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MV5BMTgxMjgyMTcyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDg1MTU1MQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_This post originally appeared on my Bride’s Film page over on my other blog. I’m re-posting here with some added commentary (where appropriate) so that my film reviews are all in the same place.

Date watched: 9 May 2008 

What IMDb says:

Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child..

What I said:

I know, I know, I’ve come to this so much later than everybody else. After all, Mark Kermode, reviewer of note, tells me every week when I listen to the podcast of his film reviews on Radio Five Live how much he liked this, and it was Oscar nominated and all that, but somehow I managed to miss this in the cinema. So I leapt at the chance when I saw that it was being shown at BFI South Bank and took myself along on the way home from work last night. No Book God accompanying me as he doesn’t really do quirky………..

I’m not going to go over the set-up at all because I’m sure we all know what this is about.

Things I liked about the movie = Ellen Page is fabulous (in fact all of the acting is superb), I love Allison Janney (the put-down she gives the ultrasound technician is great), I love Michael Cera, it is very, very funny and the music is great. Also, like the sentimental fool I am, I cried at the ending which, although embarrassing, is often a sign of deep satisfaction.

Things I didn’t like = there is absolutely nothing I didn’t like about this film. After I got home I quoted chunks of dialogue at the Book God, who humoured me as only the best husbands can.

Another one for the must buy on DVD list – a film that I suspect I’ll watch to cheer myself up and to remind me that people are basically decent and just trying to do the right thing.

Afterword:

I did buy it on DVD but I don’t think I’ve watched it again, really must put that right.

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panslabyrinth20068988_fThis post originally appeared on my Bride’s Film page over on my other blog. I’m re-posting here with some added commentary (where appropriate) so that my film reviews are all in the same place.

Date watched: 26 July 2008 (umpteenth viewing; really, I’ve seen this film so many times I’ve lost count)

What IMDb says:

In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

What I said:

I’ve had this film for ages but wanted to save it for when I could really concentrate on it, and a wet Bank Holiday seemed absolutely right. I really love Guillermo del Toro; I was an early adopter of Cronos and have, I think, watched everything he has directed since then, including Mimic which I may very well be one of the few people to enjoy. 

So of course I was really looking forward to seeing Pan’s Labyrinth, especially as both Jonathan Ross and Mark Kermode had raved about it in their reviews. I can’t say whether it should have won the Oscar for foreign language film because I haven’t yet seen The Lives of Others, but I’m very glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.

The film is set in 1944 in Fascist Spain, where Ofelia and her mother, who is heavily pregnant, go to join her brutal stepfather at his military outpost. She finds a labyrinth behind the camp and when she reaches the centre she meets the Faun, who claims that she is a princess out of place and in order to get to return she has to carry out three tasks.

Things I liked about this movie = the art design and special effects are truly spectacular and otherwordly; Ofelia herself is excellent; the character of Mercedes; the growing sense of doom; the bravery of the doctor; the inevitability of the ending

Things I didn’t like = I thought this was perfect, but some people might find the violence too much; I squirmed on a couple of occasions and almost had to make use of the Safety Cushion; the insects crawling over Ofelia during one of her tasks were a bit yucky too

If you like dark fantasy you will love this, and it does illuminate some of the things which happened in Spain after the Civil War was over; a good companion to The Devil’s Backbone.

I am so looking forward to Hellboy 2!

Afterword:

There isn’t much more to say about Pan’s Labyrinth, but Hellboy 2 was definitely worth waiting for 😀

gfbpqlhzvquvsg8exmvpWhat’s it all about?

In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by the ruthless son of a powerful family who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.

Dearie me IMDb, that’s mostly nonsense, as we shall discover below….

Why did I want to see it.

Oh c’mon, have you seen the trailer?

So, what’s it really about?

Ok, here goes. Jupiter Jones is the daughter of a Russian mother and an English father who was obsessed with astronomy (hence her name), to the extent that he was killed trying to stop Russian criminal types from stealing his telescope. Jupiter is born on a ship heading for the USA where she basically ends up cleaning toilets for a living. But it turns out that she is the genetic reincarnation of a member of the Abrasax dynasty who are enormously rich and own loads of planets and she is inconveniently in line to inherit a chunk of their wealth including the Earth. So Balem (Eddie Redmayne) tries to have her eliminated to stop that happening, but Channing Tatum (with pixie ears and lots of muscles and fantastic hoverskates) is sent to rescue her by one of the other Abrasax siblings (for his own not immediately clear purpose) and is helped by Sean Bean, though it doesn’t entirely work out as planned.

That’s only the first 40 minutes of a film which is 2 hours and a few minutes long.

What did I think of it?

I seriously loved it. It is totally and utterly potty but it looks so wonderful and everyone plays it so so seriously that you can’t do anything but enjoy it. But why so I hear you ask, many others have said that it is rubbish, tell us more.

They are wrong and here is why:

  • there is genetic splicing – Channing is part wolf, Sean is part bee (really, not kidding)
  • there are enormous spaceships careening across the universe
  • there are proper aliens including (but certainly not limited to) giant lizardy-dragon things with wings and long coats and big guns (they’re not very nice)
  • there is overacting to an extent seldom seen; apart from Eddie R (I will deal with him separately) there is a great deal of pouting and glowering and meaningful glances and flouncing (I’m sure there was flouncing)
  • (almost) everyone is double-crossing (almost) everyone else
  • there is a whole section that takes place in the inter-galactic bureaucracy which makes getting your passport renewed look like a doddle
  • there is a neat Terry Gilliam cameo
  • there are wonderful frocks, I mean really wonderful frocks
  • I like Mila Kunis, I wanted her to survive and she kicks quite a lot of butt though occasionally has to hang around while Channing gets his skates on to save her
  • Mila also does a lot of falling from Very High Buildings; she rarely screams though which is a Good Thing
  • Sean Bean *gasp* doesn’t die in this film (this is not a spoiler it is a public service announcement)

imagesAnd then there is Eddie, bless him. It is important to note that while I was watching Jupiter Ascending Eddie was at the BAFTAs and about to be awarded best actor for The Theory of Everything, well-deserved I’m sure though I haven’t seen the movie yet. Proper acting while playing part of a respected scientist struggling with a degenerative disease. Not flouncing around (told you there was flouncing) in long robes, being languid while barely suppressing rage and jealousy, virtually hissing most of his dialogue except for the occasional screaming fit. He had my favourite line of the film – “I will harvest that planet tomorrow before I let her take it from me” – and was just gloriously over the top in the best pantomime villain tradition. I adored him, he was a delight.

You can probably tell I had a thoroughly enjoyable time watching this. I will be buying it on DVD and will come back to it regularly I think because it is just so crazy.

MV5BMTQ3NzA1MTY3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE2Mzg5MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_What’s it all about?

Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

In fact a very rigid hierarchy within a closed ecological system. People need to know their place. Where you got on the train at the time of disaster is where you stay.

Why did I want to see it?

How can you resist a film set on a train that is perpetually circulating around the world, based on a French comic with the glorious title of Le Transperceneige starring Captain America, the War Doctor, the Voice of Tintin and *gasp* my hero Tilda Swinton, and directed by Joon-ho Bong. And did I mention they were on a train?

Also the longer it took Snowpiercer to  be released in the English-speaking territories the more cross I got and the more determined to see it, hence the Dutch DVD purchase.

What did I think of it?

This is totally mad. The poor and disenfranchised and frankly filthy people at the back of the train rise up in rebellion against everyone else with the vague objective of negotiating better conditions with Wilford, the designer of the train who has become something of a god (the train itself is often referenced in a religious way) so they fight their way through the carriages as others have before them.

It is odd and violent and stylish and Tilda has an accent (and a remarkable set of teeth) that wouldn’t be out of place on Coronation Street. But while watching I just kept on thinking “what are they going to do when they get to the front?” as I just couldn’t see how they could win and their struggle was therefore pointless. But of course there is a lot more to it than that.

I’m glad I saw it and intend to watch it again to see if the end is evident in the beginning, this time having successfully deployed he subtitles so that I can understand the Korean dialogue – though living as I do in the part of SW London that has one of the largest expatriate communities of South Koreans in Europe, I could just pop across the road and ask one of my lovely neighbours to translate 😀

This is definitely not for everyone but I liked it.

MV5BMTI4MDA5NjIwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTA2MjY0Mg@@._V1_SX214_AL_What’s it all about?

A small wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple, who know that opening it will grant them a million dollars and kill someone they don’t know.

Well it doesn’t so much arrive as get mysteriously delivered, and they don’t know what’s going to happen until Frank Langella tells them so not entirely accurate synopsis IMDb guys.

Why did I want to see it?

Well, I remember thinking it looked like my kind of thing at the time it came out but just never got around to it I guess. But here we are now.

What did I think of it?

I really quite enjoyed The Box. I remember aeons ago reading the Richard Mattheson (of Incredible Shrinking Man and I Am Legend fame) story on which this is based so obvs knew what the dilemma was going to be but was interested in seeing how it would all work out in this version.

So the film is set in 1976 (when I was 14 years old, fact fans) so a great deal of pleasure was to be had in hideously patterned wallpaper, impressive maxi coats, feathered hairstyles, lots of cigarettes and a remarkable selection of manly sheepskin jackets. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden make a very handsome couple, she a teacher without tenure and a slight disability, him a rocket scientist who wants to be an astronaut, and things are not going well when Dracula *ahem* Frank Langella turns up with the box, the deal and with his really creepy part-of-my-face-is-missing-through-an-unfortunate-lightning-strike disfigurement. let’s just say he does not inspire confidence.

So what are they going to do when faced with the ultimate moral dilemma? And if they succumb, what will happen?

Originally a bit of a horror story this turns into a high-tech thriller and a nice sense of atmosphere. OK there’s quite  bit of exposition and a lot of gubbins which isn’t fully explained but I thought it was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon and I was really keen to see how it would all turn out. Creepy library scene and Pink Floyd on the soundtrack were major bonuses.

And did I mention that Frank Langella was in it? I like him.

MV5BMjI4MTIzODU2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjE0NDAwMjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_What’s it all about?

The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.

Oooh, animated superheroes, what’s not to like?

Why did I want to see it?

I’d seen some concept artwork online ages ago and the whole look of San Fransokyo was just fantastic, plus, you know, Baymax 🙂

What did I think of it?

I thought this was just a lovely film, and not just in the sense of how it looks, which is astonishing (I think it was Mark  Kermode who said in his review that you just want to freeze frame the movie to see the detail of everything that’s going on in the background) but in the story itself which is all about coping with loss and bonding with friends and turning a cuddly empathetic medical assistance robot into a badass fighting machine. As one does.

I didn’t know anything about the Marvel comics (until the Marvel movie universe was created we were (and still are to a certain extent) a DC household) but I don’t think that really matters because this is very much an origin story. How did Hiro and his friends and Baymax become the band of high-tech heroes mentioned above? What really happened to Hiro’s older brother? Who is the bad guy with the kabuki mask? Will good triumph and will we all learn a valuable lesson about grief and the futility of revenge while rejoicing in one of the characters dressed up as a (very effective) weird Japanese fire-breathing thingy? Of course we will.

It is a really sweet film, very funny at times but also quite emotional and Baymax is such a wonderful character, the emotional centre of the film. To be honest all of the characters are great (especially Fred, my favourite) and even though the underlying themes are quite dark they are deftly handled. We saw it in a large cinema with only about six other people there and we were all mesmerised.

This is already the leading contender for our Heartwarming New Year’s Eve Movie for 2015. Highly recommended, DVD already on the wish-list.

MV5BMTg1OTk5OTM5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjM5MzI4OA@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_What’s it all about?

In “La cité des enfants perdus” (original title as helpfully pointed out by IMDb)

A scientist in a surrealist society kidnaps children to steal their dreams, hoping that they slow his ageing process.

That is the process by which he becomes old, rather than his elderly process. Sloppy grammar.

Why did I want to watch it?

I saw this at the National Film Theatre (I believe) in London many years ago when it was first released and fell in love with its gothic steampunk aesthetic then and there. We had been talking about re-watching this for some time and finally got our hands on a decent DVD version and it was my birthday so the time had definitely come.

What made it worth re-watching?

Apart from the as-described-above aesthetic?

  • It has Ron Perlman in it – yes, Hellboy himself, playing the very muscular hero
  • there are clones
  • there is a brain in a tank
  • there are intelligent children of a criminal nature
  • our heroine, Miette, is both lovely and brave
  • there are evil conjoined twins
  • the costumes are by Jean-Paul Gaultier (which once realised you kick yourself for not having noticed)

It’s a wonderfully dark twisted fairytale of a story in which the good are (mostly) rewarded and the bad (mainly) get their comeuppance. Best seen in the original French with appropriate subtitles for ultimate effect.

Not entirely sure what happened to Caro but his joint director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, went on to make Amelie amongst others (though it should be noted that the others did include Alien: Resurrection over which purists would prefer we cast a veil but I *whispers* quite enjoyed it).

I know I will go back to this again.

kingsman-secret-service-poster-600x888What’s it all about?

As per IMDb:

A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

What that doesn’t tell you is the reason that Colin Firth (for it is he) picks on Eggsy is because of the debt he feels to the young man over the death of his father, who had also been trying to become a Kingsman.

Why did I want to see it?

Kingsman: The Secret Service was made by the same team who did Kick-Ass which I enjoyed (and reviewed here), plus it has Colin Firth as a spy with a wide range of skills including very inventive ways of well (basically) killing people, and rather lovely suits. Plus based on a comic, so all good.

What did I think of it?

I really enjoyed Kingsman, I thought it was very funny violent but in an almost cartoonish way (as you would expect from its origins). The humour was very laddish which isn’t normally my taste but it was done so well and with such style that I got over that very quickly, and I suspect most of that was to do with the cast, who were all very cool. Seeing Colin Firth as an action man (albeit a very beautifully dressed action man) was great fun, and *sigh* Mark Strong was excellent as always, but I also really liked Taron Egerton as Eggsy, clearly being presented as a young Michael-Caine-a-like, which was good fun when he was in scenes with the actual Michael Caine. And it was good to see a competent female trainee spy in the form of Sophie Cookson as Roxy though she was a bit underused at the end. And the world of the organisation with its Savile Row tailor front was well-realised.

The really cool stuff?:

  • the scene in the church with Colin Firth is worth the price of admission (cliché alert) on its own, especially as it was followed by the Unexpected Thing That Happens;
  • Mark Hamill’s cameo;
  • the fabulous lady villain, Gazelle, who did some proper unladylike fighting.

The buts (no pun intended)?

  • the Swedish Princess thing (more of that later);
  • Samuel L Jackson’s one-trick speech impediment (though he did look like he was thoroughly enjoying himself);
  • standard Hooray Henry/Bullingdon Club type was mildly annoying.

So the Swedish Princess thing. I won’t give anything away but this seems to be the single thing that is most talked about in reviews and viewer’s comments – “offensive” “ill-judged” “ruined the film” etc. Now at the time I was slightly surprised at the nature of the joke but not offended, and I asked the Book God for his reaction which was very much the same. And I’ve listened to what others have said since and to be honest my opinion hasn’t changed. Yes, it was probably someone’s big clever idea (pastiche of the end of various James Bond films, especially the ones form the late 60s and early 70s) and you can almost hear them sniggering in the background but it was certainly mishandled though it didn’t spoil the film for me. YMMV.

So good fun as long as you don’t mind lots of violence, swearing and innuendo. Worth it for the boy Firth alone IMHO.

1-UK_Ava-AW__Close-Crop_28198-Ex_MachinaWhat’s it all about?

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Why did I want to see it?

Ex Machina is one of those films that I knew very little about in advance, but an article in Empire magazine and their strong review, plus a cool trailer and poster campaign and a real interest in AI and associated matters meant this was one not to be missed.

What did I think of it?

Wow. I know we’re only at the end of January but I will be very surprised if this isn’t one of my favourite films of the year. I thought it was fantastic, well-written, beautifully performed and very very clever.

So in terms of the set-up, what we have is a young man, Caleb (Domhnall Gleason) who works for a tech company and wins a competition to spend a week with the reclusive owner of the company, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at his fabulous retreat in the middle of nowhere. When he gets there it’s clear he’s not just having out, but is expected to carry out the Turing test on Ava (Alice Vikander), designed to assess whether an AI has consciousness. What’s unusual about this case is that Caleb already knows that Ava is an AI (in fact a cyborg) and the question isn’t just does she have conscious awareness but can she develop affection. Of course there is much more to it than that, and in the claustrophobic setting it becomes clear very quickly that things aren’t quite what they seem.

It’s quite a wordy film in that all three of the main characters discuss the nature of being human and other philosophical concepts at length, but this doesn’t detract from what is also a very tense thriller.

As I said, all the performances are great; Alice Vikander in particular uses her training as a dancer to give Ava a very particular means of moving which feels slightly other. The film lingers on her physical appearance in a voyeuristic way which would be uncomfortable in other circumstances but makes sense in the context of what’s actually going on here. Gleason is very personable and our way into the story, the person we’re connect with the most easily, but Nathan is the most interesting character of all in terms of his motivation and his ability and desire to manipulate others. I actually rather liked him, though I suspect I wasn’t supposed to, because there was something attractive about his total self-absorption and confidence. However, I imagine if I met him in real life I would run very quickly in the opposite direction.

I have already pre-ordered the DVD as I know this is a film I will want to watch more than once. Loved it. Highly recommended if you like intelligent science-fiction.

I will count this towards Carl’s 2015 Sci-fi Experience.