Saturday, 31 January 2015

Review : Starred Up


Starred Up is a well-made British prison drama about a troubled teen who becomes old enough to enter the adult prison system - the clue lies within the title being a slang term for that transition. 
The film is extremely hard and unflinchingly realistic, containing violence and full-frontal male nudity. 

Characters fight fairly frequently, and sometimes the fights come to blows, with blood shown.  Language is extremely strong and constant, including multiple uses of the f word and the c word. So I think you can tell that this is not a film appropriate for children, maybe when there older they can give it a watch, but at a young age perhaps not.

So what's the story? Well it's about this teenager called Eric Love (Played by Jack O'Connell) who is no stranger to prison in the slightest, but now he's old enough to be transferred from youth prison to the real big house, or as I believe the term is called "starred up," as it's known in prison slang. Guarded and coiled and already with extensive prison experience under his belt, it's not long before Eric's explosive nature gets him in trouble.

If you've seen prison films such as 'The Shawshank Redemption' you'd be able to familiarise yourself with Prison life as a viewer, how life on inside where you have no contact with the outside world and the only people you've got for company are a load of hardened criminals and killers who'd stab you in the back as soon as look at you. Knowing all this, I tend to find this British prison drama very thrilling. The drama is very real and exaggerated and therefore goes over the limit because it can. 

I think as a viewer the way that this film is made is it's done because it wants to you understand prison life and to make you understand prison life and the extraordinary extreme lengths of it for instance this done in such a way like the director David Mackenzie exaggerating violence, In one fight, a character bites down on a man's crotch and stays there until the fight is over. And also a contrast is made between moments of quiet suttle scenes to concentrate on the story telling in a bit more detail.

In summery this a bold film to watch for which everything shot and every scene counts, it all sets off on a perfect pace and is overly well executed. 8/10

Next Review : Slumdog Millionaire. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Review : Bird man


A washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play.

Bird man is certainly a different type of film, especially for today's standards.
It's one of those hybrid films which has it's main plot and it's own ideals to it, but also has many other subject matters surrounding it. And a hybrid film is a film made up of different genres because there is elements of romance in there, action, adventure and thrill to name a few. 

I think by watching Bird man if you go into intending to get not much out of it then that's exactly what your going to get. This is something which your concentration must be focussed on at all times, where you pay attention to every detail not because you should but because you want to, that's what is clever abut Bird man it wants to interest you and you can't help but be interested in it. 

It's clear direction from director Alejandro González Iñárritu demonstrates and shows moral and diverse perspective which dares to be any other than ordinary. I think this is a good film to watch to gain an experience because we have the films which we all know are classics and we have a comfort zone of films we like, but this is worth seeing to get out of that comfort zone and to actually see this one person's perspective and it's different things for different people which I hope a general audience will enjoy. After all it would be dull if an audience went to the cinema to watch something they know they were going to enjoy. 

In the opening shot, the viewing point is what appears to be booster rockets from a space shuttle shooting up through the sky.

And that's all you need because then for the rest of the film to go from here up until the final scene is designed to look like one continuous shot. A single camera in long takes edited together to make it look like one-take, a similar technique which Alfred Hitchcock used to do in his films, one of the most clever perspective's a director could have is trying to get one over the audience.

  1. So the story goes that Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It's a risky business  however what he hopes to achieve from is creative gamble is that he's a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to stir things up a bit.

    It is quite a long film it's 119 minutes in length so the film has amble time to cover a lot and it's tricky to have a plot this complex and how do you pitch that to an audience of people who are sitting in a cinema and have given up their time to come and watch your film? You need to communicate with the audience in such a way that you hope will create the connection you want in order to get the right reaction and make the experience of watching your film worth while.

    In my view, I would of probably enjoyed this better if I understood it better, I got the gist of what was going on but this was a bit of weird and complex film for me which shows ambitious and passionate perspective from a keen director who knows what he wants from his actors.


    Next Review : Starred Up.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review : WALL E (2008)

WALL E : In the distant future, a small waste collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Okay,so what's to be said when approaching Wall E well for the first half an hour of the film there isn't any dialogue that is spoken it's all done through music and physically seeing things and establishing where you are, and your establishing the character of WALL E as well.

As an opening this is unlike anything that's been done in a PIXAR film before or since as it's probably the one time that PIXAR have taken a step back and rather than introduce with a big spaceship landing, they've decided to pull on the audience's heart strings and have them establish their main character in the best sights by pulling on their heart strings and creating an emotional connection with the audience, so they can sentimentally invest with the robot.

I've always been very curious by the opening scene, not only because there's no dialogue in it but because it allows me as and viewer to physically and mentally process things properly rather than jump into the deep end and be like 'oh it's an action film, BANG there's bombs going off in a public place there's big explosions and people screaming, it's all very dramatic' and of course we all have our own way of retaining information based on what we see and what our minds tell us to be true.

However in the case of WALL E what is does so well for me is that it highlights the simplicity of the background environment very simply with wide shot angles to fully get a bigger scope of the habitat, your focus is just on one character - that's good and simple to follow and above all odds it's so well done.

Viewers need to know that although that WALL E is a winning Pixar adventure and thoroughly charming and, yes, romantic, some of the youngest viewers with a smaller attention span may get a little restless during the atmospheric, virtually dialogue free first half-hour. It's a lot to concentrate on and a lot to take in, it's a beautiful scene and it shows how well something like that can be done so effortlessly however I can see why it would be boring.

But that being said, You can be any age 5 or 71 and still enjoy this film; but unlike children of an older generation and grown-ups, younger viewers of today's standards of the 2010's won't be that impressed by how much is said with so few words. But the action picks up soon enough. 

Underlying the whole film are strong environmental messages: Reduce, reuse, recycle, and think about what you're doing to the planet. I like messages like that and speaking as someone who recycles regually it just puts it out there the importance of doing that and how we should all do that to make the world a better place.

So the story which is set in a distant, but not so unrealistic, future where mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with rubbish from products sold by the powerful multi-national Buy N Large corporation, WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot has been left to clean up the mess.Mesmerized with trinkets of Earth's history and show tunes, WALL-E is alone on Earth except for a sprightly pet cockroach. One day, EVE, a sleek reconnaissance robot, is sent to Earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable.WALL-E falls in love with EVE. WALL-E rescues EVE from a dust storm and shows her a living plant he found amongst the rubble. Consistent with her "directive", EVE takes the plant and automatically enters a deactivated state except for a blinking green beacon.

WALL-E, doesn't understand what has happened to his new friend, but, true to his love, he protects her from wind, rain, and lightning, even as she is unresponsive. One day a massive ship comes to reclaim EVE, but WALL-E, out of love or loneliness, hitches a ride on the outside of the ship to rescue EVE. The ship arrives back at a large space cruise ship, which is carrying all of the humans who evacuated Earth 700 years earlier. 

The people of Earth ride around this space resort on hovering chairs which give them a constant feed of TV and video chatting. They drink all of their meals through a straw out of laziness and/or bone loss, and are all so fat that they can barely move. When the auto-pilot computer, acting on hastily-given instructions sent many centuries before, tries to prevent the people of Earth from returning by stealing the plant, WALL-E, EVE, the portly captain, and a band of broken robots stage a mutiny.

In terms of quality and the story writing that has gone into this who would've expected an animated feature with stretches of near silence, a deeply intellectual and ecological rant, and a robot with relatively few bells and whistles to be profoundly moving, uplifting and thought-provoking piece. And yet at the same time still entertaining? WALL-E hits those marks effortlessly, and how?

Much of the credit is due to Andrew Stanton, who directed and co-wrote the film, which takes Pixar's success in turning out animated hits to the next level. 

There's lots of intiment development scenes in this, in fact the film is full of them because I think the prime focus was all about highlighting the importance of valuing something for just how important it is. As well as having action and comedy in their to spice things up and connect to an all round audience, this film is visually spectacular and one of the best PIXAR Film for that reason. 9/10

NEXT : Bird man.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Review : A BUG's Life (1998)

a BUG's Life It's Every year, a bunch of grasshoppers come to the anthill and eat what the ants have gathered for them. The "offering", as the ants call the ritual, is a part of their fate. One day in spring, when the offering's preparation has just been finished, Flik, an unliked inventor ant, accidentally drops the whole offered seeds into the river. The grasshoppers come and give the ants a second chance to collect food until fall. However Flik thinks he can get rid of the grasshoppers so they don't have to put up with them anymore and he sets off to find bugs that are willing to fight the grasshoppers and, due to a double misinterpretation, returns with a circus crew, giving everybody new hope. When the misunderstanding finally gets cleared out, there is only little time left for a new plan, which has to work, or else they will suffer.

So the whole premise of this film is basically a bunch of Ants who are pier pressured and bullied by these Grasshoppers and they think enough is enough and set their minds to thinking of a plan to get rid of these Grasshoppers so they will never bother them again, and they can live in peace etc. 

It's about standing up for what's right and having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, two characteristics which are relayed in the main character of Flick who in some cases is an accident in the film because he comes into the film not intentionally to cause accidents, he's just unfortunate that bad luck follows him on most occasions, he has mad ideas which he tries, they back fire and he gets in trouble.

To me I've always enjoyed this film for it's originality which stands up amongst all things, in bright shining lights. Plus it's comedic elements in its infusiastic eccentric characters which are rememberable, like Slim the stick insect or PT the flea. Characters like that which are very off the wall and out of the ordinary and stand out amongst all the odds, is what an audience I think take a particular liking to and therefore assist in their engagement with the story.

The prime core to any film is that you have a story to tell and you want to make the audience interested in getting to know what your story is about, It's the clever little minds at PIXAR who collaborate and deliberate ideas and are the ones who do this, with clear presentation of what they intend to tell 'Bugs Life' is about Bugs. It's simple but has a big broad scope which can be expanded upon easily, that's how you got a film. It starts with a story and an Idea.

Oddly enough, this wasn't the only computer-animated movie about bugs to come out in the Autumn of 1998, Antz was released just a month before. The difference between the two animated bug movies is exemplified by their lead characters. Antz has Z, searching for individual identity in a world of conformity. A BUG'S LIFE has Flik, an All-American ant-next-door type who is inventive, brave, and loyal.
Helped by outstanding voice talent, the rest of the movie's characters are quirky and endearing enough to make you forget they are computer animated. Stars like Kevin Spacey, and John Ratzenberger from CheersAntz was largely brown, but Bug's Life uses a verity of color to produce stunning images with luminous tones. You'll need to see it twice to appreciate the scope of the film's visual effects and technological mastery. It's worth taking a look at and watching it again, just to study the detail behind it, because watching the first time round, yes you enjoy it but you miss things, Bug's Life has something to it that makes the viewer want to watch it again. I like Antz, but I like Bugs Life more. Because well... it's just the better film. 8/10

Monday, 26 January 2015

Review : Disney's Mulan (1998)

mulan This retelling of the old Chinese folktale is about the story of a young Chinese maiden who learns that her weakened father is to be called up into the army in order to fight the invading Huns. Knowing that he would never survive the rigours of war in his state, she decides to disguise herself and join in his place. Unknown to her, her ancestors are aware of this and to prevent it, they order a tiny disgraced dragon, Mushu to join her in order to force her to abandon her plan. He agrees, but when he meets Mulan, he learns that she cannot be dissuaded and so decides to help her in the perilous times ahead.

Mulan is highly thought of as being one of the better known Disney classics, there is something about Mulan which people love and are attracted to, I can't quite put my finger on as to why the public reaction to this is so high, but it is and people love it.

It came out mainly around the time towards the end of Disney's second golden era, and it's teaching whoever watches a lesson of instinct - you do what's right, you follow the right path, determination drives you forward and you don't give up kind of lessons. It's also educational about the time period in which it's set, learning about chinese values and customs which I think is an advantage for disney and offers diversity to the range of stories in which they tell, there's no princes or dragons or damsels in distress, it's a spin on a chinese folktale compared to other films like Tarzan which would come out the following year (1999) it's a tremendous advantage for Disney to be able to tell any story in any format, in some cases this is quite a dark story.

It's one of those hybrid films which is a mixture of many things and different things for different people, you are allowed to take your own pros and cons from it and be able to make up your own mind about what it is about - of course you can do that with any film you see, but with Mulan it's all the more distinctive in the freedom that you have when you actually put your mind to it and watch it. 

It's an Family, Musical, Animated adventure which has great benefits for children, they get to laugh and learn about team work and how determination in the right attitude goes a long way. However if you are a child at the age of 5 or under, Parents may find some of the scenes in this lush Disney adventure frightening. Mulan becomes a hero and helps her people but she does so by rebelling against authority. She also learns to fight with weapons. The Huns destroy Chinese villages and kill people (though not shown on screen it's left to the imagination as to how horrific the attack could have been. 'Red' signifying danger etc.) and some battle scenes are scary and intense to watch as well.

An advantage to this however is battle scenes like the final showdown between Mulan and her nemesis Shan Yu (Leader of the Hun Army) provide thrill and keep the audience engaged throughout the whole time frame of the moment. And final battles are usually very well executed in Disney films and the moments in which I'm sure most people remember with such fondness.

I think that Disney took a bit of a gamble doing Mulan, as it's not like anything else they have ever done : she doesn't fit the princess mold, and most people had never heard of her. And the end results were a bit mixed at the time of it's release. It's widely renowned as being a classic today; but the settings are gorgeous, and Mulan herself is one of a kind in the Disney canon - it's just considered a shame that in the end she still needs to be married off to a "Prince Charming" who saves the day.
Still, many aspects of Chinese culture are incorporated such as reverence to one's ancestors, the significance of dragons, and the importance of honour. That as a collaborative is very good and plays into the audiences overall education in what they get out of it, you can watch an action movie and see all these big explosions and impressive choreographed gun fights which are all fine and dandy but by the end you question? what did I get out of that. 
With Mulan at least I benefit something from it. I like films which their objective is to teach and you as the viewer watch and learn, and you certainly should give Mulan a lot of attention to it's credibility. 9/10!
NEXT : a Bug's Life

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Review : Nanny McPhee

Nanny McPhee: Naughty Children are to Behave or Beware when she's around. Got misbehaved Children who won't do as they are told? Are you tired of having to clean up after them? Are you terrified about what mischief they might get unto next? Then the person you need is Nanny McPhee.

Nanny McPhee, she does not belong to any agency. She is a government Nanny of such intellect and impeccable morals who works in magical and mysterious ways, her job is to confront conflict of naughty children and turn them into well behaved, good boys and girls. A job she takes great pleasure in carrying out.

The brown family, Mr Brown a widower (played by Colin Firth) is a single parent who has seven children. They are all very bright and very clever each and every one of them however on the downside they are incredibly mischief and very naughty. They have got rid of every Nanny in town and Mr Brown is left in a bit of a pickle not knowing what to do, then he comes across a new Nanny, a Nanny which is not on anyone's books. Nanny McPhee, who just turns up out of blue one evening and get straight to work on Mr Brown's children. Emma Thompson stars as a governess who uses magic to rein in the behaviour of seven ne'er-do-well children in her charge.

The story is very well done, it's well written and well acted and therefore clearly communicated as being this live action fairy tale like story which isn't nasty or bad. It's a little sad that the mother has passed away and that the children are left absent of a motherly figure, but there isn't anything majorly upsetting or disconcerting about this story at all.

I think it's adaptation of the Cinderella story, where the parent dies and the child gets a new step parent who is horrid to them. One of the characters Evangeline is reading a book and is learning how to read. She never finishes it, but the story she's reading in the book basically the life of the children in this story now. Mr Brown gets funding from his Great Aunt Adelaide who is rich and she sends him a letter which basically says that he has to re-marry or the allowance stops and if the allowance stops he can't afford to keep the children, the house goes and everything goes to pot. In hope of avoiding this, Mr Brown sets his eyes on marrying Mrs Quickly who is in every sense of the word a vile woman and is dreadful. 

In a happily ever after scenario Mr Brown doesn't marry Mrs Quickly, instead he marries Evangeline. And of course when the children want Nanny McPhee but no longer need her, then she has to go. It's rather sad really, but there it is. But it's through her decline and her guidance the children learn to be better then before and that's the whole point behind it, amongst many other things.

Thompson, who adapted Sense and Sensibility for the screen in 1995, has devised a wonderful script based on Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books, wherein kids and nanny face off without condescending to one another. If some of the movie's effects are distractingly shoddy, the children are first-rate, and Thompson rather divine.
Nanny McPhee tells Mr. Brown that she can manage the children while maintaining her independence and dignity: "When you need me, but do not want me, I will stay," she says, "When you want me but do not need me, I will go." Nanny's lessons instilled through judicious use of a magic cane and wry common sense include respect, loyalty, and generosity. 7/10
NEXT: Disney's Mulan.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review : Disney's The AristoCats (1970)

The AristoCats : With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.

The Story goes that it's set in Paris and Retired madame Adelaide Bonfamille enjoys the good life in her Paris villa with even classier cat Duchess and three kittens: pianist Berlioz, painter Toulouse and sanctimonious Marie.

When loyal butler Edgar overhears her leaving  everything to the cats in her will in the event of her death, he becomes greedy and feels if he's going to get that fortune he has to get the Cats out of the way. 

In an effort to dispose of the cats he drugs and kidnaps them. However retired army dogs make his sidecar capsize on the country. It is then that Duchess and the Kitten meet Crafty stray cat Thomas O'Malley takes them under his wing back to Paris. Edgar tries to cover his tracks and catch them at return, but more animals turn on him, from the cart horse Frou-Frou to the tame mouse Roquefort and O'Malley's jazz friends.

Things to know about this film is that younger and more sensitive children may be upset by the drugging and abandonment of a mother cat and her three kittens. For a brief moment the kittens can't find their mother, and there is the left possibility of them being lost. However there are some cracking scenes in this film; for instance the slapstick chase scene, it's animated very well and made out to be quite comical even if Edgar the butler does wield a pitch fork. Plus played for laughs are shots of Edgar the butler's underwear and a drunk goose weaving down the street, that's all playful comedy material which merits Disney's efforts to engage with the audience and make them feel comfortable watching their films.

I admire The AristoCats for the energy of it. The energy that it acquires from the essenricity of the characters which make the story quite off the wall and dramatic and funny. I like the scene when their in the flat the 'everybody wants to be a cat scene' is full of energy, is communicated and received well through music and bright colours and the actions of what the characters are doing in that scene and just sums up what that films about in the best light.

I think the silly chase scenes with Edgar the butler and the country hounds, Napoleon and Lafayette, children will endure in very much because it's comedy. Children love to laugh and they love to be entertained. They crave it and especially in the scene around the windmill. It's just couldn't be communicated in a more clearer way that this is meant to be identified as being funny. They're choreographed for lots of giggles; complete with failing-suspenders gags. 

The AristoCats is a very jammy, jazzy, comedy classic and sure enough the highlight is the toe-tapping song "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat." There's little plot "cats journey home" and the characters are less memorable than other animated animal capers like Lady and the Tramp (1955) and 101 Dalmatians (1961)Phil Harris, who plays Baloo from the original Disney Jungle Book (1967) and would later go on to be Little John in Robin Hood (1973), is fun as O'Malley, but lacks some of the rapscallion antics that would make him stand out better to an audience against all the odds. 8/10!

NEXT : Nanny McPhee