Tuesday 26 February 2013

Our Lives Are Not Our Own

How do I begin to describe the epic tale that is Cloud Atlas?

For me, it like watching 6 films in 1. That may sound terrible, but I absolutely loved it. Whenever i start watching a new TV show, all I want to do is watch all of it at once, absorb as much as I can. In fact I feel that way about most films and TV shows, I just want more. This film quenched my thirst, in a way, because the 6 stories continued why the others did. But as they are all connected, it felt like the last story continued. Does that make sense?

It is one of the biggest and most expensive independent films ever made. During the four years of development, the Wachowskis and Tykwer lost financial backing so had to fund the $102 million through independent sources.

Spanning across centuries, its hard to explain each segment but here goes:

South Pacific Ocean, 1849. Adam Ewing, a young lawyer sets sail from California to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business deal.

Cambridge, England and Edinburgh, Scotland, 1936. Robert Frobisher, a bisexual musician goes to work for a famour composer, while composing his own opus, The Cloud Atlas Sextet and writing letters to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith.

San Francsico, California, 1973. Luisa Ray, a journalist, meets older Sixsmith who is now a scientist. He tells her about a conspiracy about the safety of a nuclear reactor.

UK, 2012. Timothy Cavendish, a washed up publisher, is trapped in a nursing home by his bitter brother when he needs to hide from Irish thugs whom he owes money to.

Neo Seoul, Korea, 2144. Somni 451, a genetically engineered fabricant (clone) server at a resturant recounts the events leading up to her execution.

The Big Island, 2321. Zachry, a valley tribesman leads a Meronym, a woman from a society who live with technology, into the mountains to find the Cloud Atlas, a communications station.

These are the bares bones of each story. I don't want to give anything more away as I know it will spoil the film/book for you. But you can expect something spectacular from each segment. The fact that all the actors play several parts was an excellent move. It also makes more sense, for me, as it does emphasise the point that we share our lives with others, not only our own selves but as Somni says, we are bound to others as well.

I could say I know what the overall theme/tie is. Love, slavery, fear, survival, betrayal and so on, but themes of the stories are closely knitted together as they are distant from each other. If you see it, you will understand and even then if you don't, well, the film wasn't for you.

The connections between stories and characters are brilliant, but I cannot begin to take on the book. In a way I'm glad I saw the film first. I have my copy on my shelf all ready for to start, one day.

Having not read the book yet, I'd love to hear what people think of the film compared to the book. I know that the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer said that if David Mitchell, the author of this epic novel, didn't like the film, they would kill the project. But here the film is, so it must have done something right. Tell what you think.

Monday 25 February 2013

February: Hit Miss or Maybe

I know February isn't over just yet but I know I won't seeing any new films until the weekend, at least, so I'm jumping the gun. Behold! February films!

1. Antiviral

I had read about this film made by Brandon Cronenberg (son of THE David Cronenberg) and had almost booked a ticket for it at the BFI London Film Festival back in October, but I resisted as I had a sneaky suspicion that it would be on later. The story didn't catch my eye but it is disturbing to read about and eventually, watch. Syd March works for a company that harvest diseases from celebrities and for a price, they inject them into their fans, the really crazy fans. They believe that sharing the same diseases brings them closer to the object of their desires. But Syd March has a job on the side, injecting new diseases into himself and selling them on the black market. It all goes wrong when he injects a disease of a celebrity that dies soon after. The story is a thriller, slightly sci-fi mystery, rather than body shock horror which is the way it has been described. Horror put me off but the real reason I went to see it is because of Caleb Landry Jones. What I've seen him in, I liked so I was intrigued by this actor who first appeared in No Country for Old Men as one the boys right at the end. I say watch this space, he's going to be in more things, I hope. It's a good film, its not horror, but there is plenty of blood thrown around, I found that a bit too much.

2. Hotel Transylvania

Anyone who knows me well, knows I hate Adam Sandler, I do not like ANY films he's been in and pains me that one of my favourite actors of all time, Steve Buscemi works with him. Saying this, I loved this film. You don't see Sandler's face anywhere. Also I love this whole old monsters revival thing going on. It's been happening a lot. It's not so much the fact films are making monsters children friendly it's because I see them as homages to the old black and white films in the 50's and before. The story is simple enough too, Dracula want to protect his daughter, Mavis so he builds an amazing castle hotel. It is a refuge for all monsters to stay in whenever they feel the need to come out of the shadows. Of course no humans are allowed but one gets through, Jonathan, who is not phased by the monsters but causes problems for Dracula when Mavis takes a fancy to him.  I love the monsters and the story doesn't get too sentimental, not until right at the end, but other than, go see it. In 2D, 3D is NOT needed, once again.

3. Ruby Sparks

Story about writer's block? Imagination comes to life? Real life couple playing a couple? Yes, yes I'll watch this thanks. Written by 'Ruby' herself, Zoe Kazan for her boyfriend Paul Dano who plays Ruby's creator, Calvin a young novelist trying to recapture his form success. He starts to write a character and yes, she becomes real. Anything he writes about her, comes to life. It's a brilliant concept and I think, well executed. It is also an incredibly sad story too. But I don't want to go into as I think you can discover a lot more when you haven't read so much about it. I don't say this often but the two leads make a very cute couple, on screen and off. The ending is perfect, plus there is dog called Scotty, named after one of my favourite novelist, F.Scott Fitzgerald, that's just an extra bonus. 

4. Wreck-It Ralph

I know nothing about videogrames, but I did go to arcades when I was younger. I only played air hockey but still, I loved this story. Pixar gets you everytime. Just to mention that the short, Paperman, was beautiful and also an Oscar winner now. Wreck-It Ralph is about the 'bad guy' in a video game and how he's treated when the game switches off. The fantastic support group scene could have been a short all by its self, in fact I hope they do make a short of just those sessions. The fun begins when Ralph decides to leave his game after being snubbed for the hundredth time by the people in his game. He tries to win a medal in Heroes' Duty and then crash lands in Sugar Rush where he meets his soon to be partner in car racing in sugary sweet cars, Vanellope. I don't agree when some people have said, its just like Toy Story but videogames or its just a series of references, it's not, its friendship and survival and finding out what the hell happened to Turbo Man! Pixar Hit indeed!

5. Hitchcock

Hitchcock is one of my favourite directors. I am a huge fan of Psycho and appreciate it much more now that I know more of its origins. But, Helen Mirren almost ruined this film. She was badly cast as Alma Reville, Hitchcock's wife. She was not playing a character, she was playing Helen Mirren. The scenes when we get to see the actual 'making of' Psycho were great. I wanted more of that but instead it was more sugar coated rubbish about the Hitchcock's marriage. I wanted more 'film' Hitchcock and unfortunately I didn't get that. The film isn't a 'miss' because I scenes I liked were worth watching, as well as the fact I thought Anthony Hopkins did a fantastic turn as the Master of Suspense. The best scene is near the end, when Psycho is released on the world and the public watch the infamous 'shower scene'.

6. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

I had been dying to see this film for ages and when it finally came on TV, I couldn't believe my luck. I was very disappointed. I thought it was an adventure film, it wasn't. The heroine, Adele Blanc-Sec, adventures for about 15 mins of the film, the rest is spent trying to wake the dead to save her dying sister. Sorry, but that is dull and not what the trailer said. The story is about Adele, author and adventurer. She is trying to wake Ramasses ll mumified doctor so that he can save her sister who is comatose after a strange a tragic accident. That's basically it. The fact it is written by Luc Besson makes me think twice, but I truly was expecting an adventure, no melodrama. But there are plenty of others who disagree with me.

7. Four Brothers

A reworking and loosely based on the John Wayne film, The Sons of Katie Elder, Four Brothers is set in Detroit, Michigan. The random murder of Evelyn Mercer brings the four boys she adopted back to where they grew up. Each of them have been living their own lives until now. They set out to find her killer and avenge their mother. I didn't pay much attention to this when it first came out back in 2005, but this film is brilliant, so many twists and turns and an excellent, if ultimately predictable, conspiracy at the heart of it. Oh and people die, quite a few people die. Based on a western, it plays out like one which is better view to take on it than 'just another gangster/action film'. I highly recommend this film. Plus for any Good Wife fans, Will Gardner (Josh Charles) makes an appearance.

Monday 18 February 2013

Looking Into The Future

This weekend I went to the BFI Future Film Festival. It wasn't the same as last year. In a good and bad way.

Last year I was inspired. The workshops were really useful, one being about blogging (hopefully it is noticeable on here) and another about writing about film, presented through the amazing Little White Lies magazine. The highlight of the day last year was definitely seeing Dexter Fletcher's Wild Bill. Last year felt positive.

This year, less so. I had booked all my workshops backwards as I started with a screening of 'Strings'. The BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) award winning debut feature film from Rob Savage, oh and he made it when he was 18 years old. He had help with funding from his local council but had raised £2000 first. To anyone younger, this story is inspiring, but to, the old person in the audience I felt way behind and out of sync. And yes being 23 is old compared to the rest of the audience who were either still in college or first year of Uni.

The first itself was shot well for a first time director with no training, as he said, the crew and cast learnt on the job, you couldn't tell. I didn't like the story. About young college students and how they cope with love and relationships. I thought it a little self indulgent, but in my defense, I made a comedy of sorts for my first film, so the drama might not have had the same effect on me.

The middle part of the day was a workshop run by Cascade. This workshop focused on pitching ideas for films, an area I need all the help I can get on. My ideas tend to be off the whole and difficult to explain so watching 8 budding producers pitch their films to an panel of industry professionals was fantastic. 7/8 of the pitches were dramas/thrillers and 1 was a comedy. I have to say the guy to pitched his 'coming of old age' comedy about an old man who loves film noir was the best idea. I really hope one day I see on the big screen. The others, I'm sorry to say, either made me feel uncomfortable or bored. They always say your first feature should not be drama, but that's what they were pitching. I didn't know it was a competition as well but I wasn't surprised when the 'charmer' of the group won the prize, two day course at MET Film School. The panel couldn't stop saying how charming he was. His pitch was of a story we've all seen/heard before though. I took down plenty of notes, main ones were, 'be charming, don't read off the paper and be male'. Sound harsh?

The last workshop of the day, before I sliced my thumb on a door, was about developing your short film script with Euroscript. This was also very useful, but only at the end. When I sat down I was a little disappointed to find out that this was basically what I had learnt at Uni. It's sounds big headed but I have written short film scripts, unlike most people in the room. I am assuming here though. Our workshop leader, Gabriella Apicella, was brilliant. She reminded me of Miranda July but less weird. She is the co-founder of Underwire Festival which promotes women in the film industry which is always a plus in my books. She read my script (the one on my FICTION page) and gave me some pointers. It was a great workshop, despite my moaning. I also had a look at Euroscript as well. If anyone out there is interested in writing scripts and things I recommend you look them up.


Although it wasn't like last year, I still really enjoyed myself. The event is excellent but I think its more of a younger person's land.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

The Patrick Stewart Conspiracy

It must be universal. People must have noticed. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain.

Have you noticed that Patrick Stewart never ages?

You can type in 'Patrick Stewart' to Google and one of the options that automatically appears is 'never ages'.

There are many other strange goings on in the world but this attracted my attention for many a year. The other wondering is why is Anne Hathaway just so s**t. But not as many people share this same thought with me.

It is a known fact that you look up at the sky, several people near you will also look up without thinking. Same with yawning. You can be sitting next to a stranger on a train and you cross your legs, seconds later the stranger with do the same. But this point was already brought up in an advert.

Another strange but true observation is this. When you're sitting at a bus stop, drivers going past will automatically look. They aren't looking for anyone, they just look. I pointed this out when on one of my many journeys to and from school. There could a crowd or just two people standing there, but drivers will always look, even if it is just a quick glance.

Its the same with the pavement dance. I am referring to the situation when you stand out of the way of someone as they are having the same thought, you end up doing a little jig on the pavement until one of you gets its right. But we've all had this happen. It is similar to the situation when you are at a crossing. You are alone and there are people opposite you, yet they all decide to walk at you instead of walking into the space next to you. It really infuriates me.

When we are young, children I mean, we are told by out parents that a reason for doing something or being told to do something or being denied something is 'because I said so'. We can't argue back. So we seethe in anger at this reason, which technically isn't a reason, until we are old enough to answer back and to point out that it is the most inane reason on the planet. But why do we wait so long to point this out?

Other happenings such stepping out into a clear road, when suddenly a car appears honking its horn is a usual occurrence. As well as the old sayings, 'you don't know what you've got til its gone', 'he who hesitates is lost' and 'once twice three times a lady'. Or you think of the best comeback to an argument at 2am in bed. Or suddenly forget how to walk down stairs for a second and trip up anyway. (Maybe the last one isn't universal) but you see my point.

You can all them life's little mysteries but I call them miniature conspiracies. The Patrick Stewart one being the main one. I could go as far as to say, Stewart could be the course of these strange phenomenons. But I won't, at least, not outright.

My Special Ability

Like most people, around 3 o'clock in the afternoon on every week day, I start to feel drowsy. If I'm unlucky I actually close my eyes and my head jerks about and I am startled awake.

To stay awake I have to monitor my caffeine intake (not very well sometimes). I have tea in the morning to keep me going to lunch then after I have eaten I'm usually a bit more aware of everything for a few hours. Then comes the pro plus tablets to keep me going just a little bit, then by 4, my thermos is my best friend. Coffee at the ready, I manage to stay awake long enough to make it to the end of the day.

As soon as I step outside the cold wakes me up, but as soon as I'm on a train I'm alseep. Today it was a deep sleep, I almost missed my stop.

Of course this fragile routine is disrupted depending on the environment I'm in. Most people fall asleep if they are warm and stay alert if cold. I am the opposite. I have the strange ability to fall asleep at will. If I had super powers, sleep would be it, if you could weaponize sleep. If the temperature of the room drops, that's it, game over, I can't fight it (which is why I can fall asleep on trains with ease). If I am at work and the weather changes in the rooms, which it always does if we have to move, I find its battle of the radiator. The majority want the heating off to stay awake while collapse and my head bobs up and down as I remember where I am.

If there ever comes a time where I'm in a warm room and everyone is half asleep, except me, and there was some kind of apocalyptic emergency, I would be humanities' last fully awake hope (in this scenario only). I would have to fight sleep off in various tasks. I would beat sleep and named a victor! But of course out of everyone, I'd probably would be sitting in my desk chair next to my bed face down on the bed, fast asleep, as my Uni house mates used to find me sometimes. That's where I would be while the real heroes solved the obscure problem.

Being able to sleep any where, anytime is curse as well as a gift of sorts. When I was still at school I would walk in the front door, sit on the hallway floor in an awkward position and literally fall asleep for a few hours. My mum would come in and say 'what the hell are you doing on the floor? I've calling out for ages. When did you come in?' She would usually try and move me but a few times she'd just let me sleep until I woke up and wandered off.

On most occasions I can feel the need for sleep to creep up on me. I say 'I can feel it coming round again' meaning one moment I'm absolutely fine, the next, I can't keep my eyes open. Then after a while I'm wide awake. As I think I said my sleep is hard to monitor.

I remember once Stephen Fry saying on 'QI' that people who sleep more live longer. I'm not 100% sure about that but if so, I'm going to live for a long time, and most of that time I'll be drowsy.

Saturday 2 February 2013

January: Hit Miss or Maybe

Anyone remember that TV show/segment that was on ages ago that was called 'Hit Miss or Maybe'? No? Well to be honest I can't recall if it were a dating show or review show or what, but I will be changing my monthly film list. Inspired by that segment, my posts will follow this structure! 

1. Kung Fu Panda 2

I loved the first film, who doesn't love a panda that can do kung fu and eat noodles at the same time? This film was more serious. The story is about a mass murdering, kung fu expert peacock voiced by the ultimate villain, Gary Oldman. He is back for revenge against kung fu (that I don't really understand) and The Furious Five plus the Dragon Warrior defend it. Along side this plot, Po's origin story is also explained, as it it obvious he was adopted by a duck and there has been no other panda sightings in the films. The story was extremely sad, especially for a children's film but still a fantastic sequel. HIT

2. Quartet

Films featuring older British actors are all the rage right now thanks to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I didn't like that films at all, too much Dench and Nighy. But this film, directed by Dustin Hoffman and featuring four award winning older British actors (Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connelly) as famour opera singers, was a sight better. I like all the actors in the film, literally, all of them, main cast and supporting cast. The story could be a slight sentimental but was great fun. Plus it was approved by my Nan. HIT

3. The Aviator

I had wanted to see this biopic of sorts about the great and crazy Howard Hughes, mostly because of its old Hollywood connection and partly because I was intrigued. Unfortunately I was bored. The acting was ok, it wasn't Leonardo DiCaprio's best work at all, Cate Blanchett annoyed me greatly and I was confused with the timeline of things. I got more information from various internet sites about Howard Hughes history. I studied one of his films at A Level, The Outlaw, and wanted to know more, I did not need to see the film. Fair enough it was about his aviation years mostly which didn't interest me but I just thought it was too long for the subject matter. MISS

4. Stay

Having never heard of this film before it was a pleasant and disturbing surprise to see as part of the Ryan Gosling season on Film 4. The story was seen from the point of view of Ewan McGregor's psychiatrist but it was Gosling's disturbed art student's story. If that makes any sense. Having tried to work out the twist at the end and praying that it wasn't a 'it was all a dream/we're the same person' scenario, I was surprised by the really sad ending. The twist was really good, but it made some of the plot unnecessary. The title of the film will also become clear at the end. Worth watching if you like the actors and strange thrillers. MAYBE

5. Fracture

The film is about Anthony Hopkins who kills his wife after finding out about her affair, but he the hides the evidence that could convict him. As he says to Ryan Gosling's lawyer 'I killed my wife, prove it' so he does, at least he tries to prove it. There was lots of court room scenes with plenty of lawyer talk mixed with a boring subplot about Gosling getting a new job. I was expecting more from it. I enjoyed it though, not really a film you could have on in the background though. MAYBE

6. Les Miserables

I admit, I dislike most of the main cast, but I had wanted to see Les Mis on the stage for years. My Dad had promised but alas it didn't happen so instead we saw it at the cinema. Absolutely amazing! The music was fantastic, scenery, costumes, actors (except Anne Hathaway) were all brilliant (ok, Hathaway sang her song well, but that's it). If anyone makes a musical in the future, which I'm sure they will, they should take note of the choice to record the actors live. It makes the acting and emotions from the songs more believable and heartbreaking. Tom Hooper is a director I admire after two amazing costume dramas now (The King's Speech), I can't wait to see whats next. His epic telling of the poor in French revolution times is amazing and if you don't cry or at least well up at some point, you must be made of stone! HIT

7. Gangster Squad

Set in the 50's about a a group of cops who take of their badges to form the squad of the title so they fight real life character Mickey Cohen, crime lord of LA. The story loosely based on true facts got me hooked, plus Ryan Gosling was in it (his name has been appearing lot in this post). The reviews weren't great and for some parts I can see why, but I really loved it. Yes the pointless cheesy voice overs ruined the ending and the relationship between Emma Stone and Gosling wasn't really convincing and not to mention Gosling's voice was unusually high, it was an excellent period piece. Rogue cops shooting guns, taking back their city from a violent crime lord/drug baron was a great trip to the cinema. HIT

8. Django Unchained

From start to finish I was laughing. Tarantino back to what he does best, expect his god awful scene where he tries to act again. He should just stay behind the camera. I read in a review that the supporting actors out shine Django, Jamie Foxx, and I have to agree. He's good but frustrating. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio was electric, very funny and play their parts so well, I demand a spin off, but for those who has seen it, you know there will never be one. Some people who have seen this, didn't like the film, but when the reason was that it was too rascist, I can't help but say 'its a film, set in the time when people actually talked liked that, you need to look past that'. The soundtrack was brilliant too and I enjoyed a cameo from the original Django, an Italian actor who wore a mask in his films, see if you can spot him. HIT

9. Lincoln

I can see why there is fuss being made of Daniel Day-Lewis, he is a brilliant actor, but I'm not sure about this film. We all know that slavery was abolished and at times it was tense but ultimately, we all know the ending. It was fun saying, in every scene, 'oh my god its that guy from...' but I don't think my sister appreciated that. Both Django and Lincoln are about slavery but out of the two of them, I'd see Django again. It felt too over blown. It had been made a big deal of and then the film felt like an anti climax. MAYBE

10. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

 I do love my 30's dramas especially centered around romantic drama and this one involved a pet tortoise. Dolly is about to get married, very suddenly, but who should arrive but Joseph, her lover from the summer. Now she has to decide what shes going to do. Everyone in this film is prim and proper, exactly how I like these films. But the fact that Dolly's mother disapproves of Joseph confused me as there was no real reason why. He was a nice guy, he was a professor and had a good family and all that. Even the outburst at the end didn't explain anything other than Dolly's habits. That aside I liked this story and made me think I should read the book, might be more in it. Its only a MAYBE because of the ending, but as it is based on a book, you can;t expect them to change the ending.