearing and interfering mother who places her son on a pedestal and refuses to let him down (not that he shows any indication of wanting to move from her clutches…).

There are so many wonderful elements to this film, it's just that when put together it doesn't work well at all.

* * *
MyTimesPlus Screening: Vue Cheshire Oaks // 2014 // UK Release: 24th October 2014

"Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears."


I love a good children's film, I just don't like seeing them in a cinema full of chattering and fidgeting children. However, I was prepared to let that go on this occasion as MyTimesPlus held advance free screenings of The Book of Life across the country and miraculously my mum and I managed to secure tickets. It's not the type of film I'd usually pick, but I'm glad I've seen it!

The night before going I read an article in last month's Empire about the film, which definitely provided an advantage to going in blind! They dubbed it "Mexicanimation" which I think sums The Book of Life up perfectly - it's practically bursting with Mexican culture and history. The animation in Jorge R. Gutierrez's first feature film is beautiful and so intricately detailed that I think it'd take multiple viewings to catch everything on offer. The characters were reminiscent of wooden puppets, with fabulously exaggerated proportions and lots of sharp, pointed, boxy edges.

My main gripe is that the plot isn't particularly clear. It's not obvious that this is Manolo's story: before he needs to jump between the different worlds mid-way through the film it's very much equally spread between the three main characters of Diego Luna's music-loving bull-fighting Manolo, Channing Tatum's brave, moustachioed Joaquin and Zoe Saldana's clever and beautiful Maria. It's set up as a love triangle from the beginning, with Manolo and Joaquin fighting for the hand of Maria (obviously with intervention from the ruling gods of the two other worlds: the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten…). However there's never really any competition between the two men, and Maria makes it clear from the beginning she's not a damsel in distress who needs a man (major points to the studios for producing that characterisation of a woman!). It's ultimately a tad confusing as the film struggles to commit to either the romantic plot-line or the standard struggles with self-identity and family, alongside the ongoing dangerous threat from a long-standing foe. Unfortunately there are too many half-hearted and underdeveloped plot-lines for my liking, but I might be reading too much into it: when leaving the cinema the children pouring out too couldn't stop talking about how much they loved it!

The Book of Life isn't your usual animation but it's visually utterly beautiful, and the Mexican theme all the way through is wonderfully unique for a film of this scale. It'll definitely be a hit with children, and as a more intelligent take on the traditional animated film it's guilt-free viewing for any adults interested!

DVD // 2009

"As Harry Potter begins his sixth year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book marked as "the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort's dark past."


I really, really hate this film, and only suffer through Half-Blood Prince in order to progress to Deathly Hallows. It's a shocking adaptation only redeemed by Michael Gambon's brilliant performance as Professor Dumbledore. If it's not already clear: I'm really not a fan!

* * *
BBC3 // 2010 // DVD

"Family-patriarch Jack Byrnes wants to appoint a successor. Does his son-in-law, the male nurse Greg Focker have what it takes?"


Meet the Parents is a classic comedy and at the top of my list of films to watch if I need cheering up.

Even though the quality sadly decreases slightly throughout the trilogy the comedy is still top-notch, and every time this is on the television I promise myself I won't watch it but always end up spending an hour and a half giggling at the antics of Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) and his controlling father-in-law Jack Burns (Robert De Niro). It's not an excellent, award-winning film by any stretch of the imagination, but I defy anyone to watch Little Fockers and not laugh. There's a tried and tested formula that's hardly changed over the three films: jokes are recycled and every comedy stereotype is employed - embarrassingly at times - to illicit a titter from the audience. For me though, I don't care that it's so bad in places I cringe. I laugh at every joke each time I watch it, and I love that it's such easy, uncomplicated, enjoyable viewing.

Little Fockers is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

So it's been a bumper collection of films this week! It's very noticeable too that I've been less stressed and in a much better mood than normal, and I want to put that down to so much film watching and time spent sat in a dark room surrounded by strangers (odd as that sounds!). I'm glad I've started to chip away at new releases at the cinema too: hopefully I can keep that up next week!

As ever, are there any films you'd recommend, both newly released and old favourites? Let me know in the comments below!

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