Category Archives: Films and Reviews

Movie Review – The Muppets (2011)

Film: The Muppets
Released: 2011
Director: James Bobin
Stars: Amy Adams, Jason Segel,  Chris Cooper, The Muppets

Synopsis:
When three Muppet fans learn that Tex Richman wants to drill under the Muppet Theater for oil, Gary, Mary and Walter set out to find the Muppets who have been split up for years so that they can put on one last show and save the Muppet Theater. Kermit the Frog now lives in his own mansion depressed in Hollywood, The Great Gonzo is a high-class plumber at Gonzo’s Royal Flush, Fozzie Bear performs with a tribute band called The Moopets, Miss Piggy is the plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, and Animal is at a celebrity anger management rehab center in Santa Barbara.

What I thought of it:
I love the Muppets. As a kid, I tuned in every week when The Muppet Show was on and laughed my little head off. I’ve loved loads of Muppet movies, and I thought I’d love this one too. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The main plot point was basically lifted directly from It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) with the Muppet theatre (and, in this case, the whole studio) being threatened by an evil business mogul, but it all fell apart pretty easily because the $10 million The Muppets need to raise to save the theatre could easily have been handed over by several of The Muppets themselves – after all, Kermit is living in a mansion in Bel Air, Gonzo owns and runs a massively successful plumbing company, and Miss Piggy is the plus size editor for Vogue.

Then there are the human stars – don’t get me wrong, I like Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper, but I hated them all in this. Especially Chris Cooper as the aforementioned business man who cannot actually give a maniacal laugh, so instead repeats over and over the words “Maniacal laugh.” It’s tedious and annoying after hearing it just once.

The song, “Man Or a Muppet” won an Oscar for best original song, but it was the best number in the film and, to be honest, wasn’t all that great either. And jack Black has become such an obnoxious parody of himself I’d be glad if I never saw him onscreen again.

If you ever liked The Muppets, please DO NOT see this film, unless you particularly want all your wonderful childhood memories of them trampled and smashed to smithereens.

Rating:

Movie Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Film: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Released: 2011
Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg

Synopsis:
Ethan Hunt and his team are racing against time to track down a dangerous terrorist named Hendricks, who has gained access to Russian nuclear launch codes and is planning a strike on the United States. An attempt by the team to stop him at the Kremlin ends in a disaster, with an explosion causing severe destruction to the Kremlin and the IMF being implicated in the bombing, forcing the President to invoke Ghost Protocol, under which the IMF is disavowed, and will be offered no help or backup in any form. Undaunted, Ethan and his team chase Hendricks to Dubai, and from there to Mumbai, but several spectacular action sequences later, they might still be too late to stop a disaster

What I thought of it:
The eagerly awaited fourth installment of the highly popular Mission Impossible franchise is certainly filled with eye-popping stunts and special effects, but that’s pretty much all it has to offer, which is a shame, because it has some serious talent involved. First we have Tom Cruise who just is Ethan Hunt; then you have Jeremy Renner, who has picked up the baton as lead of the Bourne reboot; and finally Simon Pegg, who is just fantastic in everything, even when the material isn’t so great.

So what went wrong?

The plot is a bit naff to be honest. The Kremlin and a possible nuclear war? Really? That is so old hat it’s practically fossilised. And we have pretty much the same stunts again (yes, that old drop and dangle is involved yet again, but this time Cruise has stepped back to let one of his co-stars hover just above danger). It was all fairly predictable and a little disappointing, making me hope that Hollywood will just leave this series alone now.

There were one or two really great stunts though – scaling the skyscraper is one that springs immediately to mind – and it’s still a fair bit of fun to watch, just don’t expect it to tax the brain too much or you’ll be twiddling your thumbs long after you work out what’s going on (which will happen fairly early in the film).

If you’re looking for a bit of mindless entertainment, watch this. But if you fancy something a bit more challenging, don’t bother. It’s popcorn fodder and nothing more.

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Movie Review – Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in (2008)

Film: Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in
Released: 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar

Synopsis:
Oskar, a bullied 12-year old, dreams of revenge. He falls in love with Eli, a peculiar girl. She can’t stand the sun or food and to come into a room she needs to be invited. Eli gives Oskar the strength to hit back but when he realizes that Eli needs to drink other people’s blood to live he’s faced with a choice. How much can love forgive? Set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982.

What I thought of it:
I recently watched the American remake of this film (Let Me In) which was released two years after this, the Swedish original. Other film fans had told me the original was far superior to the remake, so as I had enjoyed the later film, I thought I’d go back and watch this version too.

To be honest, I needn’t have bothered.

It’s not bad. Really, it’s not bad, and if I had seen this first, I might have enjoyed it more, but I think I still would have preferred the remake, which is remarkably unusual for me (the only other recent occurence being The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

I honestly cannot see why people rave about this film. Like I said, it’s not bad, but there’s nothing really spectacular about it either. The young leads were alright, but that’s as far as it went for me – the performances of the kids in the remake were a lot better; perhaps not surprising as both have filmographies as long as your arm and have done some sterling work in the past.

There were a few changes in scenes and storyline, but these were minimal and, once more, I thought the remake was tighter than the original and had better flow. Surprisingly, the almost sensual relationship between Eli and her “father” was downplayed even more than in the remake – I really thought it would be a little more overt.

Overall, I was slightly disappointed with this film, partly because of the hype but not entirely so – even if I hadn’t seen the newer film, this one would have been just as much of a let-down. It’s decidedly average fare – only watch it if you’re a total vampire nut and like to see every vampire film going, just to say you have.

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The Oscars 2012

Ah, the Oscars! The most eagerly anticipated movie awards ceremony of the year. We’ve already had the BAFTAs and various others, but when it comes to coveting an ornament saying “You’re brilliant at what you do in the film industry,” it’s that golden statuette that stands head and shoulders about the rest. (I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist the terrible pun!)

So, here are the categories with who I would like to win each award along with who I think will win them. Where the titles are highlighted, you can click on the links to be taken either to my review or my husband’s where I haven’t written one (of course, some we haven’t reviewed at all!). I’ve not included the documentary and animated short categories, as I have not seen any of the nominations and have no opinions on them:

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Movie Review – The Artist (2011)

Film: The Artist
Released: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell

Synopsis:
Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.

What I thought of it:
In an incredibly bold move, Hazanavicius has eschewed the big-budget reboots, remkes and franchises to bring us something both fresh that harks back to the earlier days of cinema complete with intertitles. In looking at the difficulties of a silent movie star to adapt to performaing in “talkies”, one realises that the modern filmstars will have had similar difficulties in protraying the exaggerated mannerisms of the silent movie era – something completely alien to today’s more natural style of acting.

Dujardin and Bejo both pull off this feat magnificently. Dujardin looks like a cross between David Niven and Vincent Price, with the elegance of Fred Astaire and the charm of Clark Gable (all stars of the later era of film-making, but no less important in their oeuvre). Bejo’s face perfectly encapsulates both the leading ladies of the silent era and the early talkies, with her “peppy” style truly living up to her character’s name, Peppy Miller.

It’s beautifully shot and the lack of sound other than the dramatic and theatrical score is wondrful. There is, however, one very clever scene that involves sound – George Valentin’s dream sequence – that serves to juxtapose his dilemma and inability to make the transition from silence to sound.

I can see why this film has been sweeping the awards season this year, and it really does deserve the recognition for stepping away from the “safe” arena of the blockbuster and giving us something spectacularly different. It’s not my favourite of the Oscar nominated films, but it’s pretty close and I think this one will once again win the coveted Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor as it did so recently at the BAFTAS. I can also see it scooping Art Direction, Cinematography and Costume Design, but I think Bejo will miss out on the Best Actress statue as she suffers the same misfortune as Michelle Williams in being pitted against Streep in one of her best ever performances as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

This is a must-see for fans of cinema and film history as well as for those who just enjoy seeing a really great film. It’s a joy to see and it will surely be seen as a timeless masterpiece and a classic over time. It is a pity that more production companies don’t take the risk and dare to be as different in their projects as this, because the results here are nothing short of stunning.

My hubby’s review HERE.

Rating:

~***~

I realise I have rated several Oscar-nominated films as 5/5 and this is very unusual for me, but they are all deserving of the highest rating I can give. There is very little in it and they all have the same rating, however here they are in order of my personal preference:

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Artist
  • My Week with Marilyn
  • The Iron Lady

Of course, this is only my personal preference and will most likely not be reflected in the choices of the judging panel of the Academy Awards, but I thought it was worth mentioning in case anyone wondered which films I enjoyed the most of those I had rated so highly.

Movie Review – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

Film: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Released: 2011
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, John Goodman,  Viola Davies

Synopsis:
Based on the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

What I thought of it:
I know I’ve rated a couple of films very highly, all of which are Oscar nominees for some of the big prizes (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress), but of all the ones I’ve seen to date, this one beats them all. So much so that I wish I could give it an extra mark and make it 6/5!

It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride from start to finish, with some great feel-good moments and even greater moments of utter anguish as we watch a young boy search for a connection with the father he has lost.

I cannot commend highly enough the young lead (Horn) in this film, especially as this is his first screen role (I know! I couldn’t believe it!). He shows a maturity, understanding and ability far beyond his years – honestly, you’d expect this kind of performance from an extremely seasoned actor many years his senior. His grasp of the character and his interpersonal relationships is phenomenal and his portrayal poignantly real. Bullock and Hanks are both excellent as his parents, but it is von Sydow’s silent performance that really makes the rest of the film. Than an actor can play a silent role in a film that is not silent, and still show such range and give a heartbreakingly wonderful performance is astonishing.

This is the film that should win Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (von Sydow), but it should also have been nominated for Best Director (Daldry), Best Actor (Horn), and Best Adapted Screenplay, and it is nothing short of a travesty that it has not. It truly deserves the highest rating I can give and I urge everyone to see it as soon as they possibly can. I promise, you will cry, but you will also find yourself feeling hopeful and happy.

My hubby’s review HERE.

Rating:

Movie Review: My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Film: My Week with Marilyn
Released: 2011
Director: Simon Curtis
Stars: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, Zoë Wanamaker, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi

Synopsis:
Based on the autobiographical books The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark.

Sir Laurence Olivier is making a movie in London. Young Colin Clark, an eager film student, wants to be involved and he navigates himself a job on the set. When film star Marilyn Monroe arrives for the start of shooting, all of London is excited to see the blonde bombshell, while Olivier is struggling to meet her many demands and acting ineptness, and Colin is intrigued by her. Colin’s intrigue is met when Marilyn invites him into her inner world where she struggles with her fame, her beauty and her desire to be a great actress.

What I thought of it:
First off, Williams is absolutely incandescent as the enigmatic Monroe; she absolutely nails her voice, mannerisms and playfulness as well as embodying her anguish, depression and anxiety. No matter who they had approached with a view to filling this role, they could never have done better than this. She actually give Streep a run for her money as a contender for Best Actress at the Oscars. She won’t win, which is something of a tragedy, because, well, because she’s up against Strep and she kind of has it in the bag, doesn’t she? Either way, Williams deserves a hell of a lot of recognition and accolade for her work on this film.

Secondly, Redmayne really proves his metal; he gives a sensitive portrayal of Clark and is a wonderful foil for Williams. He’s a major up-and-comer and I think we’re going to see a lot more of him in coming years. I certainly look forward to seeing him in Les Misérables later this year.

And there’s the superb supporting cast which reads like a who’s who of British talent, from Brannagh (at times you’d swear it was Olivier on the screen), to Wannamaker, Ormond, Scott and Cooper in smaller but pivotal roles. Watson struggles a little to throw off the schoolgirl Hermione, but she’s fresh-faced and sweet here, and given a little time and experience off the Harry Potter films, I think she’ll come into her own. There’s also Dench and Jacobi to add even more class in their bit-parts.

I am now determined to read the books as this glimpse into a short period in Marilyn’s life and work is absolutely fascinating. Monroe is charming and frustrating in equal measure, but always alluring, and her appeal is as strong today, fifty years after her tragically early death, as it was at the height of her career.

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Movie Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Film: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Released: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: (Voices) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Daniel Mays, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Cary Elwes

Synopsis:
Based on the characters from the comic book series The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé.

Intrepid reporter Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor.

What I thought of it:
Why this film hasn’t been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year Oscar  I will never understand! The animation on this movie is some of the most finely crafted I have ever seen. Just watching the movement of water or the reflection of light is startlingly real, but then you look at the expressions and natural movement of the characters and you get completely blown away! I swear, if it weren’t for the fact that the heads are abnormally large for the bodies, and the features exaggerated and charicature-style, you’d be hard pushed to believe that it was animated at all. If that isn’t a major achievement, I don’t know what is!

Surprisingly, the only category for which Tintin is nominated are Original Score (which, admittedly, is very good) – it has been completely snubbed for all the technical categories as well as the aforementioned Best Animated Feature. I take this as a sure sign that the world has gone completely mad, because this film is AWESOME!

The plot is exciting and fast paced, the voice talent is staggering, and, well, have I already mentioned how amazing the animation is? I think I did. Yes, I’m sure I did, but it’s worth mentioning again – THE ANIMATION IS BRILLIANT! And the writing – Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish are a triumvirate of genius who should never be allowed to part!

I sincerely hope there are more Tintin films in the pipeline because I, for one, would be dying to see them. And yes, the film is left tantalisingly open for that possible sequel, so that glimmer of hope is most assuredly burning.

If you haven’t already seen it, do so, as soon as possible, and marvel at just how far animation has come, as well as being swept along on an amazing adventure.

Hubby’s review HERE.

Rating:
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Movie Review – The Woman in Black (2012)

Film: The Woman in Black
Released: 2012
Director: James Watkins
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds

Synopsis:
Based on the novel, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.

What I thought of it:
I was brought up on Hammer Horror films, so it’s wonderful to see the greatest of the British horror production companies so firmly back on track with the latest film version of this novel. I’ve spent my entire life trying to find a film that will really scare me. Along the way I’ve found plenty that have made me jump, but none that have completely creeped me out. This, however, came very close. The best test of this came when I went to get a snack from the kitchen and felt like I was being watched from the darkened corridor… and nobody was there!

This is Radcliffe’s real coming of age – with this film, he’s leaving behind Harry Potter and schoolboy roles to take on a more adult one and, on the whole, it works very well for him. He still looks and sounds rather young to be playing a father, but he acquitted himself very well and I look forward to seeing where he goes next.

Having watched the made-for-television version (1989) in the latter half of last year, it was still fresh in my mind and I hoped that this remake would live up to my expectations, both of the earlier version and the promise shown in the trailer. It didn’t let me down. This is a genuinely creepy film that has some spine-tingling moments and several “made you jump!” shots too (I counted three times that I caught myself physically jerk, and that has to be some kind of a record for me!).

Ciarán Hinds is always a pleasure to watch – I’ve never seen him turn in a bad performance and he can make the worst material better just by being there on the screen. He certainly wasn’t wasted here and when he has really good material with which to work, he really shines – Hinds really should be marked as one of our national treasures.

One of my greatest worries was that we’d get a cop-out, Hollywood-ised ending, but I promise you, my fears were (mostly) ungrounded, so I must applaud the director for not frittering away a great ghost story for the feel-good factor.

And on a final note, I really must read the book because I’ve now seen TWO cracking adaptations and am just dying to check out the source material!

Hubby’s review HERE.

Rating:
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Movie Review – Hugo (2011)

Film: Hugo
Released: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths

Synopsis:
Based on the novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

Hugo is an orphan boy living in the walls of a train station in the 1930s in Paris. He fixes clocks and other gadgets as he learned to from his father and uncle. The only thing that he has left that connects him to his father is an automaton that doesn’t work; Hugo has to find its heart-shaped key. On his adventures, he meets with a cranky old man who works in the train station and his adventure-seeking god-daughter. Hugo finds that they have a surprising connection to his father and the automaton, and as he discovers it, the old man starts remembering his past and his significance to the world of film-making.

What I thought of it:
Another much-nominated film, directed by the recipient of the BAFTA Academy Fellowship award this year, but another disappointment. There are some sterling performances from heavyweights of the British film industry (Kingsley, Winstone) but there are also similarly familiar names in inconsequential roles that really didn’t need to be included as they added nothing to the story at all (Griffiths, de laTour).

Sacha Baron Cohen is turning out to be a joy to watch on-screen – he is fast leaving behind his days of Ali G and moving into the realm of character actor and I can see him becoming a force to be reckoned with as each time I see him perform, he makes me smile and surprises me with his versatility (I’m not talking about the likes of Borat or Bruno). Kingsley is, as always, nothing short of wonderous. He is a class act that adds something special to every production that is lucky enough to feature his immense talent. And the young leads (Butterfield, Moretz) are definitely stars in the making and we should all keep an eye on their future projects. I predict great things for both of them.

But here’s the rub. The film is dull. I was pretty much bored rigid for most of it, and as I am someone who adores cinema, I figured I should be the kind of person who would love this ode to its early history and one of its great founding fathers. I didn’t. I was, as I have already mentioned, left disappointed.

There are some gorgeous effects and some bizarre dreamlike sequences (I really wasn’t surprised to find this film was produced by Johnny Depp), and I can see it perhaps picking up a few Oscars in the way of visual effects and that sort of thing, but if this wins Best Picture or Director, I will once again be giving a heavy sigh and shaking my head.

And on one final note, I cannot understand why the source novel is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret when young Hugo doesn’t actually invent anything – he just fixes things.

My hubby’s review HERE.

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