Friday, 22 February 2013

French Toast and Godzilla

 I know I haven't been around very much at all this week, and I want to apologise for that. I've spent almost my entire week in Uni either working or in meetings as well as catching up on the last few Best Picture nominees before our Oscars party.

I've got some posts lined up to get up here soon, and will hopefully have them ready to post over the next few days as next week I'm off to London for three days with Rosie. I'm really looking forward to a bit of a break from everything during my reading week, although I will be taking some work down with me so it won't be a completely work-free few days. 

I'm still striving to get the film related content steady and constant on here and have more reviews, Oscar related posts and a February round-up coming very soon! You may have also noticed there have been a few layout changes to the side panel of the blog, and I'm hoping to give the site a full facelift in the near future. Due to my hectic Uni schedule that may not happen overnight, but it will eventually occur and I'm really looking forward to it.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Diamonds and Clipboards

Busy week to the extreme!

On my journey back to Uni this week I got caught up against a wall of heavy snow that decided to fall ten minutes before I left. Fortunately the weather was being a lot kinder up north and halfway through my journey I found myself in the safety of clear skies.

As well as my usual week full of lectures, seminars and required readings and screenings I've been to see two live productions this week. On Wednesday evening I saw a production of Jane Eyre by the Hull Truck Theatre Company that was held at my Uni. Then on Thursday a huge group of us went to see the 40th Anniversary Tour of The Rocky Horror Show at the Empire in Liverpool for a friends Birthday. Both were really enjoyable, particularly Rocky Horror as we all got dressed up (pictures will be up soon) and made this week great!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Happy Belated Pancake Day!

To celebrate, yesterday at our house we had a Pancake feast. We spent the entire evening over the hob making masses of the things, thick and thin, followed by a buffet while we watched a film. There were only a small amount of kitchen disasters, with a few pancakes suffering unplanned deformities as a result. They were all yummy and we had a great laugh making them all.

Here are the four variations I had, Bacon, Red Velvet, Chocolate Oreo, and Berry Compote.
Did you have a good Pancake Day?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Freight Trains and Boarding Schools

Yet more quick reveiws of films I've been watching recently. I'm enjoying doing these but I also have two or three full reviews that will hopefully surface sometime soon. For now here's four shorter ones. Be sure to let me know what you thought of these films if you've seen them, I'd love to know. There may be some mild spoilers in these.

Jordan Scott // 2009 // 15 // 104 mins

At a remote girls boarding school the diving team are treated as the elite, under the caring eye of their eccentric coach, Ms. G (Eva Green). When a new foreign pupil, the beautiful and exotic Fiamma (María Valverde), arrives at the school and joins the team, Ms. G's fascination with the girl causes tension amongst the girls and brings their coaches character into question. Each of the performances within the film are perfect, Eva Green plays the charismatic yet creepy teacher exactly right while the likes of Juno Temple and Imogen Poots portray the cliquey, unfriendly nature of the girls team with great conviction. Temple particularly excels throughout the climax of the film as the world around her character comes into turmoil and she plays the conflict of the characters situation wonderfully. The attention to detail on display here is second to none ensuring that the films entire aesthetic is stunning, most notable through the fantastic costuming, while the cinematography is used to beautify the era in which it is set. Slow motion shots of the girls diving into the glistening lake are beautifully filmed and recurrent throughout the film, and display the manner in which the film explores how 'pretty façades' are employed in order to thinly veil the sinister nature of plot. The story itself is extremely engaging with continuous levels of intrigue and character exploration, particularly in regards to the complex figure of Ms. G. Cracks is a visual accomplishment that succeeds in exploring a dark subject matter while also delivering a number of enjoyable performances.

Anna Karenina
Joe Wright // 2012 // 12 // 129 mins

In late 19th Century Russia a high-society aristocrat, Anna (Keira Knightley) turns her marriage and social standing upside down in order to carry out and affair with charming cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard place the events of Tolstoy's famed novel in a fantasy theatre world in which the artificiality is celebrated with sets coming apart as the characters traverse locations; a decision which is for the most part hugely successful. Visually the film creates a rich tapestry through it's remarkable use of costume, lighting and set, which is used to its greatest effect during a dance between Anna and Vronsky early on in the film. This style unfortunately peaks at this point however and nothing that follows can quite reach the high standard set by this sequence, which it seems the director knew as the utilisation of this unique theatrical device becomes considerably lessened in the last third of the film, to the point that when it does return it seems out of place. The story is engaging but never fully explored, with Anna's separation from her child lacking the attention and emotional impact it is suggested to have on the character, whilst a sub-plot focusing Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) and his romantic interests in his friends sister-in-law Kitty (Alicia Vikander) feels merely tacked on and more of a hinderance to the main story. The trouble when adapting any novel into a film, particularly one as vast as this, is that plots and characters become compromised by the runtime, and in this case a focus on aesthetics as well. Unfortunately the performances do little to save the film from becoming simply a stylish experiment that succeeds in pleasing the eye but fails to do evoke anything deeper.

Gerald McMorrow // 2008 // 15 // 98 mins

The lives of three unrelated Londoners are intertwined as they each search for something or someone missing from their lives, whilst in a dystopian metropolis, Meanwhile City, the masked vigilante Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) hunts down a sinister religious leader. In unravelling the four separate stories that have been created here the film goes to some dark, bizarre and sometimes touching places, but unfortunately they never seem to interweave as smoothly as they should. In particular the transitions between modern day London and the timeless world of Meanwhile City often seem forced and jarring which takes away from the experience of the film as a whole. Ryan Phillippe delivers his best Rorschach impression, and while his storyline is visually impressive it lacks any real purpose and sure enough, when the final act reveals the inevitable connections between the four characters it becomes increasingly apparent that this story was included simply to diversify the narrative and add some aesthetic interest. The performances are all mediocre, talented actors like Eva Green and Sam Riley do nothing to elevate the often bland characters to any kind of higher status, with the only truly engaging character being a secondary character who appears in two of the stories for a minimal amount of time. Throughout the film it is overwhelmingly apparent that this is simply the product of a director mixing together numerous stories, characters and styles that he likes and seeing what happens. The result is an uneven, yet pleasing to the eye, mess that doesn't work hard enough pay off for the viewer.

Tony Scott // 2010 // 12 // 98 mins

On their first day working together two freight train workers, newbie conductor Will (Chris Pine) and veteran engineer Frank (Denzel Washington), find themselves on the same track as an unmanned train that shows know sign of stopping and is speeding towards them. Aside from it's generic placement as a 'mindless entertainment' movie, director Tony Scott's last effort somehow succeeds in being extremely watchable. The plot is relatively bland and uninspired and the 'based on true events' title card that precedes it appears as a cheap way to gain some extra attention from the viewer. Nevertheless each of the principal actors present delivers engaging performances that are usually sparse within this kind of film. Pine and Washington have a great chemistry that makes what could be bland dialogue between two fairly one-note characters entertaining. In conjunction with Rosario Dawson as the yardmaster responsible for the runaway train the three actors provide humour and a decent level of engagement that helps this film become more than the pointless action flick it could so easily be fated for. The most detracting element of the film is the cinematography and editing, which floods the film with constant camera movement through tracking shots. The surely ironic notion of having the camera never still in a film about a train that can't stop moving is badly employed, and when coupled with the rapid editing of such a fast-paced film makes for a dizzying, disorientating and downright irritating at times viewing experience. Fortunately the actors save this film, the plot may be simple and nothing original but after all this is only mindless entertainment, isn't it?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Chevrons and Webslingers

This week I did the unthinkable and acknowledged the date that my Dissertation is due. Ten weeks and three days are all that stand between me and that dreaded day. Fortunately this recognition did spark some sort of fire and pushed me to work on it more than I had planned to this week. Hopefully this will be the motivation I need to try and dispel my numerous procrastination habits.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Food and Short Films

Yesterday evening was spent with four friends having a meal at our local cocktail bar and then moving on to a screening of highlights from the Ann Arbor 50th Film Festival. The meal was delicious as it always is. I had a Sirloin Steak Sandwich Bloomer, with mushrooms, caramelised onions and seasoned chips, with multiple Fruit Salad Cocktails (Melon, Raspberry and Strawberry!) and a mint ice cream and brownie plant pot for dessert.

The seven films lasted only an hour and fifteen minutes, and were a mix of animated and live action shorts crossing genres. Some weren't particularly to my taste which was disappointing as I'm a huge fan of short films and have seen some truly great ones, but they were all interesting to watch. My favourite was the last, a 13 minute long animation called Birdboy, which was funny, sad and beautifully animated, and can be seen here.

Overall it was a fun way to spend a Wednesday evening watching short films and enjoying some great grub!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Divorce and Vigilantes

X-Men: First Class
Matthew Vaughn // 2012 // 12A // 132 mins

On the heels of Kick Ass, director Matthew Vaughn proves he is greatly adept at constructing a solid Superhero film, this time presenting the early history of Marvel's primary comic team the X-Men. The story covers the origins of the franchises two lead figures, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), from their childhoods to their first meeting, through their formation of a team of powerful mutants and to the conflict that drove them in opposite directions. The performances are all solid with not a single weak link amongst the cast, which features the likes of Kevin BaconJennifer LawrenceRose Byrne and January Jones, while McAvoy and Fassbender best the lot with highly emotional and refreshing representations of familiar characters. The only drawbacks are a lack of focus in the first third of the film as it covers the times periods and multiple locations necessary to set up the complex world that has been created here and the distracting nature of an often Irish Magneto and completely un-Scottish Moira due to the lack of enforced accents within the cast. Aside from such minor complaints the film features fantastic action and effects, well placed humour, complex characters and plot as well as a perfect cameo from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and an even more brilliantly placed one from Rebecca RomijnOverall the film is an exciting exploration of the infamous superhero team's origins, with entertaining allusions to the characters and stories of the earlier films and the ability to re-launch the franchise.

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Lee Toland Krieger // 2012 // 15 // 92 mins

Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) are best friends. They share crude jokes, mutual friends, an address, and did share a marriage that has now been over for six months. When Jesse begins dating again tensions rise between the pair and they part ways, which is made even more problematic when Celeste's feelings for Jesse begin to resurface. The most important element for the success of a romantic comedy is the chemistry between the leads, and Samberg and Jones have chemistry galore, elevating simple jokes to a greater comedic status and making heightening the viewers emotional engagement with their relationship. Jones gives a strong performance, delivering well on both the humour and the drama of the character, with an emotional speech at her friend's wedding being the most effective display of her abilities within the role. A sub-plot, featuring Emma Roberts as a trashy teen pop star under Celeste's company label, helps show another aspect of the lead character but often feels like a needless distraction to flesh out the run time, while Elijah Wood as Celeste's gay best friend and business partner becomes increasingly more ridiculous throughout the film. Rather than providing a satirical commentary on the stereotypes of the genre simply perpetuates them further, which is disappointing as most everything else at play here seems to work perfectly in making this a distinct and enjoyable film.

Zack Snyder // 2009 // 18 // 162 mins

In 1985, after the death of a retired superhero, the remaining members of his vigilante team return to their costumed alter-ego's in order to prevent a plot to change the balance of power in a world edging dangerously close to nuclear war. Viewer's witness events through the eyes of the cynical Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), the all-knowing and seeing Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) and the humble, retired Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), as devious plans are revealed and dark past's revisited.The film sets a strong visual standard early on and is often stunning, with both costume and settings providing a great depth and attention to detail that harkens back to the films roots as a graphic novel. The opening credits display this aspect in all it's glory and is easily one of the films finest moments, also displaying the brilliant soundtrack that is present throughout the film. The ensemble cast deliver fine performances, with Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Carla Gugino the most captivating and only Matthew Goode and Malin Åkerman struggling as poor, one-note characters, which is as much a fault of the script as theirs. At times the film feels episodic, focusing on single characters for prolonged periods, however the story covers such a vast time period and cast of characters that this is inevitable if each aspect of the narrative is to be explored in any depth. This is fast-paced violent action and a helluva lot of fun to watch.

Pitch Perfect
Jason Moore // 2012 // 12A // 112 mins

When Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly enrols at the college where her dad works, she makes a deal with him to join a club and make some friends, if she fails to enjoy her first year he will let her pursue her dream of making music in LA. She is coaxed into joining the Barden Bella's, one of four competitive a cappella groups on campus and attracts the attentions of Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of fellow group The Treblemakers, who are strictly off limits to the Bella's. The film repeatedly satirises and pokes fun at the likes of Glee with numerous jokes and set pieces that would fall flat if it wasn't for the conviction of the brilliant cast. Rebel Wilson dominates every one of her scenes, carefully treading the line of a caricature and always delivering on the laughs, securing her place at the forefront of current comedy. The rest of the cast are equally successful and provide a great variety of comedic styles and performances, from the subtle (Brittany Snow) to the ridiculously bizarre (Hana Mae Lee). However the biggest surprise of the film is the truly laugh-out-loud dialogue between Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the contest commentators, which is dry, cringe-worthy and consistently funny. The songs are all well chosen and the mash-ups fantastic, and while the plot hits all of the notes expected of the genre the characters are engaging enough to keep it from ever feeling derivative. This film is a rare beast: a genuinely funny and entertaining teen movie, and you can be sure that it's a ca-awesome!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Highway 1 and a Stuffed Fox

Welcome to February!

I've managed to get two film posts on here this week and I'm feeling a lot more confident and comfortable with keeping this little online space of mine going.

This weeks been full of planning. I've booked a trip to London during my course's reading week with Rosita, in which we will visit galleries, shop, visit friends and generally enjoy the city. We've booked a performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Liverpool Empire in March for our friend Megan's birthday. On top of that we're also planning an Oscars party at our house on the 25th in which a few friends will come over, we'll dress up as characters from the nominated films, drink cocktails and see who guessed the most winners.

I'm looking forward to all of these upcoming events, Uni already feels like it's been back in my life for months so I'm greatly enjoying the chance to arrange these little treats to break up my studies. I'm also not working this weekend and so I'm really excited to not endure the long drives to and from my Uni house and the 17 and a half hours I usually spend behind a till.

Have you got any big February plans ahead?