Friday, 26 December 2014

December Watch List

When BFI announced their new season's programming, Fear and Wonder, I was really excited. They were finally dedicating a season to Science Fiction. There were many films I really wanted to see but I chose two, to start with. After spending hours looking through the sci-fi section at Waterstones, I came across 'The Midwich Cuckoos' by John Wyndham and few other books by him. I read the back and remembered the story. It clicked later that it was the book that 'Village of the Damned' was based on. The film is a brilliant piece of classic British sci-fi. No special effects apart from fire and explosions, sound effects are used but otherwise this is sci-fi at its best, strange and unusual but everything is normal. The actors are all superb and delightful, 'oh so terribly British'. 

One day in the country village of Midwich, the entire population pass out for several hours. The people all wake up, no one is harmed but after a while, many, nearly all the women in the village are pregnant. They all give birth to blonde children with black eyes and strange fingernails. The children grow up, at rapid rate, with their respective families until strange things happen. The children, cold, emotionless travel in a group, wearing the same outfits. They development mind control abilities causing deaths and panic throughout the village. They are obviously from another planet and eventually, after discovering the other 'colonies' around the world failed, they reveal themselves. The children are incredibly creepy and unnerving, aliens among story is brilliant, well done with the right amount of scares and science fictions elements. There are main characters to identify with, the professor who wishes to study them while teaching them, his wife who is also one of the mothers and her brother army officer who alerted the army to the incident right from the start. The conclusion is inevitable and just like most old films, ends suddenly. A brilliant sic-fi film, but I was disappointed to hear there was a remake, set in America. How boring. 3/5

My previous post and comments of the 'Defining Chapter' are here - 4/5

Apart from the gushing praise that the events manager gave this film, the audience was sworn to secrecy so I'm afraid that I will have to be brief. The release date for the film is in late January next year and as well as the preview, there was to be a Q & A with Alex Garland, the director and screenwriter of many films that you all will know (The Beach, Sunshine, Dredd, 28 Days Later). It's actually his first feature where he's directed, so being an admirer of his work I was excited. But, saying all this, the film was brilliant except for the last 15 minutes. I was so disappointed by the ending I actually got up and left during end credits. I didn't want to stay for the Q & A for fear that I would ask something mean. I came out of the screening thinking that the message from the film was that men are weak, women are bitches. I was very disappointed.

The story is about Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), an employee who works at BlueBook, the biggest search engine site created and owned by Nathan (Oscar Isaac) who is a genius. He has built a machine, A.I who can pass for human, or can it? The 'robot', Ava (Alicia Vikander, lives in a house or lab is what is it referred to and is allowed to talk to Caleb through glass walls. Caleb is under the impression he is there to test Ava but, as they say. 'the plot thickens'.

The film is a brilliant sic-fi thriller with a cast of basically 3 people. It felt as if it could have been even more but I was let down. 3/5

4. Penguins of Madagascar

Not my favourite Dreamworks animated franchise, My favourite involves dragons and quality story. Although Madagascar does the same old thing all the time, the creators knew they were on to a winner with the penguins; Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private. They are brilliant. They made a TV series and I've seen a few episodes, its great and actually funny. But the inevitable happened, they, Dreamworks, made a film with the penguins taking a starring role. Smart idea. They did this with Puss in Boots, although that that film wasn't so great, the penguins is brilliant!

Starting with who the penguins became a team or rather 'family' when they were young up then jumping to the end of Madagascar 3 where they literally shoot themselves out of the circus and that ridiculous song. The story about being a team, knowing each others strengths and appreciating one another. It's simple and great to watch. Of course theres an evil octopus called Dave who is the villain and wants revenge on all penguins and the North Wind (a husky, polar bear, owl and seal) who are a sort of rival team trying to capture the evil Dave. All these characters just make the film so crazy and ludicrous but it really doesn't matter, its a fun film and the penguins are the best characters since Hiccup and the village of Berk, plus the dragons. 4.5

                                                                    5. The Book of Life

I had wanted to see this at the cinema as it looks so beautiful in the trailers, but alas it wasn't meant to be. Month later I get to see the splendor of Mexico! The film is told like a fairytale, with truth and legend mixed in, the best kind of stories. A classic tale of love, adventure and the day of the dead.  Two boys, Joaquin and Manolo, both in love with Maria. As they grow up, Maria becomes feisty and ready to take on anyone. Joaquin becomes a solider, a hero of the town and Manolo is trained by his father to become a bull fighter, he has natural talent but he is also a gifted musician which his father is against. Aside from all this, the spirits La Muerte and Xibalba, rulers of the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten place a bet on who will marry Maria. The story is set, the players ready and the result, a beautiful film. It was great fun, with music too to sing along too or to just enjoy the amazing animation. 3/5

 To be honest, I had heard mixed reviews, mainly bad reviews about this film. I suppose after the award grabbing Juno and the 'everyone look at me' Up in the Air, Jason Reitman had a lot to live up to right? Wrong. I didn't even like Up in the Air and if he had a 'dud' film, it was definitely Young Adult, that film had no soul. Labour Day was good but everyone seems to have forgotten he directed that. That was his latest. MW&C had a lot to live to, I suppose, mainly because of the cast. Adam Sandler not being funny, Jennifer Garner being a prude psycho mum who checks her teenage daughters emails, phone and absolutely anything online. Various other indie actors playing very real, run of the mill characters that you would find in any town. I thought it was a really great film. It showed the known dangers of porn addiction at 15 years old. Exposing young girls photographs on the internet saying its for their acting career. The damage that is down to someone when you take away their outlet. The only element in the whole film that was dull was the couple who are cheating on each other. It was written well and I actually thought Adam Sandler was very good (he's not funny, so this worked) but the let down was Rosemary Dewitt who unbelievable uncharismatic I dozed off when she was on screen. I'm not sure if she was meant to be that way but she was. She was the weak link in a strong chain. A special mention to Judy Greer by the way, who was brilliant. And to Ansel (so hot right now) Elgort, he seems to be in everything and Kaitlyn Dever who were very quiet making a big impact as the heart of the film. 4/5

Written by Joss Weadon, I'm 98% sure I will like this film. Plus Zoe Kazan is always great. It's an alternative romance film and its beautiful. I tried explaining the set up to my sister and she didn't seem to like the idea, but I'm sure if she sees it she will understand and like it too. Two people, Rebecca and Dylan, who share a connection but live on opposite sides of the country. They each grow up thinking that they're crazy or that they're just dreams but in fact they can see what the other sees and hear each other as loudly as they hear themselves. She's the sheltered wife of a 'fancy' doctor and he's an ex-con who looking to change his life. That's just the basics, there is more than meets the eye, that's cliche but its accurate. Sounds crazy but its actually a very romantic film. 4/5

8. Smashed

I'm not really a fan or interested in films about alcoholics. But so much was said about Mary Elizabeth Winstead's performance and yes, it was brilliant and disturbing. She plays, Kate, a school teacher who likes to drink, all the time. When she's drunk, its actually terrifying, the character is a mess, an obvious mess. Things change though, when she decides to attend an AA meeting. She tries to pull herself together but she doesn't impose her new ideas on anyone, just tells them about it if they ask, which I felt was a good message, no one was beging 'preachy'.  But as her husband Charlie (Aaron Paul) who also like to drink, continue to do so making things difficult between the couple. In her ending AA speech, she thanks them all for her boring life. Even though shes smiling, she obviously sad and sober. Its a new view on alcoholism, not everyone is happy sober but they know its the best thing to do. I though the film was rather sad and didn't have much of a conclusion which was irritating especially as the film was only 1 hour 21 mins long. There could have been more. 3/5

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