Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 Best Bits

I got incredibly lax towards the tail-end of 2010 (ok, the entire second half) but that will all change in the new year! Promise...

This post is a 'best of'... of sorts, summarising my favourite films watched and books read during 2010.
Films:

Kick-Ass: http://lelloyd.blogspot.com/2010/04/film-review-kick-ass.html

Cemetery Junction: http://lelloyd.blogspot.com/2010/05/film-review-cemetery-junction.html

The Social Network: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB95KLmpLR4
This was a surprise for me. Seeing as the film doesn't technically include any of the following: action, romance, comedy (there were moments but not enough to be able to call it one) The Social Network was still a stand-out film of 2010, and one that everyone (everyone that has a Facebook account at least) can appreciate. Showing the origins of how the website began made imagining life before Facebook was, well... almost umimaginable.

Disappointment of the year: The Lovely Bones: http://lelloyd.blogspot.com/2010/03/film-review-lovely-bones.html

Books:
(These aren't necessarily books that have been released this year, just ones that I have discovered during 2010.)
Uglies Trilogy - Scott Westerfeld: http://lelloyd.blogspot.com/2010/07/book-review-uglies-scott-westerfeld.html
Since writing that review, I have also read Pretties and Specials (books 2 and 3). I KNOW they are aimed at teenagers, but I really enjoyed them! The whole trilogy is crying out to be made into a screenplay.

One Day - David Nicholls: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6280118-one-day
This book has dominated the bestsellers charts all year, but it was only until the last 2 weeks of 2010 that I discovered it. The book is now set to be released as a film during 2011 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/sep/28/anne-hathaway-scherfig-one-day) and whilst I am a bit apprehensive by some of the casting, I will definitely be there during the first week of release.

Stephen Fry - In America: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2604700.Stephen_Fry_in_America
As a bit of an armchair traveller (only because I currently can't afford to go anywhere) I've always loved reading travel books to encourage my wanderlust. And, as my ultimate travelling ambition is to visit every state in the U.S.A (I've so far managed 2?) this was the perfect book for me, and of course, Stephen Fry didn't disappoint.

Awkward Situations for Men - Danny Wallace: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6949679-awkward-situations-for-men
I was introduced to the work of Danny Wallace by a good friend and now I can't get enough. Funny, but in an approachable way, the author of Yes Man returned this year with a collection of tales of awkward moments in his life. Easy to dip in and out of but yet also difficult to put down, you will find yourself laughing out loud at any one of these.


{Song of the year: Forget You - Cee-Lo Green}
{Album of the year: Progress - Take That}

Films I'm looking forward to in 2011:

Black Swan - http://www.empireonline.com/futurefilms/film.asp?id=136504
Paul - http://www.empireonline.com/futurefilms/film.asp?id=136467
Sucker Punch - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/
The Hangover 2 - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1411697/
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1201607/ 
(Quite the HP Geek I'm afraid)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0983193/

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Film Review: Relative Values (2000)



Director: Eric Styles
Screenwriter: Noel Coward (play), Paul Rattigan
Main Cast: Julie Andrews, Sophie Thompson, Jeanne Triplehorn, Edward Atterton, William Baldwin, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry
Runtime: 87 mins
Certificate: PG (UK)
Brief Summary: A man returns home with his bride-to-be, an actress, who turns out to be the sister of his family's maid.

(source:IMDB).

Considering how many of my favourite actors and actresses feature in Relative Values, I'm surprised I hadn't heard of it before. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to receive it in the post and I'm very glad I added it to my LOVEFiLM list on a whim! The film is based on the 1951 Noel Coward play of the same name. I always enjoy films based on plays (counting The History Boys as one of my all-time favourites), despite the usual lack of hard-hitting drama. Luckily, I was not disappointed with this gem.

Relative Values is utterly charming, and completely British. Right from the off we are treated to dialogue filled with dry wit and just gets funnier as the film continues. However, it is the individual performances that really give this film the edge. Andrews plays the role of the matriarch perfectly, whilst Firth is by far the funniest character in his role of the cousin. Fry and Thompson put in brilliant performances also. Production-wise, it's fairly simple but I really enjoyed the opening montage.

The film could have been better if we had more of an insight into Moxie and Miranda's background or why Miranda and Don broke up. This is never fully explained. However, this is still a decent film and I recommend it to anyone who particularly enjoys British humour.



My rating: 3/5

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Book Review: The Lucky Ones ~ Rachel Cusk



Title: The Lucky Ones

Author: Rachel Cusk

Year of Publication: 2003

Genre: Fiction, Short stories

Blurb: A young pregnant mother wrestles with an utterly changed life; a new father searches for a sign of the man he used to be; a daughter yearns for a lost childhood; and a mother reaches out in bewilderment to a child she can't fully understand. A rare novel that illuminates "the bustling concourses of life" without sacrificing emotional depth and complexity, The Lucky Ones confirms Rachel Cusk's place among our most incisive writers.

Opening Sentence: Michelle had to get up with her now when she had to go.


[source: Goodreads.com]

Now, I really enjoyed Arlington Park, so had high hopes for The Lucky Ones. Unfortunately Cusk's earlier novel did not elicit the same response. Despite having a different subject matter, the layout was a bit too similar to AP, yet not as enjoyable a read. Whilst Arlington Park had subtle touches of humour, The Lucky Ones was just a bit too dreary and the characters aren't particularly believable or likeable.

That isn't to say it isn't well written, because I want to make it clear that it is. Cusk has a natural talent for really grasping emotions and atmospheres through the power of words, but that didn't seem enough to keep the book flowing. The chapters were meant to interweave, with the constant of lawyer Victor Porter and his journalist wife Serena running through it, but if anything, it seemed to be just a collection of five short stories. It was very sporadic, there didn't seem to be any links between the characters, despite being led to believe that there were. And the importance of Victor and Serena just wasn't made clear enough. I guess the chapters link thematically more than anything. The disappointment and confusions in relationships, particularly parent and child.

If The Lucky Ones had been marketed as a collection of short stories, then perhaps it would have worked better. (Not that it didn't work; the author was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists', in the same year as The Lucky Ones was released).
As a full novel however, it wasn't for me.


My rating: 2/5

Friday, 30 July 2010

Film Review: Toy Story 3



Director: Lee Unkrich

Screenwriter: John Lasseter & Andrew Stanton (story), Michael Arndt (screenplay)

Main Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Michael Keaton, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Blake Clark

Runtime: 103 minutes

Certificate: U (UK)

Brief Summary: The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college, and it's up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren't abandoned and to return home.

(source:IMDB).

It's been nearly 10 years since we last caught up with Woody, Buzz et al and the gang have grown up a lot since then, much like their beloved owner, Andy, and, most importantly, their original audience. The creators are cleverly aware of their main audience, the young adults who grew up with the first two films and can shamelessly indulge in the nostalgia of the final movie in the trilogy. Andy's journey almost parallels those viewers who have equally moved on to college (university) and/or left home for good. (Although... it may just be me, but when I went to university, there was no need to strip my room completely bare and sell all the contents, especially as I was back within mere months for Christmas). I watched through misty eyes as the toys came to terms with the notion of moving on and parting from those they know and love, and recognised it as my own journey from the past few years, both leaving home for university, and then leaving university itself.

Poignancy aside, Toy Story 3 could easily sit alongside The Shawshank Redemption and The Great Escape as one of the best prison escape films of all time. The action is executed BRILLIANTLY, and includes a perfect mix of hilarious and heartbreaking scenes, keeping audiences of all ages entertained. The new characters are excellent, my personal favourite being Ken (voiced by Keaton), a true metrosexual and portrays his relationship with Barbie the way that everyone secretly believed it would be. On the other hand, Big Baby will give me nightmares for years to come. In that sense, Toy Story 3 definitely deals with slightly heavy themes, but children are still able to understand and perhaps even relate to.

The animation is, as expected, beautiful, to the very detail of the texture of the toys and I think is best demonstrated with the scene with Mr 'Tortilla Wrap' Head. A special nod must be given to the Pixar short which plays before TS3 starts. I've always enjoyed Pixar Shorts (and would highly advise others to purchase the Pixar Shorts dvd) but Day & Night has been my favourite by far.

There are lots of subtle references to the first film which ties up the last in the trilogy nicely. We see Andy driving and are reminded of when he helped his Mum fill up the car outside Pizza Planet all those years ago. The final shot of the film is of white clouds against a blue sky, exactly the same as Andy's wallpaper - the very first shot of the first Toy Story film. And did anyone notice the music playing through the end credits? A Spanish version of Randy Newman's 'You've Got A Friend In Me'.


Whilst the final act is still as hilarious as the rest of the film (mainly attributed to Buzz Espanol) but the furnace sequence is both devastating and heartfelt, when all characters join hands marking true friendship. The finale can be described as nothing more than tear-inducing and is an emotional end to a 15-yaer long series.



My rating: 5/5

Sunday, 11 July 2010

I've been waiting 11 years for this....

I've been counting down the days to Toy Story 3 ever since I learnt of the release date a year ago and the abundance of Toy Story-themed adverts are merely fuelling my excitement.

Here are some of my favourites...









And while I'm at it, here's a montage of the best TV spots for the film...



Eeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Book Review: Uglies ~ Scott Westerfeld






Title: Uglies

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Year of Publication: 2005

Genre: Fiction, YA, Sci-fi

Blurb: "Tally can't wait to turn sixteen and become Pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from a repellant Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be Pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world - and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever."

Opening Sentence: "The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit."

[source: Goodreads.com]
 

Whilst I wouldn't necessarily class myself as a science fiction fan, I do enjoy a good YA novel about dystopian worlds and Uglies is undoubtedly my favourite so far... despite the fact that I am technically classed as a 'rusty'.

Uglies is a really fun read, and a change from Westerfeld's previous work, which was predominantly aimed at adults. He seems to be just as comfortable writing for a younger audience and creates completely likeable characters and an exciting plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. An important aspect of dystopian fiction, for me, is the little details that epitomise the futuristic element of the novel - they show much thought the author has put into the story . In this instance, it was how the characters travelled via hoverboards and I loved the idea.

As you can expect from any young adult novel, there are morals and lessons to be learnt. Predictably, this one is that there is more to life than being 'pretty'. Westerfeld also emphasises the importance of individuality in a beauty obsessed world.

When I first started the book I wasn't that attached to it, but I'm glad I stuck at it, because by the end I was hooked and there followed a mixture of emotions at learning it was just the first in a trilogy. I was excited that it continued, but at the same time, impatient at the prospect of having to wait until the next book to discover what happened next...  

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Monday, 28 June 2010

Book Review: Lipstick Jungle ~ Candace Bushnell



Title: Lipstick Jungle

Author: Candace Bushnell

Year of Publication: 2005

Genre: Fiction, chick-lit

Blurb: The "Sex and the City" author's fourth novel follows three women who are among New York City's movers and shakers: a movie executive, a magazine editor, and a fashion designer.

Opening Sentence: "September is glorious in Manhattan, and this year was no exception."


[source: Goodreads.com]

As with Sex and the City, I watched the tv series version of Lipstick Jungle before being inspired to pick up the book. However, whilst I preferred the television adaptation of Sex and the City, I definitely favoured the Lipstick Jungle novel to it's predecessor. It was easier to follow and there was a lot more scope for plot and character development. There is less of an emphasis on relationships and more on career ambition and progression, although, like SaTC, ultimately it is a story of close female friendship.

This is definitely Bushnell at her best, from her evocative descriptions of New York's ever-changing scenery throughout the seasons, to her almost anthropological depictions of New Yorkers.

On a more negative note, there is the depressing, but perhaps truthful, notion that you can't maintain a steady career and happy relationship together. Nevertheless, the portrayal of three career-driven women definitely gives the female readers something to aspire to, and I finished the book feeling incredibly ambitious!

A perfect summer read.


My rating:4/5


Saturday, 29 May 2010

Film Review: Sex and the City 2



Director: Michael Patrick King
Screenwriter: Michael Patrick King [screenplay], Candace Bushnell[characters from the book by]
Main Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, John Corbett.
Runtime: 146 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Brief Summary: Two years have passed since Carrie Bradshaw finally bagged John "Mr. Big" Preston, the man she was always meant to be with.
Tagline: Carrie On.
(source:IMDB).




I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR.

The second Sex and the City film kicks off in style with the most outrageously camp gay wedding you could ever hope to witness. I don't want to start giving too much away, but considering there is a mini canal complete with swans, then you get the right idea. Watch out for the scene with Liza Minnelli: pure genius.

If you're expecting something similar to the first, then you will be very surprised... but not disappointed. I probably preferred the first film, just because it was very similar to the series in that it was real women, going through real situations, talking about real things (..to a certain extent). If there's one word to describe the sequel, 'realistic' isn't one of them. Completely resplendent in decadence, the lifestyles portrayed in this film is completely unobtainable to the regular cinema-goer, but in a way, that's what also makes it so appealing. It's every girl's dream played out on the big screen. It's also doubled in comedic value since the previous film. I'm struggling to think of a moment where I wasn't laughing out loud, or at least giggling to myself. The other characters (as in NOT Carrie) also really come into their own. I'm now a complete convert to Team Samantha.

However, as funny as it was, I did feel slightly uncomfortable with the film poking fun at the Muslim traditions. In one scene, we see Samantha miming having sex whilst waving condoms in their faces. I know it was to portray women empowerment but it was simply rude. I also thought the Carrie/Aidan storyline would have more to it rather than just two scenes and no follow-through. That was the main letdown for me. I was initially disappointed with the lack of Smith in this film, but the introduction of a few new pieces of eye candy (such as Antony's brother Nicky and the Danish architect Rikard to name but a few).

Nevertheless, regardless of what may or may not be absent, Sex and the City 2 is the perfect summer film. I did miss New York but Abu Dhabi is beautiful, extravagant and the next best thing. I left the film just wanting to go shopping!

It won't be to everyone's taste - to some it will definitely seem slightly shallow and consumerism-obsessed. I know how much men hate the Sex and the City franchise, so I mentally punched the air in triumph every time I heard a masculine chuckle. Of course it's silly and cheesy and cringe-worthy at times, but that's what Sex and the City is all about.




My rating:4/5

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Film Review: Cemetery Junction


Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Screenwriter: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Main Cast: Christian Cooke, Ricky Gervais, Julia Davis, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson.
Runtime: 95 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Brief Summary: A 1970s-set comedy centered on three upstart professional men working at an insurance company.
Tagline: Be Young. Be Free. Be Somebody
(source:IMDB).

Ricky Gervais returns to his roots in Cemetery Junction, a film about his hometown, Reading during the 1970s. However, Gervais takes a backseat in this film and plays the father to Cooke's lead. I'm a big fan of Gervais and Merchant's work so I knew I wasn't going to be disappointed. Although completely different from The Office and Extras, Cemetery Junction is a perfect blend of comedy and drama, and results in a completely heartfelt story. The opening of the film appeared to be quite serious, and I grew anxious that I had just assumed it to be a comedy before finding out what it was really about. I needn't have worried, as the comedy simply flourished as the film continued, leading to the whole audience roaring with laughter. The film grew on me too, I found that it just got better as it went along.

The characters were all totally believable. The charismatic Tom Hughes is definitely one to watch, and I was surprised to discover he hasn't appeared in much else. Emily Watson, as Julie's mother, is very good at portraying her sad and lonely lifestyle through minimal dialogue and the family scenes with Cooke, Davis, Gervais and Anne Reid (Freddie's Gran) are brilliantly funny, but there's not nearly enough of them in my opinion.

Yes, the plot is slightly predictable, but the writing and acting are so well administered that they deliver exactly what the producers set out to achieve, a film that perfectly captures the 'good old days'. Of course, I can't vouch for how those times were, and I'm sure that if I was to live through then, it probably wouldn't be so blithe all the time, but this film successfully creates that perception, aided by the brilliant soundtrack.


It has been suggested that this film would better suit a television audience but I disagree. The cinematography in Cemetery Junction is thoroughly suited to the big screen.










My rating:3.5/5

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Film Review: Kick-Ass


Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriter: Jane Goldman [screenplay], Mark Millar [comic book series]
Main Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Runtime: 117 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Brief Summary: Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.
Tagline: I can't fly. But I can kick your ass.
(source:IMDB).

It's hard to believe that a fantasy about a fallen star falling in love has something in common with this controversial comedy about a wannabe superhero, but the team behind Stardust have returned with the highly anticipated Kick-Ass. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman should be renamed the Dream Team because both films rank pretty highly on my favourites list.

The main character is played by Aaron Johnson, previously seen in Nowhere Boy and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and he definitely holds his own against more seasoned actors such as Cage and Mintz-Plasse. However, whilst Kick-Ass and Red Mist make great comedy when partnered, the real scene stealers are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Cage's Big Daddy appears to be a caricature of Batman, and is notably Cage's best performance to date. And, I will be very surprised (and disappointed) if young Chloe Moretz doesn't win herself a few award nominations. The Goodfellas-style villains are commendable, also.

If I'm being honest, I'd missed seeing any trailers for this film, and usually I only watch films that I've been tempted to see through the trailers. Despite this, I had heard so many great reviews and that was encouragement enough. Without a doubt, Kick-Ass is worth the hype! It merges both a great story with great visual effects (the style interchanges between real life and cartoon, in keeping with the superhero theme), and keeps up-to-date with pop culture references to the vast use of Myspace and Youtube. There were some predictable parts but this didn't ruin the enjoyment. The film is surreal but yet somehow all the characters are completely believable. It's a cliche that has been heavily overused, but Kick-Ass KICKS ASS.

I'd recommend this film to adrenalin junkies and comedy fans alike but it's maybe not for the faint-hearted - the explicit violence and portrayal of a homicidal young girl has drawn criticism (certain Daily Mail review, anyone?).






My rating:4/5

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Film Review: The Princess and The Frog


Director: Ron Clements, John Musker.
Screenwriter: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards [screenplay], Ed Baker [story "The Frog Princess"]
Main Cast(voices): Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman.
Runtime: 97 minutes.
Certificate: U (UK).
Brief Summary: A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again.
(source:IMDB).


Disney's newest offering marks a return to the studio's sorely missed 2D animation style, complete with show-stopping musical numbers. Ok, it's not quite up to the standard of Disney classics such as The Lion King or The Jungle Book, but it's a big step in the right direction.

The story is set in (old) New Orleans and revolves around Tiana (Rose) who has ambitions of owning her own restaurant, but has never quite managed to turn her dream into a reality. Enter Prince Naveen (Campos), who has become the victim of a voodoo spell and has subsequently been transformed into a frog. He encounters Tiana and in an attempt to reverse the spell, they kiss.

Now, this is where the story differs from 'The Frog Prince' story that the film is based on. Instead of Prince Naveen returning to his human form, Tiana becomes a frog herself. Together, they set off on an adventure meeting Ray (Cummings), the firefly and Louis (Wooley), the trumpet-playing alligator (only Disney...). As is the tradition for all Disney films, they face obstacles, overcome them and.... well, I'm not going to ruin the ending, but you get the idea.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable, vibrant film. Dr Facilier (David) makes a brilliant villain. His ability to move through shadows makes him that more terrifying, and gives him a slight edge over more conventional baddies. It's good to see that Disney aren't afraid to scare their young demographic a little bit, much like the sinister antagonists that I grew up being afraid of (in particular, Cruella DeVil).

The moral of the story (because every Disney film has an underlying moral) is, obviously, 'Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover', which is apt for a story about an African-American princess living during a time of racism. It's a promising message but there's not a lot of depth to it. However, I did leave the film feeling educated on the customs and traditions of the era. Everything related to New Orleans that you could possibly think of (or may not have already known about) has been name-dropped into the film. Mardi Gras? Check. Gumbo? Yup.

As previously stated, I did enjoy the film, but I was checking my watch towards the end which, for me, usually means it hasn't captivated my attention quite as much as I would have hoped. It's a fun film, but I did feel wistful for the Disney films of my own youth. Children, however, will definitely enjoy it.








My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Film Review: New Moon


Director: Chris Weitz
Screenwriter: Melissa Rosenberg [screenplay], Stephanie Meyer [novel].
Main Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Runtime: 130 minutes
Certificate: 12A (UK)
Brief Summary: After Bella recovers from the vampire attack that almost claimed her life, she looks to celebrate her birthday with Edward and his family. However, a minor accident during the festivities results in Bella's blood being shed, a sight that proves too intense for the Cullens, who decide to leave the town of Forks, Washington for Bella and Edward's sake. Initially heartbroken, Bella finds a form of comfort in reckless living, as well as an even-closer friendship with Jacob Black. Danger in different forms awaits.
Tagline: The Next Chapter Begins
(source:IMDB).


As New Moon has just recently been released on DVD, this review is ever-so-slightly overdue. However, due to my strong opinions on the 'Twilight' franchise, this was something I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into. (Sorry).



I've never been shy about my adverse feelings to Twilight. Call me a traditionalist but the whole concept of a 'vegetarian vampire' just doesn't make sense. By definition, vampires feed off the blood of others. Oh, but he feeds off the blood of animals? Well, then he's not a vegetarian. I may have held a more supportive attitude towards the film if that confusion had been avoided. Although that's unlikely. Nevertheless, I gave New Moon a chance, albeit with a strong degree of trepidation.



The second installment of the Twilight Saga is, unsurprisingly, drenched in teenage angst, reeking of hormones and lovesick adolescence. I know it's a film about vampires and werewolves but is it impossible for anyone to crack a smile? In fact, maybe they should rename the lead male Edward Sullen. (I know, I'm probably not the first to crack that joke). But in all seriousness, the acting was so wooden I was afraid of getting splinters in my eyes. Luckily for cast and crew, young female fans have a penchant for the two lead males (see Team Edward and Team Jacob). New Moon's producers take full advantage of this and include topless shots of both at every opportunity, in an attempt to distract from the lack of charisma and sleepy plot.



On a positive note, the production is MUCH better than in Twilight although I was surprised at how unrealistic the CGI wolves seemed, despite New Moon's blockbuster status. A pleasant surprise however was the addition of Michael Sheen as Aro, part of the Volturi (the most powerful of vampires). Unfortunately, you have to sit through most of the film before reaching this point, but Sheen's brilliant acting as the panto-style villain puts the rest of the main cast to shame.



The film could have been half the length that it was, had all the long, 'soul-searching' pauses been eliminated. You HAVE to have seen the first film, otherwise all of the constant references to previous events will just leave you confused. I left the cinema feeling only...tired. Forget Team Edward or Team Jacob. I'd rather Team Watch Paint Dry.




My rating: 2/5

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Film review: The Lovely Bones


Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriter: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson [screenwriters], Alice Sebold [novel]
Main Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon.
Runtime: 121 minutes.
Certificate: 12A (UK).
Brief Summary: "The Lovely Bones" centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.
Tagline: The story of a life and everything that came after...
(source:IMDB).


Counting 'The Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold as one of my favourite books, I eagerly awaited the film for the best part of a year. Normally, I am wary of movie adaptations of my favourite novels, but I had good faith in Peter Jackson. I haven't seen much of his films, with the exception of Lord of the Rings, but I'd heard only praise for his work, most notably the 1994 thriller 'Heavenly Creatures'.



Unfortunately, I came away from this film feeling disappointed and slightly robbed. It's not that it was a bad film, as such. Indeed, the visuals were nothing short of stunning, whilst the cast put in brilliantly heart-breaking performances, particulary rising star Saoirse Ronan, as the protagonist, Susie Salmon. And if the mark of a good villain is his ability to chill the viewer and to spur nightmares, then Tucci deserves a special nod too. No, it wasn't Jackson's directing ability that let the film down.

Part of the reason I found The Lovely Bones novel so moving, was the preoccupation with the Salmon family, and how they dealt with their grief, all the while overlooked by Susie. Sebold managed this with absolute tenderness, whilst also interweaving the plot with Susie's own experiences in the afterlife, and the ongoing hunt for her killer. Instead, the film seemed to become simply a manhunt for George Harvey, the killer, whilst throwing in a couple of corpses for good measure. I clearly have no experience with directing films, but it seems obvious to me that if you're going to direct a film about the rape and murder of a teenager, you have to be so careful with your approach. I spent the majority of the film feeling progressively more uncomfortable, and had to keep reminding myself that the film was merely a 12A. I'd read reports that Jackson had cut parts of the film so that he could achieve this certification. I struggle to find a reasoning for why he would want children of 12 and under (if accompanied by an adult) to endure such a distressing cinematic experience. I'm 9 years older than the minimum age restriction and I still didn't feel ready for it.

Important parts of the plot seemed to have been lost in translation between novel and film. Jackson has neglected to mention the dismembered bone that the title is centred around. Other integral features are either glossed over, or absent altogether. We know nothing of the mother's affair with the police officer involved with the case, so whilst she leaves to pursue a new life, the audience is left behind, slightly confused. We don't see sister Lyndsey's private battle with grief whilst struggling to let her new boyfriend in. Or, the utterly heart-wrenching moment when the family dog is reunited with Susie in her new, bittersweet world. Any of these moments would have enabled the family to become much more relatable to the audience, and therefore place them at the true heart of the film, instead of as a couple of supporting characters with no depth. And, whilst I have the upmost admiration for Susan Sarandon's acting abilities, the use of the grandmother as a 'humorous' interlude to the main story felt forced and out of place.

This viewing experience merely cemented my belief that films can never beat the original material, and as soon as I have spare time, I am picking up the book, and reminding myself of the story that I fell in love with.

My rating: 2/5

Friday, 12 March 2010

Introduction to...me...?

Evenin'...

Creating a blog for myself has been on my list of things-to-do for a while, and now that I'm finally able to cross it off my list, I don't have a clue how to start it!
I've had a (sort of) blog before, when I was 15/16, but it was more of an online diary rather than anything useful. For this one, I intend to include more... 'intellectual' ramblings, most likely in the form of reviews...films, books, etc.

Firstly though, a little about myself:

I'm 21 years old. (Well, technically I'm still 20, but my birthday is in less than a week and I should probably start getting used to saying it). I'm in my third year at the University of Portsmouth, where I am studying Media and Creative Writing. Speaking of which, I am currently trying to find somewhere online where I can post some of my writing, will keep you posted!
I know it's a cliche, but I can honestly say that university has been the best three years of my life. I look back to the person I was before I arrived here, and it's like I'm remembering a completely different girl. My time here has definitely been life-changing, and with only three months left, I honestly can't imagine not being here. It's not something I'm looking forward to.
Having said that, I am excited to see what opportunities I come across when I leave, although I'm slightly unsure, at the moment, as to what job I intend to go into...

Firstly, I'm really interested in Advertising. Most people complain or leave the room to grab some food during an ad break, but I will happily sit and watch 3 minutes worth of someone trying to sell me something. Similarly, people criticize them, but I find PR stunts fascinating. I love trying to work out the thought process that was behind developing the final product. I love being able to see creativity.
However, I'm also interested in careers in Publishing and Editorial work. I'm a complete book worm. I can spend days doing nothing but reading a really good book and not get bored. In some ways I prefer books to films, I think you can get a lot more depth from books than films. Equally, as with most girls, I have piles and piles of magazines. I don't quite know what it is about them that I love, but I can never bring myself to throw them out, even when the fashion is out of date and the stories are no longer relevant. At my family home, I still have magazines from around 2001/2002, and I'll still pick one up and read through it. I've always been enthralled by the layouts, to the point that when I was 8 or 9 years old, I created my own 'magazine'. I use the term loosely, I wrote all over about 30 pages of A4 paper (much to my parents frustration) and stapled them together. But the whole process fascinates me, how to choose what gets included and what doesn't.

As you can see, I don't have any definite career path just yet. But I think it's better to keep my options open, especially in this economic climate!

So, this post was supposed to be a 'brief' introduction to myself and the blog...hmm..think I should leave it there for now.

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading!