Quick Review: The Book Thief

Starring Sophie Nelisse and Geoffrey Rush, The Book Thief was a film that I had major doubts about seeing. The problem is - as you might guess - that I have read the novel, and subsequently it has become one of my favourite books of recent years. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, films that have been adapted from books are rarely as good as the books they are based on, although The Hunger Games is a rare exception!

For me, the film lacked a little of the depth that the book has, and Death as Narrator didn't work in quite the same way, which was the biggest letdown.

That being said, I really enjoyed The Book Thief. I found Sophie Nelisse's portrayal of Liesel to be just as endearing as I could have hoped (my gosh, with those big eyes, how could anyone not find her endearing!?). The way that the make up and hair artists managed to age her was just incredible, because it really was as if Nelisse had aged along with her character, even though we know that it wasn't filmed over that long a period.

I've seen people accusing the film of being too "fluffy" and "cliche", but let's face it - this is Hollywood, it is always going to be that way, whether we like it or not. But, isn't Hollywood one big cliche anyway? In other words - who cares? Films are meant to entertain, and fluffy entertains. It's also important to remember that the film is based on a children's book, so it was never going to get overly political (although, I have to say that the book did "feel" a lot more political than the film did, but that's something else!).

All-in-all, the film wasn't perfect. Yes, it was fluffy and yes, I do think that it could have been more. But on the other hand, I enjoyed it and it did pass "The Coke Test".

Rating: 7 out of 10.


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Quick Review: Her

Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johannson, Her is a strange film, that at times left me feeling a bit "icky". However, that "ickiness" is more a symbol of the absolute realism behind the films ideas than anything else. Yeah, it made me feel uncomfortable at times - especially knowing that there was an old couple sitting directly behind us - but Her's brilliance is in the fact that the scenario is so possible to be true, and in a quite creepy way, it already is true to a certain degree.

All of the main cast were totally out of character for what they are best known, especially Joaquin Phoenix (reminding me in this very much of Johnny Galecki's Leonard in Big Bang Theory, not only from his appearance, but also in mannerisms),who yet again shone brightly as the depressed and recently divorced Theodore. Amy Adams was virtually unrecognisable from her recent role as Sydney in American Hustle, whilst Scarlett Johansson's voice talents perfectly characterised this strange entity, of which I was never really sure how I was supposed to feel, about.

All-in-all, Her is a film that is definitely not going to be everyone's cup-of-tea, in fact I think that it is going to be a very Marmite-type film (love it or hate it), but as a film that made me question what I - personally - need out of a relationship, Her is a definite thumbs up from me.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10


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Golden Globes 2014 Nominations and Predictions

It's that time of year again, when Awards Ceremony Nominations start creeping up on us, reminding that yet another year of film and television is almost over. The week the big nomination announcement has come from the Golden Globes, so I thought that it would be fun to take a look at who is up for an Award, and try to predict who will win.

Of course, after I write this, opinions are likely to change - because they always do - but this is how things stand at the moment:
Matt Damon
(Behind the Candelabra)
Chiwetel Ejiofor
(Dancing on the Edge)
Idris Elba
(Luther)
Al Pacino
(Phil Spector)
Michael Douglas
(Behind the Candelabra)


Who I Think Will Win: Either Matt Damon or Michael Douglas.
(12 Years a Slave)
(Dallas Buyers Club)
(Captain Phillips)
(All is Lost)
(Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Who I Think Will Win: This is a tough one to call, but I think it'll be a toss up between Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks and Idris Elba, with strong bets on Idris Elba.

(Nebraska)
(The Wolf of Wall Street)
(American Hustle)
(Inside Llewyn Davis)
(Her)

Who I Think Will Win: Either Leonarda DiCaprio, Christian Bale or Joaquin Phoenix.
Jason Bateman
(Arrested Development)
Don Cheadle
(House of Lies)
Michael J. Fox
(The Michael J. Fox Show)
Jim Parsons
(The Big Bang Theory)
Andy Samberg
(Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Who I Think Will Win: I really want to say Michael J.Fox because he's a Legend from my childhood, but I think I have to say Jim Parsons, purely because Sheldon is an amazing character and Parsons plays him so perfectly

(Breaking Bad)
Michael Sheen
(Masters of Sex)
(House of Cards)
(The Blacklist)
(Ray Donovan)
Who I Think Will Win: Although I have never watched a single episode of Breaking Bad, I read enough of the hype around it to think that there's a strong chance that Bryan Cranston will get this one.
Helena Bonham Carter
(Burton and Taylor)
Rebecca Ferguson
(The White Queen)
Jessica Lange
(American Horror Story: Coven)
Helen Mirren
(Phil Spector)
Elisabeth Moss
(Top of the Lake)
Who I Think will Win: Hmm, I think this this will be either Helena Bonham Carter or the delightful Helen Mirren.
(Blue Jasmine)
(Gravity)
(Saving Mr. Banks)
(Philomena)
(Labor Day)
Who I Think Will Win: Oh gawd, I really would not want to be picking the winners of any of these categories eek, although it is really great to see so many British actresses in these categories. But, I think I have to say that my bet would be on Cate Blanchett.
(August: Osage County)
(Enough Said)
(American Hustle)
(Before Midnight)
(Frances Ha)
Who I Think Will Win: Greta Gerwig. Don't ask me why, it's just a feeling I have (and could easily be wrong!)
Zooey Deschanel
(New Girl)
Lena Dunham
(Girls)
(Veep)
Amy Poehler
(Parks and Recreation)
Edie Falco
(Nurse Jackie)
Who I Think Will Win: I'd really love for it to be Zooey Deschanel, who is totally deserving, but I think that it will probably go to Lena Dunham.
(The Good Wife)
(Scandal)
(Orphan Black)
(House of Cards)
(Orange Is the New Black)
Who I Think Will Win: It's tough to choose an actress when you've never even heard of one of the shows (that's bad, isn't it? But I'm more a film person!), but I'm going to say Kerry Washington.
Frozen
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Who I Think Will Win: It's always a shame that there aren't more films in the Animated Feature Film category, but out of these three - and from what I have seen of how well they've all done, I think I'd place bets on frozen winning.
Alfonso Cuaron
(Gravity)
Steve McQueen
(12 Years a Slave)
David O. Russell
(American Hustle)
Paul Greengrass
(Captain Phillips)
Alexander Payne
(Nebraska)
Who I Think Will Win: Oh, so difficult. If it was any other film, I'd go for Alfonso Cuaron, but unfortunately it is not. Therefore, this is actually easy and I have to say David O. Russell.
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Past
The Hunt
The Wind Rises
The Great Beauty
Who I Think Will Win: I'm opting out of making a selection in this category, because I'm not really big on Foreign Language Films (my Film Lecturers' passion for the French New Wave made me sceptical about such things, which is kinda sad), so it doesn't seem fair.
12 Years a Slave
Gravity
Captain Phillips
Rush
Philomena
Who I Think Will Win: Rush. C'mon, it has Chris Hemsworth and fast cars - how could it not win?? No, seriously, I'm not a Formula One fan, but I have family who are, and they thought that Rush was a great representation of the sport and the people involved, so it gets my vote.
Nebraska
American Hustle
The Wolf of Wall Street
Inside Llewyn Davis
Her
Who I Think will Win: Either American Hustle or Her.
Steven Price
(Gravity)
John Williams
(The Book Thief)
Hans Zimmer
(12 Years a Slave)
Alex Ebert
(All is Lost)
Alex Heffes
(Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Who I Think Will Win: Oh no no no. You cannot put John Williams and Hans Zimmer in the same category and expect me to choose! I think that John Williams might pip it - because it's The Book Thief - but I also think that Hans Zimmer is a strong contender, because he's always amazing!
Atlas
(Hunger Games Catching Fire)
Let It Go
(Frozen)
Ordinary Love
(Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Please Mr Kennedy
(Inside Llewyn Davis)
Sweeter Than Fiction
(One Chance)
Who I Think Will Win: Atlas. Only because it is the only award that Catching Fire has been nominated for (although, it's not really the kind of film that gets heavily acknowledged by Awards like the Golden Globes anyway), so my vote goes to Atlas.
John Ridley
(12 Years a Slave)
Bob Nelson
(Nebraska)
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
(American Hustle)
Jeff Pope
(Philomena)
Spike Jonze
(Her)
Who I Think Will Win: Spike Jonze.
(12 Years a Slave)
(Dallas Buyers Club)
(American Hustle)
(Rush)
(Captain Phillips)
Who I Think Will Win: If I was predicting on hotness, it would be a toss up between Bradley Cooper and Jared Leto, but I'm not - honest - therefore, I think I'll go for Michael Fassbender (who is totally ugly *cough*)
Rob Lowe
(Behind the Candelabra)
Josh Charles
(The Good Wife)
Aaron Paul
(Breaking Bad)
Corey Stoll
(House of Cards)
Jon Voight
(Ray Donovan)
Who I Think Will Win: Aaron Paul.
(12 Years a Slave)
(American Hustle)
(August: Osage County)
(Nebraska)
(Blue Jasmine)
Who I Think Will Win: Either Jennifer Lawrence or Sally Hawkins, although I think Hawkins would be a little bit more deserving (not that Lawrence isn't deserving of course).
(Nashville)
Jacqueline Bisset
(Dancing On the Edge)
(The White Queen)
(Parenthood)
(Modern Family)
Who I Think Will Win: Probably Monica Potter.
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
White Queen
Who I Think Will Win: Behind the Candelara
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
Girls
Brooklyn 99
Parks and Recreation
Who I Think Will Win: The Big Bang Theory hands down, but I wouldn't be surprised if Girls pipped it.
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
House of Cards
Masters of Sex
The Good Wife
Who I Think Will Win: Stupid question: Downton Abbey (duh!)


All information taken from the Golden Globes website, and were correct at the time of writing.

What are your predictions for the Golden Globes 2014, and what do you think this predicts about the Oscar nominations?


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Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

It's not often that I allow myself to be seriously put-off by critic reviews. I generally don't have a lot of faith in them, because they are one person's opinion and quite often I'm not convinced that the film they're ranting about was even aimed at them. However, when we're talking 90% of critics really panning a film, it does get difficult to ignore all of them.

Oh, how I wish I'd listened.

Don't get me wrong, City of Bones - as a film - was fine, because there were strong signs of a really good film in there, and I think that with a little more effort it really could have been better. However, I can definitely understand why critics weren't so keen. It seemed rushed in places, whilst other places dragged, some of the dialogue was embarrassingly hammy and at times it got a bit confusing - and I say that as someone who has actually read the book.

When I saw Lily Collins in Mirror Mirror, I thought that her drippy expressions were all part of the silliness of the film, but no, I think we have Kristen Stewart Mark Two in the making with this one, because we appear to have mastered gormless and that is just about all we can do.

It's a shame because there were some strong performances from both Jamie Campbell-Bower (yes, he whose casting I wasn't keen on, proved me wrong) and Robert Sheehan. I like Godfrey Gao's Magnus as much as I was expecting (we just needed a bit more of him), and Jemima West was a better Isabelle than I thought she would be. I was a little less convinced by Kevin Zeger's Alec, but he played the grumpy jealous character okay I suppose.

It's hard to judge Lena Heady's Jocelyn, purely because she was a sleep through much of the film, and Aidan Turner's Luke was completely wasted. As I expected Jonathan Rhys Meyers was completely wrong for the role. Jared Harris was a strange one for me, but it amazed me how much he sounded like his Dad in this role.

For me, I feel that perhaps Cassandra Clare's original novel was too long and too overly-complicated for the space of two hours. Would it have fared better split into two films? A Television series? I'm not sure, but it seemed to lack a great deal of oomph due to missing plot events, underused characters, unexplained stories, changed storylines etc. I know that things will always be cut out - it's inevitable with book to film adaptations, but I just felt like a lot was missing as a result.

I really wanted to like this film, and I should assure that I didn't hate it, but as I said at the beginning - I can understand why critics do.

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Vintage Review: Lost in Translation

I first watched Lost in Translation about five years ago, and I have to admit: I didn't get it. Re-watching the film today, I have a very different view.

I don't necessarily think that it's the most amazing thing since the talkies revolution, but I certainly have a great deal of appreciation for the film.

The film is often described as being "boring", and a film where "nothing happens", but that's what real life is like; it isn't all big adventures one after the other, and I think that what Sofia Copolla was trying to convey was the idea of loneliness, and the way that people struggle to cope with it, especially in a place where you're supposed to have these amazing experiences. But, when you don't have someone to experience those things with, how are you supposed to have them?

Bill Murray was on excellent form as the depressed middle-aged actor Bob Harris, who made having large amounts of money look incredibly dull.

Scarlett Johanssen played Charlotte, a lonely young woman who had come along for the ride on husband John's (Giovanni Ribisi) photography job, and just wanted to figure out where her life was going.

The chemistry between the pair was electrifying in a very innocent and pure kind of way, and I like the fact that nothing happened between them. I like the idea that not everything in friendship has to be about sex.

A nice, feel-good film about loneliness, and finding friendship in strange places.

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Quick Review: One Day

"One Day" is the novel that I often attribute as being the book that reintroduced me to reading, following a very lengthy post-University slump. I actually picked it up on a P&O Ferry, and fell in love with everything about it - the characters, the narrative style, the ideas, and an ending that absolutely knocked me for six, I was not expecting it.

As a film, "One Day" was always going to be a huge challenge, because romantic drama-type films are never really that long in length - traditionally - so, it was going to be difficult squeezing as much in, as the book could. That being said, I was always glad that author David Nicholls (who also wrote "Starter For Ten") jumped on board to write the screenplay. I always have a great deal of respect for writers who also work on the screenplay for their own novel (or even direct the entire film a la Stephen Chbosky!).

The overall result wasn't too bad. It did feel a bit rushed at times, and had I not read the book, I do wonder if I might have found it a bit confusing with all the jumps through time.

The thing that really pulled this film together - for me - was definitely the cast. Okay, so yes, I would have preferred an English Emma, and Anne Hathaway's Yorkshire accent was more a mish-mash of Londener and Yorkie with a very slight American twang coming through occasionally. However, she played Emma beautifully, and created the exact character that I had imagined of Emma.

I'd never seen Jim Sturgess in anything before watching this, so I didn't really know what to expect. Initially, he hadn't looked like Dex to me, but having seen the film, I thought that he was great. He had the perfect combination of sleazy charm, a face you wanted to punch, but a hint of likeability.He was never a character that you were supposed to love, after all.

Overall, the film wasn't perfect, but if you like a love story that isn't perfect or all about the comedy, then this is a definite one to catch up on.

Check out the DVD, for only £3 on Amazon:


Or, if you fancy it, give the book a look. It's much more in-depth and I personally preferred it over the film:


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MAN OF STEEL REVIEW



Producer: Christopher Nolan
Director: Zack Snyder
Written by: David S Goyer and Christopher Nolan

Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon

Let's face it, Man of Steel has received plenty of negative criticism from the critics and for a moment I was unsure whether to see the film. Thankfully, I chose to ignore much of the critical response and I'm to say I enjoyed the film. It wasn't perfect and I had a few gripes but as a Superman reboot for the modern age it worked just fine.

What was good about it?

Basically Nolan and Snyder have essentially reinvented Superman as a science fiction epic and in doing so they have created a believable world for Superman to exist in. The Donner era of Superman was more fantasy based. That worked at the time but these days we expect our superhero films to be grounded in the real world. Nolan's Batman films are key examples. I'd like to say that this approach worked without a problem but I'd be lying. But I'll get to that later. Man Of Steel is a reboot that works on almost every level. Superman certainly has an interesting origin this time around with the whole natural birth idea which is certainly a novel twist on the character. Superman's origins also tie in really well with the Zod story arc. It felt like there was plenty of depth to the character. He wasn't just attacking earth to take it over. He was patriotic to his home world and he wanted to keep it alive. In a way, who could blame him. Ok, his plan had just a hint of madness to it but it all served to give the fight scenes plenty of weight.

Man of Steel offers up a different kind of Superman, a brooding, quite often angst ridden version of the character. Many critics didn't like this but I just saw it as a dose of realism. We've never seen hat side of Superman/Clark Kent before. But let's face it, of course he's going to be angry and angsty - he grew up not knowing who his real parents were, his freaky powers made him unpopular at school and to top it all off he watched his father die because he promised not to reveal his powers, thus he was unable to save him from a disaster, one that I won't mention. I don't mind angsty characters in films as long as there's a darn good reason for it and in Man of Steel the reasons are good enough for me.

Right then, what else did I enjoy? Well, for starters, there was plenty of action. More than enough to make up for the lack of action in Superman Returns. Was it action overkill? Not really. I probably would have been happier if ten or so minutes was shaved off but it's probably better than not enough excitement. Besides as I've already said, General Zod had plenty of reason to fight, he was fuelled by a desire to recreate his own world on Earth, which in turn gave Superman reason to fight back. And fight they do - leveling cities, flinging people around like rag dolls and throwing vehicles and other heavy objects as if they were lego bricks. If it ain't tied down they throw it and if it is tied down they'll throw it anyway.

The performances are pretty good with Henry Cavill delivering the goods as the Man of Steel. Amy Adams
doesn't disappoint either as Lois. Thankfully the romance aspect was kept to a minimum as you'd expect in an origin story. I'm sure we'll see more of that in the sequel. Russel Crowe played a great Jor - El with more screen time than Brando's original. There's a fun moment in the film as he gives Lois a helping hand. Now onto the big bad villain. I expected more from Michael Shannon performance wise. He was good, don't get me wrong, but he he was no game changer. However, he was a good match for supes and he had that all important sinister side so all in all he wasn't too bad. I suppose I would have liked to have seen the same sadness for the loss of Krypton that Clark showed. And let's not forget Kevin Costner. He played a good, philosophical pa Kent while Diane Lane gave us a strong Martha Kent.


The bad points

No film is perfect so on to the bad points. As I said earlier, the action can be a bot overwhelming particularly near the end of the film where it becomes a bit difficult to follow what's going on. The amount of cgi was a tad too much as well with cgi supes and Zod looking a bit, well, computer gamey. The story was a bit rushed in places. I wanted to see more of young Clark as he tried to cope (or not) with his strange powers.

Overall opinion

Man of Steel is a decent film and a great start to the series. It was unlike any other superhero film I've ever seen (and I don't say that very often). The combinaiton of Snyder and Nolan made for a very interesting atmosphere. Snyder's style came through on the visual front with awesome sci fi imagery and in your face action scenes, while Nolan tones things down with an interesting story.It all works rather well and it serves as an excellent foundation for the next films in the series. It will be interesting to see how the series develops.

Score

It could have been a classic. If only the story had been just that little bit tighter, if only the effects had been toned down blah blah. You know the score, pardon the pun. There's still plenty to recommend in the film. It's clever, exciting and it's got some interesting set pieces. There's some decent performances too. On that note I give it the following score:

Rating: 8.4 / 10
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