Friday, 31 January 2014

January: Film List

1. Elysium - maybe

The film was ok. Amazing idea but just an ok story and its mainly for one reason. Why can't the hero or as it started off in this film, the anti hero, just be out to save himself. Why does there always have to be a woman he used to know involved? And why does this woman always have to have a child, who is sick or dying? By the way these aren't spoilers, you find these things out in the first few minutes of the film. The idea behind the annoying characters is brilliant, two societies, the wealthy who live in space on Elysium, run by a corrupt government and the those who live in poverty and constant sickness on Earth. The film sold to me on the grounds that Max, the 'hero' of the story was dying of radiation sickness and had days to live. Once notorious criminal, he uses his past connections to get to Elysium to use their machines that can cure literally anything. But then the woman and child gets involved and I started to lose interest in the plot, I started rooting for the evil Jodie Foster and her crazy accent on Elysium. Its worth a watch, besides it has Sharlto Copley in it, its worth watching the film just for him. 3/5

2. Pacific Rim - maybe

If you have seen the Honest Trailers trailer for this film then you know exactly what to expect, big robots fighting big monsters. The original trailers said this, the poster screams this, basically, the film does exactly what it says on the tin. There is a sort of story about one pilot who loses his brother, the other pilot and its about him coping with his grief then he is asked to come back and fight. But the action sequences take up most of the film, and the fight scenes are good but long. The basic plot line is, monsters from another dimension emerge every few months at first from the beneath the Pacific ocean and attack cities, the attacks become more frequent so Earth builds giant robots to fight back, these are piloted by two people who have to be 'drift compatible' meaning they have to share minds. I suppose its just a fun action film with science fiction thrown in. 3/5

3. Admission - maybe

Love Tina Fey so when I saw this for very cheap in HMV, home it went. Typical set up. Tina Fey plays an Admissions Officer for Princeton College. She has been living with a professor from the college for years and live a quiet unexciting existence, this is until Paul Rudd shows up. he runs a progressive school, where the children are taught how to make things, like shelters and how to look after animals. He tells her that one of his students, the only interested in attending college, is her son. From there, the film snowballs, things get worse then hopefully but ultimately I felt that the film had too many negative ending points. It needed at least one lose end to be positive. Still, a funny film featuring a very awesome and funny lady and Lily Tomlin who was hilarious. 3/5

4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - HIT

This film was far more than I expected it to be. It made me want to travel to Greenland and Iceland, the landscapes are amazing. Walter Mitty is a quiet guy who works at world famous (actually real) magazine called LIFE, that actually did shut down in 2000. He takes care of all the negatives, the photographs and has built up a friendship with famous photojournalist Sean O'Connell through his work that he sends to the magazine. Walter is shy and has a crush on temp worker Cheryl. After the magazines plans to turn to digital everyone is under threat of losing their jobs. The managers have decided to have the cover of the magazine be Sean O'Connell's photo but its missing. This spurs Mitty on to search for Sean and the missing negative. It is such an inspiring film, with mixture of daydreams and reality that doesn't come across as tacky or annoying and well thought out and feels right. I was surprised to see that Ben Stiller not only stars as Mitty but also directed, I think I can give Stiller a lot more credit than I had in the past. 4/5

5. 47 Ronin - maybe

Based on Japanese folk tales and legends, it looks spectacular but the story, woe the story. The film was ok but it could have been a whole lot better. All the Japanese and Asian actors were great, wish they could have just spoken in their own language, it would have made the film more authentic. I know most will question the presence of Keanu Reeves but unfortunately he has a sort of annoying purpose and the ending is unbelievably ridiculous and I don't mean foolish, I mean tragic. There are some good fight scenes and the costumes are beautiful but as I said the story lacks drive and there is little passion in the narrative that in some parts, makes it difficult to care. This film could have been so much better. 2/5

6. August: Osage County - HIT

I didn't realise this was originally a play until 10 minutes in. It felt like there was too much dysfunction for it not to be. Family doesn't gather without the purpose of certain truths coming to light, starting with the funeral of a character who makes such an impression yet is only in the film a few minutes. Based on the play of the same name by Tracy Letts who also wrote the screenplay for the film. The Weston family gather at the home of Violet, the domineering, loud foul mouthed mother of three daughters, Ivy, Barbara and Karen. Bervery, their father has died, suspected suicide, and the family including Violet's sister, Mattie Fae and her husband Charles come for the funeral. Truths are found out, chaos ensues and ultimately, most of the families' lives are ruined. A brilliant film, I would have liked to se it on stage. 4/5

7. American Hustle - HIT

This film was brilliant. The story, the cast, the clothes, it was worthy of all those nominations and wins. I don't want to ruin this film in any way because I think it's a film you have to see for yourself, plus its too complicated to sum up in a paragraph. Christian Bale and Amy Adams are two con artists, small scams but get caught by an arrogant FBI agent who is too eager to move up in the ranks. He forces them to set up an elaborate operation to trap corrupt politicians in order to gain their own freedom. The con artists are a team but things almost all go wrong due to Jennifer Lawrence's character, the wife of Bale's. She hilarious but awful, truly awful. She uses her young son who is adored by Bale's character, as leverage. Its a con artist, drama about trust and knowing who you are. 5/5

8. Blue is the Warmest Colour - maybe

I had heard so much about this film, all the controversy about the director abusing his actors, such as forcing them to do certain scenes and such. I'm sure everyone had heard of the controversy about it being a love story, a lesbian love story. It's just a love story from its beginning to its middle and then after that (trying not to ruin anything). I'm glad I saw it as I wanted to see what the fuss was about, it did win the Palm d'Or at Cannes Film Festival and that's a pretty big deal. But, this film was 3 hours, way too long for a film like this. Too long. There were so many scenes that needed a serious edit or could have been cut out. The two leads were very good, especially during a fight scene, they both were impressive, even if one did annoy me throughout the film, she never closed her mouth. It was a good realistic love story and never want to see it again. 3/5

Film Cinema Videorental WatchList Elysium Admission TinaFey PacificRim WalterMitty AmericanHustle Blueisthewarmestcolur 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Magic Is In The Air And The Studio

Its been open a while now and I admit I only really liked the 3rd and 4th films but hey, we all read the books when we were younger and we all secretly want to go see the studio.

This week I went to the Warner Brothers Studios, the Harry Potter studio tour to be exact and it was great day out!

Going to the studio reminded me of all those days out I went on when I was a child and with my family. There were quite a few families on our tour going round together. It was a mixture of tourists and families, unfortunately school groups and small groups of friends. It sort of reminded me of the exhibition of the Lord of the Rings films at the Science Museum.

It was very exciting walking onto some of the sets and looking at how each prop was made, really fascinating. I even had a go at the broomstick ride across London in front of green screen. Very uncomfortable but seeing as I knew I would buy the video or photo (too expensive) I went all out, going crazy and over the top on the broom. It was exciting wearing the cloaks too.

I was really bold over by the artwork. There was a cabinet full of the graphics created for the films, including posters, the Daily Prophet newspaper and the wizard magazine, The Quibbler. My friend and I had our noses pressed up against the glass, starring eagerly at the Marauder's Map. The coveted prize in the middle of the cabinet. We both said;

'this is what I wish was in the gift shop, we'll take this please'.

Not giving any secrets away but you get to see some major sets, such as The Great Hall, Griffindor rooms, the Potions Classroom and you actually get to wonder around, a little bit, in Dumbledore's office. The back lot has a few sets but I was most excited about the Knight bus, triple decker purple bus. Most of things I got excited about were from my favourite book in the series and favourite film, The Prisoner of Azkaban. Had my photo on it, like you do. then we enjoyed something I'm sure all people who read Harry Potter, a cup of Butterbeer and it was delicious.

After the cold outside, we wondered through the creature workshops and on to another highlight for me, Diagon Alley. The shops were all set up and if only we could have gone in to each of them. Again I just wanted to buy the set, one of those sets that you would want to live in.

After the alley it was some the most spectacular concept artwork on display. I really wished there had been some postcards of the art on sale in the shop but alas, nothing.

The tour ended on a definite high note. After being able to stare at the scale model of Hogwarts and explore it through interactive computers, we were all lead into Ollivander's Wand shop, where a very jolly and Harry Potter film expert welcomed everyone. All the wands had names on them, and we were told that each box represents a member of the cast or crew, there were 4,000 boxes. Very impressive. It was a fantastic end to the easy going tour.

I'm not the biggest Potter fan and I had a great time, I highly recommend going along to have a look round. If you love films and want to take in the splendour of British film crews' work, go visit the studios.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Unwatched Mountain

I should have made one of New Year's resolutions to watch all my unwatched films, especially those still in their wrappers because there are quite a few.

I have tried my darn hardest not to buy loads of new release DVDs. I've tried just renting films I missed and I've actually saved money, believe it or not. I've actually waited to buy films and TV I really want until its cheaper. I've been good, at least by my standards when it comes to buying films.

I have a MOUNTAIN to get through.

Of course, I have actually seen many of these films but never opened them. A couple in this pile I won in fluke competitions, some I waited ages to buy then never watched them. To be honest I didn't realise how big a pile there was! Going to add a resolution, get through this pile and any new additions there after.

I have a similar pile of books too, but that's a whole other story.

Friday, 24 January 2014

You Know, For Kids?

Friday seems to be blog day . . .

Going a bit art crazy at the moment and its mainly because I've got some art on the wall and that there are so many beautifully illustrated picture books out there!

After finding a much welcome book voucher and using my Waterstones card points I purchased this amazing book of maps. I had seen it on display and was very eager to have it as my own so the next time I was in Waterstones, I asked the lady 'do you have this book of maps, its quite big' I showed her a very small photo on my phone and the lady replied 'oh, you mean the beautifully illustrated one? Its in its second printing already.'

I am not exaggerating, it is amazing. But I was actually surprised that it was in the children's section. This is for children? I suppose they would love the pictures but to me, this is more for the child inside an adult to enjoy and explore.

I was looking at all the other 'picture' books on the book shelf we have on the landing. Some of these books I haven't even looked since I read them as a child. There was a favourite of mine, The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch by Ronda and David Armitage, we used to read this all the time. 

Then of course there were the classics, in my opinion, The Jolly Postman books by Allen and Janet Ahlberg. The books were so popular, there were even CD Rom games made, i of course had them both and played them on the ancient Mac from 1995. Does anyone remember CD Rom games? Do they still exist? I love all three because they were interactive, there letters and notes and books within books to read. When I was younger, I wanted to work in a post office, I even had my own mini post office I used to send out letters to people in the house. I wonder where it is . . .

There are the books that have amazing art work and illustrations, books that I don't remember reading, but looking over them now, I recognise the story and pictures.

Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew was given to me one Christmas. It was about a young girl and her Nana who visited a gallery. My aunt had written inside the cover 'for our Katie and her Nana'.

The Church Mice at Bay by Graham Oakley was a book I hadn't seen in years! The Mousehole Cat was given to me after my visit to Cornwall last year. While visiting Mousehole, I saw (and bought) so many postcards with the artwork on. I remembered reading it when I was last in Cornwall, which was probably over 15 years ago!

Then of course there are the old favourites that never disappear. I bought Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs this year because I felt sentimental, 40th anniversary and I was surprised that no one in my family actually had the book. It had wonderful, yes I said wonderful, illustrations and if you've seen the short film, then this is must to own.

Of course Tintin would be on my shelf, King Ottokar's Sceptre is just one of many much loved adventures of Tintin, and I think I should have made more a noise about Herge's creation on his actual birthday which was a few weeks ago.

How to Live Forever by Colin Thompson was given to my sister then to me. The drawings in the book are amazing, so much detail for a short simple but deep story. Read it and you'll understand.

Last but not least are the newest additions on my shelf, so new one does't even have a bar code. Almost an Alphabet by Katie Viggers and The Bumble Bear and The Grizzly Bee by Sandra Dieckmann are, you've guessed it by now, illustrators that I have become obsessed with from visiting the craft markets. Both beautiful books, I think you can purchase them online, if now, you can always ask them if they're at a craft market near you.

So there you have few book ideas for, you know, kids or if you don't know/have children, ideas for yourselves!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Oscar Outrage and Snubs Alike

I nearly screamed with delight at work when I saw that this years Oscar nominations were announced. I had a little extra time on my lunch break and thought I'd skim through some move news but delight quickly turned outrage. Last year I don't think I paid much attention to the awards but there are so many amazing films out this year.

I kinda predicted the Golden Globe winners after the nominations came out and the BAFTA nominations. All three big award ceremonies and they all have one MASSIVE snub in common, there are no nominations for the amazing Coen Brothers' film, Inside Llewyn Davis. No nomination for Best Picture, no nomination for best director and no nomination for best actor for Oscar Issacs. Its damn outrage!!! And its not just me thinking this. Its all over the Twittersphere, all over Empire magazine and Little White lies. Its everywhere, why were they snubbed?? The only think I take comfort in is that the Coens, really don't mind, but its still an outrage.

In fact there were so many snubs this year that Empire posted this on the website:
What To Say About This Year’s Oscar Snubs

I don't agree with everything but I do agree about the lack of nominations for Rush, a brilliant film where Daniel Bruhl should have been given a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but my theory was not that the film was released too early, it was because, he's German and in the Oscar's eyes, new. They loved Christoph Waltz but he was backed by Tarantino, a good ally.

The most talked about documentary of the year, Blackfish was snubbed by the Oscars. Can't think why. It was intelligent and thought provoking, maybe all the Oscar voters had shares in Sea World, who knows.

This wasn't mentioned in the article but annoyed me immensely. Spike Jonze was given a nomination for original screenplay and he won at the Golden Globes, deserved by the way, its truly beautiful film, but his lead actor in Her, Joaquin Phoenix was snubbed. Its ridiculous really, Phoenix is an amazing actor, yes he made that documentary, made people look like fools but it just shows how good an actor he is. He was nominated for The Master (and should have won) he's been nominated before and not won, its a crime. Its the same with Leonardo DiCaprio and everyone talks about that but they neglect one of the best actors, Phoenix. Very angry. Although Her has been nominated for best picture, it doesn't stand a chance.

I am still very angry that there are 10 films nominated for best picture and yet there was no room for Inside Llewyn Davis, which is better than more than half of the film nominated. It just shows its not always about talent, quality and story, its about famous people and favourites. But everyone knows that.

Here is a full list of the nominations: Oscars

Friday, 10 January 2014

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vs Willy Wonka

Technically this is not a straight out remake, its another version. But as I said, thats getting technical.

I've also gone against the rule of foreign languages remade in English, I'm focusing on Roald Dahl's favoured source material, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The films, the classic 70's film starring Gene Wilder; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory vs Tim Burton's film; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Beginning with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, made in 1971 and directed by Mel Smith, straight away this feels like an afternoon film to watch with the family. It also indicated, from the title, that this is Willy Wonka's story but in fact it is Charlie Bucket's. In Tim Burton's, the title is the original, but feels the opposite, more about Wonka than Charlie. The story, same in both films, is about an eccentric chocolate maker who had closed his factory for years after spy tried to get in and steal world famous chocolate recipes. Then one day it is announced that Wonka, the chocolate maker is opening his doors to just 5 lucky people who find the 5 golden tickets hidden in his chocolate bars. The winners are from Europe and America. Five very different children, four awful, one good. They are taken on a tour of the factory and one by one fall foul and end up, some of them, disfigured, after not listening to Wonka. The only one to not disobey is Charlie Bucket who is rewarded by Wonka who gives him the factory. In truth he held the competition to find a heir to his life's work. He invites Charlie and his family to live in the factory and live happy ever after. The 1971 classic, as it is indeed a classic, follows this story roughly to a tee. The film is also a musical but actually only has a few songs, most of which are sung by the mysterious Oompa Loompas, the workers in the factory. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is just perfect. As comedic actor, he portrays the humerous moments with a sinister edge, which in my opinion is what the roles calls for. The cast of children and parents are good, but don't leave a last effect. Once they meet their demise, they are easy to forget. You tend to remember how they disappeared but that is all. Unfortunately, the film does show its age and feels dated. The typical 70's family film feel is there, which is why I think it would an excellent edition to the afternoon movie. But as an adaptation, its lacks depth past Wonka's exciting character.

Tim Burton's version of Road Dahl's beloved classic, made in 2005, was rather more in keeping with the story. For example Veruca Salt, the little brat from London does in fact end up in the nut room, unlike the 70's films where she is deemed a 'bad egg' in the chocolate egg room. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a brighter, colourful film but still manages to show the darker side the story. The Oompa Loompas sign their songs, but the characters point out that the songs sound rehearsed, as if they predicted these events would happen. It feels as if Willy Wonka planned the demise of the children, setting them up. He knows Augustus is greedy, he would be first to go, he knows that Violet could not resist new gum, Veruca is spolit and would demand something impossible and finally he knows that Mike is just a mean child who would try anything related to technology. The last point is thin but a valid point. The dark side and purpose to Willy Wonka is better played out in the Tim Burton's film but there are still several aspects of the film that don't quite fit together. Mostly the added storyline about Wonka's past. That was added nonsense.

The question of where the factory is in the world both infuriates me and puzzles me. All the inhabitants are obviously British, they even dress like Brits. They may sound off, but you can tell if characters are British by their clothes. So, all British, but they have American words coming out of their mouths, like candy and dollars. It's not candy its CHOCOLATE!! I don't understand why Tim Burton did this. Is this film set in alternative future where America invaded the UK? Or is the factory and the town actually in USA and the entire inhabitants just emigrated together to live there? The only American living in this town is the woman in the shop where Charlie finds the ticket and she offers him $500. That is literally it.

Apart from the shiny and new look to Tim Burton's film, the film does have an excellent cast. All the children play their parts perfectly, even the well matched parents. Of course Charlie Bucket is sickly sweet and Grandpa Joe is an enthusiastic old man, but there is one role I didn't take to and he really was a deal breaker. Johnny Depp just wasn't Willy Wonka. He was crazy character and no doubt played on the dark side of the story very well, but he just too weird and I could not empathise with him over anything.

Verdict: Even though Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a classic, it deterred from its source material. It was great film but this round goes to Charlie and Chocolate Factory. Overlooking its 'is this in UK or US' debate, it felt like the book had come to life.

However, if I was to decide on the deal breaking character and make this decision, the outcome is different.

Wonka vs Wonka

Even though I've read that Gene Wilder's Wonka looked like a serial killer and you wouldn't leave your children alone with him, he still wins this Wonka off. In my opinion, Johnny Depp's Wonka was the serial killer with father issues and should in no way be allowed to see the light of day. Wilder's Wonka was how I imagined a Roald Dahl character to be. Wonka has a heart and is eccentric but he has a sinister side, like all Dahl creations.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

It's All About Art

My sister gave the idea. She wrote a post on her blog about artists she liked. I noticed some of my favourite artists are holding January sales on Etsy (a site where you can buy handmade art, crafts and stationary) and thought about changing up my room and adding some much needed art to the walls. Of course I have had film posters up on my walls since time began but I thought, its a new year, perfect time to make some changes.

I have assembled my favourites artists and illustrators:

James Jean designed all the covers of the Vertigo comic from the first issue in 2002 until this cover, issue 81, my favourite.

I became obsessed with Leah Flores' artwork just because of those three words, let's run away.

I read all 13 volumes of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and I loved the illustrations by Brett Helquist, detailed, delicate and cruel, just like the stories. I founs some brilliant illustrations from A Christmas Carol.

Another Fables comic alumni, Mark Buckingham has done the artwork for nearly all the Fables to date.
Sandra Dieckmann is new favourite artist. First noticed her work on Etsy, Ohh Deer and at the Crafty Fox Market, it was Tukota the White Bison that caught my eye. This is one of favourites of her's. 

I loved Alice Tams' work when I first saw it in an old issue of Oh Comely and was thrilled when she was at the Crafty Fox Market.

Viktorija is also from the Crafty Fox Market and new artist I like. It was her Wes Anderson character postcards that I caught my attention.

I remember reading a book called 'Mouse's Scrapbook' by Michelle Cartlidge, I loved it as it was a smaller version of Janet and Allen Ahlberg's amazing Jolly Postman books. I loved the illustrations when I was young and was thrilled when I was in Cornwall last year when I found the author.illustrator's latest book.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year, New Goals

Looking back over my goals from last year, I am happy to say that I did actually achieve them all apart from saving money. I did say I would go to Budapest but I went to Cornwall, fair trade.

Behold! Here be my goals for 2014:

1. Finish novel - it can be done, I just needed time away from it. I know the middle and I know the end, it will be done

2. Go on holiday - seems simple but its difficult as it relies on me keeping to goal 3

3. Actually save money this year

4. Read even more - I did this last year I am proud to say but I still think I need to read more

5. Films - this may sound stupid coming from me, but I need to see more films either at the cinema or rented or borrowed or whatever, just more!

6. Hang up art -to make me feel more grown up, posters and things will be replaced with art

7. Take more photographs - haven't done much photography in these late months, need to get back to it

8. Lose weight - getting my exercise bike and I'm going back to very strict eating habits

9. MAKE A FILM - need to be more creative this year

10. Possibly have another massive clear out?

I might add a few more goals this month.

Started the New Year in the past, a 70s disco to be precise, had an amazing time, hoping this year just gets better and better.

Happy 2014 to everyone.