Month: January 2015

Whiplash- 15

whiplash-bloodThere was no doubt that I was seeing this movie. I didn’t want to, but it had an Oscar nomination and I like to have the full set. At the time of writing this, I only have Selma left to see out of the best picture catagory and 12 others (outside of shorts and foreign language. That is not to say I’m avoiding them, it’s just difficult and I have priorities)

I digress. This is a hipster anti Dead Poet’s Society film. It’s cruel, it’s unrelenting. You see the *twist* coming a mile away and wonder why Miles Teller’s Andrew is gutten for more in that final act. That said, It’s hilarious, J. K Simmons is a genius as sadistic Terrence Fletcher, hell bent in the belief that everyone needs to be pushed to breaking point to reach greatness.

The romantic storyline between Teller’s Andrew and Mellisa Benoist’s Nicole is a little underdeveloped to the point of pointlessness (Ok yes, Andrew puts music/drumming first. Sleeping next to his drum kit and playing to the point he’s bleeding do that just fine), but I guess it says it all when the only character name I don’t need to look up is her’s.

I’m happy to see Paul Reiser of ‘My Two Dads’ and ‘Aliens’ play the role of Andrew’s father. While he plays a vital role toward the end of the film, he is still underused. It comes across as two different films. I would have like to have either seen Andrew completely cut off from everyone, or a little bit more of a development of those close characters; after all, I don’t believe a father as caring as Reisser’s Jim would ever let the problems get so far.
The biggest let down for me was that I’d convinced myself from the trailer that Sam Caflin was playing a part in this movie. Alas, no Finnick to cheer me on my way.

The music was good. However, shouldn’t I be saying the music was great, fantasic, superb. I love my jazz, but the story took it away from me. Jazz, to me, is about expression and soul. Neither of which I saw represented in this film.

Now, I did what I NEVER do with this movie. I read a number of reviews first. I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to see this movie. They all raved about it, stellar performances (I’ll give you J.K, but check out 21 and Over for a better performance from Teller.), great story, worthy of repeat viewing. I think I’m missing something (more that Caflin). I did not leave feeling like I’d learnt a lesson (Other than I need to curb my OCD of completing collections. Which reminds me, I need to buy a kinder egg on my way home), I think it’s ruined jazz for me and it certainly didn’t put the arts in a good light.

Cast- 6
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 6
Pace- 7
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 6

Ex Machina 15

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*Insert witty, yet totally cliched, Blade Runner pun here*. Yet I haven’t. To do that will undersell this chilling mind-f of a film.

Part suspense, part out-right horror, Ex Machina is actually a film for everyone. It’s doesn’t have quite the feel or the pace of a mainstream blockbuster, but it certainly has enough elements to keep people entertain. It is quite possibly scarier than some run of the mill, connect the dots, horrors out on the market these days. Mainly because it’s premise is rooted in Science Near Future rather than fiction.

Invited to spend the weekend at Nathan’s retreat, programmer Caleb (Domnhal Gleeson) signs a non-disclosure document before being introduced to beautiful and flirty A.I, Ava. Nothing is what it seems, even until the closing scenes, you do not know who to trust. Caleb and Ava appear to be playing a part in Nathan’s rat maze, but only because no one is ever truly showing a full hand.

Caleb, for the most part, is the protagonist and proxy for viewers. Only on very rare occasions are the audience privy to information he doesn’t know. Domnhall once again, proving that he is a versatile actor, takes center stage. There’s a haunting scene where he has convinced himself that even he is an A.I and it is believable that he has fallen for the breathtaking Ava. He can do comedy, romance and now sci-fi. Here’s to Star Wars giving us the action man I know he’d be perfect as (I’d love to see him play the villain).

Oscar Issac provides a psychopathic charm to his performance; you never fully trust him, but you always think that you’re being conditioned that way and you will look for redeeming features. Alicia Vikander’s Ava is a work of art and her performance is exceptional. Coming to the closing scenes, it is hard to believe she is anything but human.

The set design and visuals are flawless, claustrophobic and downright beautiful. Just like Nathan, they lull you into a false sense of security before sending your heart into overdrive.

Cast- 10
Cinematography- 9
Plot- 8
Pace- 6
Sound/Music- 7
Enjoyability- 7

Wild- 15 (potential spoilers)

wild r witherspoon

An allegory for the grief process, this film will hit home to anyone who has lost someone close to them.
The narrative is edited like a jigsaw to allow the audience feel as lost as Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl. What inspired her to go on this crazy journey that so many abandon? Typical biopic feels are here; loss, betrayal and most importantly overcoming challenges on the way.

A movie about walking?! I’ll admit, I wasn’t 100% sold from the trailer and multiple visits to Middle Earth have taught me not to trust a film that has walking central to the narrative. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It had enough humour in the opening scene to throw me off guard.

I found the flashbacks to Laura Dern’s demise a little too close to the knuckle for me. Having lost my own mother almost 9 years ago, I found a little too much of myself in the character. Ok, so I certainly didn’t go down the path of heroin and sex, but we all become a little self destructive and in need of self discovery when you loose a parent so young. Dern was so perfectly flawed that I did want a little more screen time with her. However, isn’t that the point; Don’t we all want a little more time with our mothers?

Witherspoon pulls this character off brilliantly, shaking off all the preppy happy people of the past. She fully deserves the Oscar nomination. However, with such contenders as Julianne Moore and Rosamund Pike at the 2015 proceedings, I simply don’t think it’s her year. If she keeps picking these roles though, one could be in her sights very soon.

The film ends with you feeling satisfied that all wounds are healed. A little too much of a Hollywood ending, but at least it conveys that most important message; there is hope.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 8
Pace- 8
Music/Sound- 7
Enjoyability- 8

Camp- Etcetera Theatre, Camden

Etcetera_Theatre_med

“You feel good as you are. Fair enough. I won’t challenge that. A lot of people don’t. They sign in here. We don’t force them. And they feel understood. They feel themselves after years of lying. Why should you take that away?”

Camp is a fictional comedy-drama based on the true account of a gay-to-straight conversion camp. Evangelical Jessye from Springfield, Missouri is in charge of the first British outpost in Caerphilly. Scott is a Welshman struggling to cope with his hidden homosexuality. And Stuart is a Londoner whose cynicism about everything makes you wonder why he came. But all is not as it seems, and no one’s secrets can stay in the closet. Will the camp survive?

               ~ blurb from Etecetera Theatre website

This is the play that finally caused me to get my act together and set up this blog. I don’t think for a second I have a mass of followers, but I still need to get the word out somehow. This play needs to be seen and for that to happen; it needs another run and for like minded people to know about it. A tweet of one line from the play allowed me to convince two people to abandon plans to see James McAvoy in The Ruling Class. Hopefully I can repeat the process with this review.
Focusing on a number of days at a UK conversion camp, the hour long play follows three men down a rabbit hole of discovery, deception and disaster. It’s a three man play with a sparse, well utilised, set.

Tom Scurr plays the reluctant Stuart and he does it with an amazing charm and a beautiful, yet reserved, unravelling when frustration gets the better of him. It is in the final act, however, where he gets to shine by taking the floor to address the issues brought into focus by the proceedings of the play. It hadn’t hit me before, but this man would make a perfect Rimmer if they ever rebooted Red Dwarf.
Jess Jones is Scott, Welshman chatterbox who is nervous about his conversion. Jones is able to bring a perfect balance of innocence, comedy and a hint of desperation in his portrayal. He is a delight to have on the stage, even if he was the man to reduce me to a blubbering mess after stealing everyone’s hearts with his humour.
Finally, Jessye is played by River Hawkins. Jessye is the ideal man to both Scott and Stuart, but for two very different reasons. Hawkins works well with both Scurr and Jones, but it is when he is retelling his ‘outing’ as a teen that he is able to bring a true vulnerability to the part and ensure every eye is on him.

What I love about this play,is that it has something to say and it does it with heart, courage and a good smattering of laughs. I truly left the theatre knowing I was on the right side of progress, even if the final act made me cry. It also contained what was quite possibly the hottest scenes I’ve yet to experience on the stage, reminding me it doesn’t matter what age, gender or sexuality you are; passion is the key.

The final lines must be given to the writer/director Anthony Simpson-Pike who created this work. This play is truly amazing, truthful and hard hitting, it is something that has created a bench mark for all other theatre to meet.

Annie- PG

Annie-2014-Movie-Cast

Annie in the 21st century actually works. I was expecting to hate it. I was only seeing it to bulk up the numbers of my 100 films a year target and Whiplash was going to be too heavy after two other Oscar nominated pictures under my belt that day.
I didn’t think Cameron Diaz was going to be right- she was too young. I’ve never warmed to Rose Byrne despite her popping up in… everything. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

It does what it needs to. It’s a light bit of fluff that’s aimed at younger viewers, but has enough winks and sly lines to keep the adults amused. The plot moves fairly quickly and there is chemistry between all the actors.
I could have done with fewer songs. Well, if I’m being honest, I could have done without all of the songs. I’m aware it’s a musical, but I just don’t think they added anything to it.

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 7
Pace- 5
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 8

Big Hero 6

big hero 6

Marvel have failed to put their name on what is quite possibly ‘their’ best Disney film to date. Having now been to a Q&A with Producer John Lasseter and director Don Hall I have a little more insight into this. It is very much a Disney movie with Marvel DNA.
Big Hero 6 is a typical origin story, but with a big heart and many more laughs. The plot has everything it needs and even the short lived character, Tadashi (explained in the trailer), is well developed. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting him to have as much screen time as he did (due to the reveal in the trailer), but I truly left wanting more of him. He played off so well against his bother.
The big bad is dispatched before the film is out and this can sometimes be a fault of Marvel/hero movies, it can be forgiven as there is currently not plans set in stone for a sequel. This said, it is one of the strongest Marvel villains seen on screen and a sequel would be welcome.
What I do hope is that Disney/Marvel seize this opportunity to create a comic that will engage younger people and inspire the next generation of readers.

Cast/Voice talent- 9
Cinematography- 10
Plot- 8
Music/Sound- 8
Pace- 9
Enjoyability- 9

Into the Woods- 12a

into the woods

Disney taking on music theatre, what’s not to love? I’ll admit, I was hooked for the first half; it was a witty and clever satire on many interwoven fairy tales. The songs were catchy and I even bought into James Corden and Emily Blunt as loved up Mr and Mrs Baker.

It was coming off as a live action, prettier cousin of Shrek with all the right players in all the right places. In fact, I would go so far to say it was this decades The Princess Bride. Then, just as if it was in the theatre, you could feel the plot winding to a halt for that 20 minute interval. For me, it was too much of a jerk and it lost all it’s pace. The songs seemed to repeat and everyone lost their happy endings.
While there were some amazing set pieces, on a whole it came across rather static and contained; as if they had filmed on a stage. This nags at me so much more than it should, only because Disney are capable of so much more.
The cast, on the most part, were faultless, but a special mention must go to Chris Pine who was doing a better Shatner impression than he does in Star Trek. His song with onscreen brother, Agony, is delightful unadulterated panto. My only hope is that a sensible theatre throws enough money at him to convince him to spend some time on West End during panto season soon.
While I did enjoy the Red Riding Hood story, I felt Johnny Depp’s cameo pointless, jarring and disturbing. In Depp’s defense, he’s not an actor I enjoy watching at the moment. I’m sure fans of his will relish his hip thrusting howls to the moon.

While I’ve not been kind to this film- I know of three people who haven’t got a bad word to say about it. My best friend also text me to recommend it because she thought I’d love it. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh and hard to please after being spoilt by superb theatre. One thing is for certain; you couldn’t get this many quality actors on one stage!

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 6
Music- 7
Pace- 6
Enjoyability- 8

Oscar Predictions

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W- want to win

D- deserves to win
P- predict will win
It either doesn’t deserve to be considered or I haven’t seen enough to judge.

Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
W/D The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Best Actor

P- Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
D- Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
W– Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
P– Julianne Moore, Still Alice
W/D – Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actor

W- Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
P- Edward Norton, Birdman
D- Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
JK Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

P- Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
D- Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
W- Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Best Director

P- Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
W/D -Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper
W/D – Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
P- Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay

Boyhood
P- Birdman
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida
Leviathan
Tangerines
Timbuktu
Wild Tales

Best Documentary Feature

Citizenfour
Last Days in Vietnam
Virunga
Finding Vivian Maier
The Salt of the Earth

Best Original Song

W/D- Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, and Nick Southwood, “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
P- John Legend and Common, “Glory” (Selma)
Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, and the Lonely Island, “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)
The-Dream, “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me)

Best Original Score

Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything
W/D/P– Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner

Best Animated Feature

W/D/P- Big Hero 6
Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
W- Guardians of the Galaxy
P- Interstellar
D- X:Men: Days of Future Past

Best Film Editing

American Sniper
Boyhood
W/D/P- Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game
Whiplash

Best Cinematography

P- Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
W/D- Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ryszard Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal, Ida
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper
Interstellar
Unbroken
W/D/P- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Birdman

Best Sound Mixing

W/D/P- American Sniper
Unbroken
Birdman
Interstellar
Whiplash

Best Costume Design

W- Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
D- Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
P- Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice

Best Production Design

P- Adam Stockhausen and Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts, Mr. Turner
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, Into the Woods
D- Nathan Crowley, Garry Fettis, and Paul Healy, Interstellar
W- Maria Djurkovic, The Imitation Game

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

W/D- Guardians of the Galaxy
Foxcatcher
P- The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Short Film, Live Action

Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, Aya (Chasis Films)
Michael Lennox, director, and Ronan Blaney, Boogaloo and Graham (Out of Orbit)
Hu Wei and Julien Féret, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) (AMA Productions)
Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger, Parvaneh (Zurich University of Arts)
Mat Kirkby, director and James Lucas, The Phone Call (RSA Films)

Best Short Film, Animated

Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Bigger Picture (National Film and Television School)
Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, The Dam Keeper (Tonko House)
W/D- Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Feast (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Torill Kove, Me and My Moulton (Mikrofilm in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada)
Joris Oprins, A Single Life (Job, Joris & Marieke)

Keiran Hodgson- French Exchange

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As I am writing this, I am torn. On the one hand I want everyone to know this amazingly talented yet profoundly modest man’s name. The fact that Keiran Hodgson in one performance was able to knock Eddie Izzard off the top spot of my favourite comedians (something Eddie has held unchallenged for 15 year) says it all.
On the other hand, I don’t want to share. I’m selfish and I want to guarantee I can get tickets to this man’s work whenever I need cheering up. However, I think that’s out of my hands.

The show itself is an hour of multiple characters interwoven seamlessly ( my third viewing was spent watching his distinct movements and stance from one character to another) to narrate Keiran’s travels to France with his school in 2003.
From the opening explanation of Mrs Cook ‘I want to be memorable’ he has everyone hooked. You all know the teacher; a little bit odd, a little bit too much, but totally wanting the best for her kids.
Fifteen year old Keiran spends the time writing French poetry that impresses no one (except the audience of course. Particularly this one, who now regrets French being something I gave up on that first ever lesson back in 1997), avoiding the advances of MISS Robison and teaching the French how to speak Yorkshire.
As it draws to a close and Keiran says goodbye to his host family, we discover some implications to his actions throughout the holiday. It leads to the most heartwarming and brutally honest conversation any of us would like to have with our younger self.

While there are too many highlights to mention ‘grow your sideburns it makes you look like- never mind’, ‘what’s a Burtis?’ and ‘welcome to Besancon..’ Being among them, It is the entrance of the ‘girl’ who join them on the trip that will have everyone in stitches and begging for an encore.
An honourable mention has to be give to the character of Curtis. Everyone knows someone like Curtis, every teacher has a Curtis, yet Kerian’s depiction is funny, fresh and far from cliche that other comedians would present.

I am unaware of any repeat performances of this particular show. To date I have seen three separate performances since it’s return from Fringe and I have laughed as long as hard I did the first time. While you potentially unlucky people may not have chance to see French Exchange, I am writing this review in the hopes that you will all follow him like he’s one of the Beatles.

Birdman- 15

Michael Keaton plays a washed-up superhero actor in this breathtakingly original showbiz satire.

I left the film not knowing if this was the best piece of film ever created or the worst drivel I have yet to inflict upon myself. I still don’t know.
Keaton is good and Norton steals the show, but in a film about actors it’s hard to tell if they are simply playing themselves or not.
While I enjoyed seeing such an ensemble on the screen, I am still finding it hard to see the point of the movie other than it being a mainstream artsy hipster conceit created simply to be an Oscar nomination.
I don’t feel like my time has been wasted, but I still feel like I’ve been left out of a joke or missing one vital piece of information that will make the whole thing make sense.The irony of seeing a play about producing a film noir movie (City of Angels, review to follow) made it hard not to see the flaws in Birdman.
The music in this film is obtrusive and unrelenting to the point of distraction. While it is later revealed to diegetic (or not, if it is indeed all in Keaton’s head), it detracts from the overall enjoyability.

It’s worth a high brow watch, particularly if you are in the midst of an Oscar buzz, but it is not a film for your DVD collection.

Cast- 9
cinematography- 8
plot- 7
music/sound- 3
pace- 7
enjoyability- 6

Foxcatcher- 15

Foxcatcher

Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star in a gripping psychological drama based on the shocking true story of an Olympic champion.

Steve Carell in haunting brilliant, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are beautifully ugly to the point that it’s hypnotic. All three are able to suggest the emotional scars without having to dwell upon them.
The hard part I have always found about ‘psychological dramas’ is that it is a term thrown about to excuse the feeling that audiences don’t quite know what’s going on. It also seems to be a little confused about what it is trying to achieve; the first bulk of the movie plays like a Sports film. It was only the last third of the film that revealed itself as anything but a quirky, arty look at the world of wrestling.
I found the film a little overindulgent and lacking any energy or motivation to keep an audience captivated. That said, those who are interested in biopic and sports movies will find some redeeming features.

It is very much an Oscar bait movie: high brow, arty and primarily about the acting while not caring about the comfort of the audience.

cast 10
cinematography 7
plot- 8
pace- 5
music/sound- 5
enjoyability- 4

RANT- Taken 3 (abandoned)

Odeon.svg

This is not so much a review of Taken 3 , as a rant about our cinema culture today. With a side swipe to the corrupt classification system.

Saturday afternoon, 3pm showing in a London Odeon. The corridors smell of pee, which instantly puts me on edge. I’m already grumpy because my cheese sauce is served cold and the jalapeños used up one of my ‘sides’ instead of being a complimentary extra. With 10 minutes before the scheduled start time, the tiny screen is empty. Save for a ten year old and his father. I did a double take; I check my ticket, I brave the corridor to check the screen number.

Minutes later four boys, without an adult and of questionable age rock up in front of us. To quote my name sake- I have a bad feeling about this. The film is about to start- the BBFC’s certificate pops up just to remind me that age certifications will ruin everything I love. About a dozen more people have filled the rows behind us- all adults, that shouldn’t be a problem right?

Within 20 minutes, I’d had enough, the four boys were talking; only pausing to shovel enough sweets into their mouths to put them into a diabetic coma. Not only that, but two pairs of adult are providing surround sound conversations. I was out of my seat and expressing my concerns to an employee. They had two people in there within minutes and they spoke to the adults. The boys were sensible enough to quieten down for those few minutes.

Within five minutes, the men had gone and the talking was back. Not only that, but we’d delved into action territory. There was a young disabled girl on the back row, whooping along with every gun shot or loud bang. This, of course, I can tolerate. She’s enjoying the film and after what’s gone before, it’s actually a welcome change. However, what does have my blood boiling is the woman to my left who has, since the film began engaged the person next to her in a loud conversation and repeatedly checked her phone. This woman, this truly inconsiderate excuse of a human being, turns round and gives an accusing stare to the young girl’s family.

Safe to say, my friend and I decided it was time to ask for a refund. The cinema did this without question and apologised profusely. Although, one thing that jarred with me was ‘we can keep going in and telling them, but those sort of people will keep on doing it.’ Really? You wouldn’t think to demand them to leave? I suppose you don’t get paid enough- I know that’s true, but the reputation of your brand (this is now my third visit to Odeon where I have had issues. So 100% of my recent visits have resulted in a tainted viewing experience) is in jeopardy and when you charge so much for cinema tickets- you can’t afford to let this slide. Zero tolerance, much more regular checks of screens and, if you need to get a security guy to be able to do your dirty work.

Now, BBFC; you’re safe for another day, but I do blame you for the hyped up adrenaline junkies (by proxy- hell these kids experience real adrenaline themselves their heads would blow up) invading a film that would have once been targeted for an 18 audience.