Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Ciné File Vol. 13

Christmas really is the best time to settle on the sofa under a blanket and watch films to your hearts content as every channel is always bursting with old classics, festive favourites and premiering films from the last couple of years.

This Christmas was no exception as the BBC shone with Avengers Assemble. However Sky Movies reigned triumphant with three incredible new releases on demand: Frozen, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Lego Movie. Obviously I've already watched each of them a couple of times...

Well done, Sky Movies, you won at Christmas programming this year!

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Sky Movies // 1993 // DVD

"A recently widowed man's son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner."


It's not Christmas without watching Sleepless in Seattle, which is such a classically Nora Ephron film it hurts. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan never looked as good together on screen as they do here (You've Got Mail just doesn't compare in my book) and it's the sort of film that's ridiculously easy to be swept up in. It's romantic and absurdly corny, but sometimes losing yourself in such a dreamy and warm film is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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BBC // 2010 // DVD

"An improvised comedy based around a school nativity play."

Nativity! is one of those unfortunate films that should never have been granted a sequel, let alone two. It's a fabulous premise, and this - the first and original - is a charming, funny and tremendously heart-warming Christmas treat. The improvisation by the children gives certain scenes an Outnumbered feel, and no-one could play the grumpy teacher Mr Madden quite like Martin Freeman. It's the type of film children will love, but even with the knowledge of guaranteed success with this demographic the filmmakers should have stopped after this one and quit while they're ahead. After all, the actual nativity that ends the film is so spectacular there's not really any point in trying to top it.

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Sky Movies // 2014 // DVD

"An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis."


The Lego Movie is one of the smartest, funniest and most inventive animations ever made, and if you haven't already seen it, then why on Earth not? The animation is truly fantastic, and it's bursting with brilliant characters - both original and well known - that showcase an epically witty script full of memorable one-liners from directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and one of the catchiest songs ever written.

Where else are you going to find Batman, Gandalf, Abraham Lincoln and Shakespeare in a film together with the best Good Cop/Bad Cop incarnation of all time? There's no two ways about it: everything really is awesome.

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BBC1 // 2011 // DVD (also currently on the BBC iPlayer until Thursday 1st January 2015)

"The neighboring gardens of Montague and Capulet are at war, but the gnomes, Gnomeo and Juliet, are in love."

Every time the BBC programmes Gnomeo & Juliet I feel obliged to stop everything and watch it all over again. At this point I must have seen it dozens of times, but I still think it's as fantastic as the first time I saw it in a cinema full of children.

Each and every character is cast brilliantly, from the star crossed lovers (James McAvoy and Emily Blunt), to the heads of the families (Maggie Smith and Michael Caine), to the garden owners (Julie Walters and Richard Wilson) to William Shakespeare himself (Patrick Stewart). Essentially it's a 'who's who' of British acting talent both in roles you'd expect - Ashley Jensen has a wonderfully comedic turn as the frog Nanette - and the unexpected: Jason Statham will forever be the lawn-mower racing gnome Tybalt to me now, not the action hero he's most famed for.

The script is well and truly on point, full of Shakespeare references for beady-eyed fans of the bard, and Elton John's music adds a bizarre yet utterly fitting charm to the film. It's the sort of film that takes a ludicrous concept and turns it into 75 minutes of unadulterated fun. Only in Britain could a Shakespeare-themed film about warring garden gnomes be so successful and so completely wonderful.

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Sky Movies // 2013 // DVD

"When a princess with the power to turn things into ice curses her home in infinite winter, her sister, Anna teams up with a mountain man, his playful reindeer, and a snowman to change the weather condition."

I can't be the only person that thinks the world has now reached peak Frozen, can I?!

It's a decent film, with a solid story-line, good characters and more catchy songs than you can count. There's the standard oddball sidekick (in this case, Olaf, the talking snowman), a loveable animal that basically acts like an overexcited dog (Sven the reindeer) and an enormously popular song belted out by a key character at a pivotal moment (Adele Dalzeem's 'Let It Go'…). Frozen is visually beautiful, and the animation of Elsa's ice castle is particularly stunning in what has the same magical impact as seeing Cinderella's castle for the first time.

Therein lies the problem: much of Frozen doesn't seem particularly original, and if anything I think similar parts have often been done better before. Yes, it has it's charm; and yes, it's lovely to have the story of two sisters at the heart of the film, but there just isn't much that specifically makes it stand out from every other Disney princess film ever made. Personally I feel it's been overhyped to a ridiculous degree, and even though it's a great film that deserves every success, it's definitely not as amazing as the media makes out.

If this is as good as it gets for children - and this is the type of film that now excites them beyond belief - then I'm pretty disappointed. I'll always love animated Disney films, and they have a really special place in my heart, but I'm afraid Frozen will never be one I spend much time on when there are much better ones on offer.

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Sky Movies // 2014 // DVD

"Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier."

When looking over my films of the year I decided Captain America: The Winter Soldier was The Film That I Wish I Could Experience For The First Time All Over Again, and seeing it on Boxing Day thanks to Sky Movies just confirmed that I made the right choice with that award. It's just a genuinely exciting film with such a major plot twist that the Marvel film universe is irreparably rocked from the inside going into the next phase. I was open-mouthed in shock and awe when I first saw it at the cinema, but it's so good that I found it just as enjoyable this time round despite already knowing what was going to happen and the repercussions beyond the Captain America universe alone.

It's brilliant. The new team of characters work exceptionally well together - whoever thought of throwing together Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) deserves a medal - and although he only has a handful of lines throughout the film Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier provides a remarkably imposing and terrifying presence of a puppet on a string performing inexplicably terrible acts.

It may first and foremost be a superhero film, but this sequel is less of a gung-ho celebration of all that's great about America saving the world than the first one, and more of a look at (almost) ordinary people (i.e. not Norse gods or playboys with billions in the bank for fancy toys) using their extraordinary talents in difficult circumstances in order to do what simply must be done. It's wonderfully gripping and everything a superhero film should be. Captain America strikes again!

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BBC1 // 2012 // DVD

"Earth's mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity."

I could watch Avengers Assemble a million times and never get bored. Joss Whedon handles an insane number of superhero egos and a villain hell-bent on mischief expertly in this ridiculously entertaining film. It's one of the best superhero films and shows that it's possible to bring several franchises together and not feel shortchanged at any stage.

So what did you watch over Christmas? Were you glued to the television for films like me or did you brave the snow and pop out to the cinema for a new release? Do let me know any recommendations!

**Also, my Film Round-Up 2014 was uploaded yesterday, so if you're looking for film inspiration from the last twelve months then do check it out!**

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