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MV5BMjA3MjAzOTQxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTc5OTY1OTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s it all about?

European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defence of the Great Wall of China against a horde go monstrous creatures.

Why did I want to see it?

Monsters. In China. Say no more.

What did I think of it?

I really, really liked The Great Wall, much more than I anticipated. For all sorts of reasons this was absolutely the right film at the right time. Less focussed on the western characters than the marketing would have you believe. Tian Jing is my new girl crush as the Chinese commander, very cool and will pop up again in another context soon. It’s also a beautiful film in the way that only the Chinese can manage, with choreographed set pieces, gloriously coloured costumes and the obligatory break for some music. And the monsters are very very cool.

I learned several things:

  • Matt Damon (bless him) cannot sustain an Irish accent for more than 2 minutes at a time
  • do not trust Willem Defoe under any circumstances
  • bungee jumping in exotic blue armour while holding a spear is the only way to fight.

I will re-watch this at the first opportunity. Loved it.

 

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IMG_0278What’s it all about?

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, The Martian tells this story:

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

Yes, as many have joked on Twitter and elsewhere, America is once more spending money to rescue Matt Damon (see Interstellar & Saving Private Ryan)

Why did I want to watch it?

I read and reviewed the novel last year (you can see what I thought of it here) and I was interested to see how it would translate to the screen. As I said in my book review:

[…] it will no doubt make a good film.

Also, I just love love love stuff about Mars 🙂

What did I think of it?

My assessment of the book was right except for one thing; it didn’t just make a good film, it made a really good film.

My initial problem with the book is that I got very annoyed with Mark Watney’s personality, and that’s sorted out here by the casting of Matt Damon who, even when he is doing the potentially annoying upbeat blokey stuff, is such a likeable personality that you just want him to succeed (I am happy to declare that I have a huge soft spot for Damon despite his recent unfortunate public statements).

But o be honest it is the rest of the casting and the way the characters are handled that really makes this – all of the scientists are competent but sometimes make mistakes, there is no differentiation between the genders of the astronauts (they are all just good at what they do), there are some proper moral dilemmas to be worked through, there are no villains, Sean Bean doesn’t die and my girl crush on Jessica Chastain remains undimmed.

Also, Jeff Daniels continues to be totally awesome.

I’m glad they found a way to do the first person stuff without the temptation of a voiceover. And the visuals are just glorious. Good to see Ridley Scott on form.

I loved this and will happily watch it again; it’s on the DVD to-buy list already 🙂 Recommended.

MV5BNDc2NjU0MTcwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjg4MDg2OQ@@._V1_SX214_Astonished to realise that I watched this film on August Bank Holiday which is some 3 months ago tomorrow. Where does the time go? I very much enjoyed District 9 (which I reviewed here) and was keen to see how Neil Blomkamp would follow what everyone I knew who saw it considered to be a really remarkable film.

What we have is Elysium, a dystopia set in the 22nd century, partly amongst the poor and largely disenfranchised on Earth and partly on the titular orbiting luxury mini-world where the rich, privileged and powerful live, controlling what happens back home without getting their hands dirty. One of the benefits they have is medical provision which can deal with almost everything and this is partly what drives the plot as such, with a couple of the characters including our hero Matt Damon needing to get up there to sort their health issues out, in his case dying from accidental exposure to huge amounts of radiation. But of course it’s about toe much more than that; industrial shenanigans, what the privileged will do to protect themselves, what those on Earth will do to access what they have been excluded from, political power and what can happen when the unorthodox means of oppression get out of control. Which all sounds a bit heavy when you write it down but although this is in many ways a grim film it is also very much a sic-fi auctioneer which delivers some great set pieces.

I have started to pay much more attention to the experience of going to the movies when considering the impact of any film. As I said, on this occasion it was the Bank Holiday, quite warm and we saw Elysium at the IMAX on London’s South Bank followed by a rather nice dinner at Skylon looking out over the Thames as darkness fell. You may wonder what all that has to do with my reaction to the film, but given this is about the privileged vs those who don’t have access to their advantages, being a person who didn’t really have to think about the price of tickets and who could splash out on a very nice posh meal gives an interesting perspective. I would like to think that I would not go down the route of Jodie Foster and her cronies, doing everything I could to protect my position, but it led to an interesting discussion.

In terms of the movie, as others have said elsewhere it isn’t the triumph that District 9 was but it was a really good sic-fi film, with excellent performances by Matt Damon and in particular Sharlto Copley who managed to be very funny while in the middle of some extremely gruesome events. I’ve said elsewhere that I increasingly admire Matt Damon and was pleased to see him do something different (as I tend to think of him as a pure hero rather than the damaged goods he is here). Some of the plot is a bit soap-opera-y but not excessively so, and the world building pretty solid.

The only odd thing for me was Jodie Foster, whose accent is a bit odd. I was aware of that before going into the film but I think I would have noticed it in any event. She was also bit of a cartoon villain in places with a nice line in both executive suiting and scenery-chewing, but not to the extent that it spoiled the movie.

The question is whether my liking for Mr Damon will led me back to the Bourne films, a franchise which my brother keeps on telling me I should give another shot, despite my feeling that the first one was cold and uninvolving. Though I did just miss Damon dashing through Waterloo station while filming the third one on my way into work one morning. Anyway, that’s a decision for another day.

Give Elysium a go; I liked it.

The-Adjustment-Bureau-poster-1The Adjustment Bureau is one of those films that I was aware of when it came out, meant to go and see in the cinema and never managed, bought on DVD but let it sit on the shelf until one Saturday evening when we were looking for something to watch and it just sort of popped into my head as something that might be cool. It’s based on a Philip K Dick story which doesn’t always translate into quality on the screen, but it looked worth giving a go.

The movie is described by our good friends at IMDB thusly:

The affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.

And that is more or less true; Matt Damon is a politician who should have done well but blew it all because of an old prank which gets picked up by the press and who is in the gents loo in the hotel where he is about to give a speech where he happens upon Emily Blunt who is hiding from the security detail at a wedding in the same hotel which she has crashed (and I’m not sure if we ever find out why or whether this is just one of those plot devices to explain why she is there).

Anyways, there is instant chemistry but he gets called away and her kooky influence has him throw away his planned speech and talk honestly about his campaign. And shortly after that point we see the “mysterious forces” (basically a bunch of blokes in hats) who are following some kind of plan which requires that our Matt and Emily don’t meet and fall in love and something is supposed to happen to prevent that but gets missed and the Adjustment Bureau (for it is they) have to put it all right.

And we basically get a chase movie slash love story which turns out to be really great fun. I think I might have been out off originally by the similarity between the chaps from the Bureau and the Observers from Fringe (though that’s probably just the hats) but there is a different dynamic here. I thought Matt and Emily had a real click and I found their romance convincing – he is a wholesome presence (and I mean that in a good way) and she is just lovely – I thought she was great in Looper and have come to admire her very much.

There is a fabulous cameo from Terrence Stamp showing just why he is the icon that he is. I guess the only flaw in the movie (assuming you accept the whole premise of course) is the ending which has a bit of a “with a single bound they were free” feel to it, but wasn’t too jarring.

I liked this a lot, though I’m still puzzled by the cover of the DVD which has Emily in a frock that she never wears in the film. Pretty though.

Well, this is an interesting one. Only because my Dad is a huge John Wayne fan so I have seen the 1969 version of this film more times than I can remember, and the iconic firing-two-guns-while-controlling-horse-with-reins-in-teeth scene is a particularly vivid memory. So although I had heard really, really good things about this film, and had seen quite few clips as part of the whole Oscars thing, I approached this with a wee bit of trepidation.

I needn’t have worried; this True Grit is magnificent.

It looks absolutely wonderful, much more authentic than many other Westerns (but that seems to be the trend now anyway) and was beautifully shot; there’s a scene of a night ride which is especially wonderful and moving. It benefits from returning to the source novel; the dialogue is brilliant to listen to.

The acting is also of a really high standard:

  • Hailee Steinfeld is a talent to watch, I think we can expect great things from her in the future;
  • Josh Brolin is brooding and quite scary as the villain;
  • Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges are both excellent, the latter becoming craggier with each year that passes.

It’s just wonderful, a real masterpiece, and I say that as one who can take or leave Westerns – after a childhood dominated by them I went off the genre in a big way with only some old favourites (Gunfight at the OK Corral) and a few good modern ones (Silverado, Tombstone) considered worth my time. However, the Book God is a huge Western fan so I do get the chance to have a look every so often and there are a couple of interesting ones sitting on the to-be-watched pile.

So final verdict is that this elegiac film should probably have won best picture; serious words from someone who loved The King’s Speech.