Saturday, 1 February 2014

Wrapping Up January - 2014

   One month down. I'm behind on the new releases (again), but let's get right into this and go through the films I saw in January:

Pet Sematary

A Werewolf Boy



The Uninvited

The Wind Rises


The Missing


Baraka


Princess Mononoke (re-watch)

Hot Fuzz

Hellboy II: The Golden Army


Jeepers Creepers 2

The Descent




Alien 3

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Cowboys & Aliens

   From Hot Fuzz right through to Insidious: Chapter 2 was a movie marathon day. It was over forty degrees, too hot to go outside, so a whole day was spent on the couch, fans blasting, watching whatever DVDs happened to be in the house! I loved Hot Fuzz, maybe not quite as much as Shaun of the Dead, but it was still very funny. Frost and Pegg are such a classic duo. I can't wait to finish off Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy! 


   The Descent (cave diving adventure gone wrong) really got me with it's jump scares and general claustrophobic feeling! The Uninvited featured a great performance by Emily Browning, and I was pretty hooked by the story. Insidious 2 loses a little of its effect on re-watch, but I was still freaked out - just because I'm watching way more horror than I used to doesn't mean the genre doesn't still get to me! 

   Korean fantasy/drama A Werewolf Boy was very moving and a simple, beautiful story. I would highly recommend it. Baraka, the precursor to Samsara, was...intense, to say the least! It's an absolutely incredible documentary if you let it all just wash over you, but it takes a while to sink in. If I'm going to pick a favourite for the month of January though, then it'll have to be a tie between The Hobbit, and Hayao Miyazaki's final masterpiece, The Wind Rises. I can't wait to bring you all a review of The Wind Rises in the coming weeks at ReelGood. 


   Tomorrow, I'm off to see Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Rebellion - the final film to wrap up one of my favourite series! See you all soon! 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Review - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

   Better late than never. That goes for seeing the film itself, and for writing this review, and good lord, have I been dying to write this down. I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on the fifth of January, and as I sit down to write this it's the fifteenth. It's been an odd combination of lack of time and lack of motivation that's been stopping me. But enough of that - it's safe to say that The Hobbit had been one of my most anticipated films for 2013. The Lord of the Rings are in my top ten films of all time, I devoured the books, and I really loved An Unexpected Journey. It would have been so easy for Smaug to crumble under the weight of expectation, and for some, it just didn't measure up. Not so for me. Maybe it's my blind love for Tolkien getting in the way, but I enjoyed every second of this film, and left the cinema feeling absolutely gleeful.

   The Desolation of Smaug picks up almost exactly where the first film left off. Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellan), and the Dwarves have narrowly escaped the Goblins in the Misty Mountains, but they're not out of danger yet. The Goblins are in pursuit. The Dwarves and Bilbo must make their way through the dark forest of Mirkwood, and the domain of King Thranduil (Lee Pace), if they are to have any hope of reaching the Lonely Mountain in time. If they do not find the secret door to the dragons lair before Durin's Day (the last day of autumn), then all hope if entering the mountain will be lost. Meanwhile, Gandalf can no longer ignore the threat of the dark power in Mirkwood, and sets off on his own to investigate the Necromancer...


   The second in this epic trilogy was packed with more action, more characters, and visuals that could put many a fantasy film to shame. The depth (especially with the 3D) and the intricacy of it all will leave you absolutely awestruck. The level of detail in the Elvenkings Halls, in Laketown, and most importantly of all, in Smaug's lair, are enough to match anyones wildest dreams. The action is kept tight and fast-paced, despite the films overall length, and nearly every moment is absolutely enthralling.

   Where Smaug is able to expand upon and better the first film, is in character development. Some of the dwarves, especially Fili (Dean O'Gorman), Kili (Aiden Turner), and even Balin (Ken Stott), stand out from the group, but the development is particularly strong when it comes to the main players of Bilbo and Thorin (Richard Armitage). Bilbo has changed a lot since his journey from the Shire - he has grown braver and bolder, but there is still the touch of the finicky hobbit about him, which Freeman brings across wonderfully in the smallest of gestures and movements. Now however, Bilbo has also found the ring. There is an absolutely brilliant moment in Mirkwood, in which Bilbo feels its evil influence, acts, then realises what has happened and what he has done. He's mortified - those familiar with The Lord of the Rings will recognise what is happening, and for those who aren't it's a shocking moment, brilliantly done. In the meantime, Richard Armitage brings new dimensions to Thorin, in a subtle but powerful performance. The Dwarf King, who in the previous film was so regal and aloof (even a little cold) has warmed up to Bilbo considerably, but the lust of gold is growing upon him, and his stubborn nature brings about more trouble than good, especially in his confrontation with Thranduil.


   Speaking of Thranduil, the newcomers are all brilliant too. Lee Pace brings us a practically sinister take on the Elvish King, showing us that while Elves may be considered the wisest and fairest, they are just as capable of selfishly looking after their own interests. He was a joy to watch. Luke Evans is Bard, a merchant and archer of Laketown, whose personal history is closely tied to that of the Dwarves. He is instantly likable. Orlando Bloom, returning as Legolas, is solid, but the real standout for me was Evangeline Lilly as the Captain of the Guard, Tauriel. She brings a much needed female presence to what is essentially an all-male movie, and it's great to see one who is smart, capable, and strong. I adored her. The entire cast are excellent on their own, but together, they form meaningful and emotional bonds. Thorin and Bilbo, Bilbo and Gandalf, Tauriel and Legolas, Tauriel and Kili - the audience becomes completely and totally invested in these friendships and relationships, which are at the heart of this monumental journey.


   I can't end this without saying a little about Smaug the magnificent - his appearance is suitably jaw-dropping, and his deep, guttural voice (courtesy Benedict Cumberbatch) resonates long after he has disappeared from sight. He does not disappoint.

   When I rated An Unexpected Journey, I gave it five stars. I still stand by that, because I enjoyed it so immensely, but looking back (and a recent re-watch) I did start to feel the length a bit more. Towards the end of The Desolation of Smaug I also started to feel the length, but that doesn't change the fact that I think it was absolutely amazing, and I would even say it was better than the first one. I won't go back and change the old rating on the first movie, so the only thing I can do is give this film the same rank (even though I swore I'd stop doing ranks!)

   5/5 - A spectacular film.

   

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Wrapping up December - 2013 + Outlook for 2014...

   All up in 2013, I watched 194 films. That's fairly large for me, although I was honestly hoping I could do more. There were times where I simply had no energy, or didn't feel like it, or had no time, and why force yourself? You probably aren't going to enjoy a film if you don't feel like watching anything in the first place.

   If I could beat 194 films for 2014, I would be very much surprised. I'm going back to university, to get my Bachelor of Communications and Media (Honours). I'm super excited about it, and I know that my topic (when I finally get around to settling on one) will be cinema related. I also know how much pressure and stress I will be under, having witnessed friends go through the Honours program in 2013. My writing for this blog has also been dropping off, and even though I've been going fairly steady over at ReelGood, that may change as well as my workload increases. We'll see what happens - I never want to give up on this blog completely, and if the mood and inspiration takes me, of course I will write! One post a week sounds like a good starting goal at this point, but I'm not going to cause myself any undue stress and hold myself to it. 

   There's basically so much I want and need to do this year - get a firmer idea of what direction I want my career to take; get my license; get work (any casual work would be nice!); watch more movies; read more books; most importantly, I desperately want to spend more time with friends and loved ones. I want to look back on 2014 and think, 'Success!' 

   Enough of that now - here's a quick look at what I watched in December:

V/H/S/2

Shelter

Short Term 12


Philomena

Patrick (1978)

Ravenous

Dead Silence


Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Frozen


Friday the 13th (1980)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Poltergeist (re-watch)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

In Bruges

Wreck-It Ralph (re-watch)

Spirited Away (re-watch)


Man of Steel

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

   I know what you're all thinking. You're wondering why I haven't seen The Desolation of Smaug yet if I'm such a big fan of the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - I KNOW, I KNOW, AND I'M HEARTILY ASHAED OF MYSELF! I'm going to try and watch it this weekend. But, I did see some of the other major Boxing Day releases, including Short Term 12, Philomena, and Frozen, and I thoroughly enjoyed all three. Short Term 12 is probably my favourite film of this year, next to Frances Ha. 

   I also saw some fairly major films that had been missing from my list for far too long - In Bruges, Scott Pilgrim, Friday the 13th - thoroughly enjoyed all of them, but I think my favourite film (apart from ST12) that I was introduced to would be Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Gotta love some Sam Rockwell action. It was funny, thrilling, and the cast were superb. Very stylish. 

   Spirited Away has become my traditional Boxing Day fare, and I love it more and more every time. What I also loved on the second time around was Wreck-It Ralph - I only gave it a 3/5 on my first watch, and I'm shaking my head at that score now (also probably why I don't really do scores any more!) It's at least a four, and incredibly endearing. 

   Welcome to January, 2014 everyone - I hope your New Year is safe, happy, prosperous, and full of good things. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

ReelGood Reviews - DBZ, Short Term 12, and Philomena...

   Despite the weather in Melbourne being decidedly non-summer like, life has been relaxed and fun and full of social interactions for me these past few weeks. We wrapped season three of Live on Bowen with a spectacular Christmas special, which should be available to watch to your hearts content on Youtube very soon. I've got a few more reviews that I've been sitting on that will hopefully be posted either here, or on ReelGood, very soon, but for now...

   I love DBZ, and this was a massive nostalgia kick for me. I had a lot of fun, though if you're not already a Dragon Ball fan, you might find this difficult to get into...


   This really was special. So special. I want to take this movie home and wrap myself up in it over and over again. I definitely think I'm going to see it again in the cinemas. Go see it if you haven't already (out in Australia Boxing Day). 


   All hail Dame Judi Dench!


   Upcoming review - Frozen! See you then!


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Carrie (Kimberly Peirce; 2013)

   There have been rumblings against Kimberly Peirce's remake of the classic film Carrie since it was announced. To counter this, the filmmakers seem to have pulled out all the stops to try and ensure the film is a success, such as the casting of the brilliant Julianne Moore and that amazing marketing campaign. With so many people staunchly against a re-imagining of the classic Brian De Palma film starring Sissy Spacek, I really wanted this adaptation to succeed. It had that underdog feeling about it. Unfortunately, while I found some things to praise, Carrie did not exceed the heavy expectations placed upon it. 


   The story is by now familiar - Carrie White (Grace Moretz) is shy and an outcast amongst her classmates. She is overly protected, sheltered, and abused by her God-fearing, religious mother Margaret (Moore). Carrie is also in possession of strange telekinetic powers, and is slowly becoming more aware of them, and of how to control them. After a particularly cruel incident at school, classmate Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) feels guilty about the way Carrie is being treated and gets her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to prom so that Carrie can have one special night at high school. Their classmates however, especially the spoilt and vindictive Chris (Portia Doubleday) have other plans...


   Right from the opening scenes, it is clear that the strong point and highlight of this film is Julianne Moore. She brings a wonderfully deranged, creepy edge to Margaret White. Margaret clearly has a strong emotional control over Carrie, and their relationship is perhaps more damaging to the young woman than anything that her classmates have ever done to her (thus far, at least). It's riveting, and Moore's performance brings out the best in Moretz. Their scenes together in the film are truly the most disturbing. 


   Sadly, this is where a lot of my praise for the film must end. None of the cast are terrible - I thought Moretz was able to capture a nice sense of timidity, and that Ansel Elgort was a good choice for the role of the likable, easy going Tommy. What they all had to struggle with was dialogue that often felt awkward and clunky, and a film that generally lacks any sense of originality. Yes, it is a story that has been told before, but that doesn't mean remakes don't have their merit. This just felt uninspired, and I struggled to maintain my interest. The final act in particular lacked tension, and Carrie's revenge, instead of being shocking or terrifying, just started to feel silly. 

   I feel absolutely ambivalent about this - to say I hated it would be lying, and courtesy of Moore, there were some enjoyable moments. But sadly, what started off fairly strong slowly went downhill. Don't feel too bad if you miss this one. 





Saturday, 30 November 2013

Wrapping Up November - 2013

   I think I watched more horror themed movies in November than I did in October! I went to the Iranian Film Festival, saw a bunch of good films (and one or two not so good ones), and I've had a bunch of fun being back in the studio. I'm also officially enrolled in my Honours degree for 2014, and I can't wait to get back to studying. I know that last part makes me sound a little crazy, but hey, it's going to be about cinema, and that's always fun!

   Alright, time for a very quick wrap up:

Bernie


The Scarlet Letter (1926)






Bend it like Beckham (re-watch)

Cinderella (1997)

The Slender Man



Grave Encounters

Sinister


Anchorman


Carrie (2013)


Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

28 Weeks Later



   The Day of the Doctor was an EVENT and it was an excellent tribute to a genius show. 

   I watched Anchorman, Bernie, and 28 Weeks Later all for the first time and I enjoyed them all. I didn't really know what to expect with 28 Weeks because a lot of people seem to have problems with it, but I found it quite slick and entertaining. Also, Robert Carlyle. Anchorman was just as funny as its reputation promised, and Bernie was brilliant. That Jack Black can act!

   On the horror front - Sinister, Insidious 2, and even Grave Encounters had me very creeped out. The Slender Man...not so much. In fact, worst cam horror I've ever seen. I watched it out of interest from playing the game and seeing a bunch of clever shorts on youtube. The premise is inherently creepy, but the film did nothing (it was crowd-funded apparently, but the execution was terrible). 

   Reviews of both Carrie and the new Dragon Ball Z movie to come in the near future (ahh DBZ...I was reliving my childhood...) As always, links above to the various reviews I was able to write, and bring on December and the Christmas movies!



Wednesday, 27 November 2013

ReelGood Reviews - Insidious Chapter 2, The Day of the Doctor, and more...

   It's been a busy couple of weeks for me - life-wise as well, but it's nothing serious, I promise! Let me bring you up to date with what I've had posted at ReelGood recently...


   Not quite as good as the original, but still pretty damn scary. I would be lying if I said I wasn't hiding my eyes. 



   I felt very privileged to have been able to see this - restored with the help of Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation, for a long time all copies of this pre-revolutionary Iranian film were considered destroyed. 



   I saw this directly after watching Downpour, and it was sweet and funny and very, very charming. Leila Hatami is wonderful, as is the films writer/director/lead actor Adel Yaraghi. Also, the script was co-written by the famed Abbas Kiarostami. 



   I didn't really have high hopes for this movie, and while it was better than I expected (with a surprising amount of heart and a good performance by Vince Vaughan) it still fell short of the mark for me. 


   And finally...


   50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL! WOOWOO!


See you next round of posts!