Saturday 29 November 2014

November Watch List

1. Mr Turner  

There has been quite a bit of hype surrounding this film as it is meant to be Mike Leigh's final film, but do believe the hype, the film is indeed a masterpiece. Having not known much about the painter, my parents both love his work, it was interesting to see him at his height of fame and prestige. I too, am now in awe of his work. The paintings are beautiful. Timothy Spall who portrays Turner, actually learnt to draw and paint over two years in preparation. It felt that Leigh had been waiting for the right time for Spall to play this part, great casting. It is technically a biopic but there is a sense of quiet drama worked in, which is Mike Leigh's speciality. Maybe a bit on the long side, the film was still a delight to watch and interesting to learn about art. That may sound pretentious, but its true. 4/5

When I was telling others about the film, they asked 'is it a true story?' its not, but it feels like it is which just makes it more terrifying. It is not a horror story, its about how cruel and detached humans can be and the lengths they will go to succeed and THAT is terrifying. Louis Bloom is both a hideous person and one of the most compelling characters in the film, this year at least. Jake Gyllenhaal has been receiving praise from all over and he does deserve it. I blinked twice when I saw him on screen, it really does dig deep into this character. The story is about Louis, a thief who buys camera equipment and a police scanner and stalks the streets of LA waiting for a possible accident or crime to film then sell to cable news shows. He does this after watching a van pull up alongside a car crash, Bill Paxton, a nightcrawler for years, jumps out and films the police save a woman trapped inside. Louis is inspired. He begins selling his 'moral questioning' footage to a low rated Cable news channel, building a reputation. He sons makes bigger demands and even blackmails a producer. But when a huge murder story breaks, things seem to get worse and I don't mean for Louis. Creepy, barely describes the film and the characters actions. But despite the horrible things happening, its not gory nor scary its human nature at its worst and its hard to look away. A brilliant and very chilling thriller. 4/5

They've been friends for years and are almost inseparable. But when Paige (Gillian Jacobs) gets a boyfriend, then later engaged, she seems to have less time for Sasha (Leighton Meester). Two best friends, one is straight, the other is gay, one moves on while the other is stuck. Its not a new concept, close friends then someone 'gets in the way'. What was refreshing about this film was that it was actually about friendship and appreciating each other. Sasha wasn't annoyed or upset that Paige had a boyfriend because she was in love with her, she was sad because she feels like she's lost a friend and it was great to see this portrayed so well. The side of the side of the story is that Paige is quite uptight, lawyer and has to have everything perfectly done, while Sasha is a slacker, dating younger girls, has a job she hates and wants to write music but never seems to. They are opposites and thats the main reason why things come to a head. Its a great drama, simple story, human and realistic characters. 3/5

'Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met at midnight

In the hanging tree'

Like others, I was very annoyed that the last book was being split in two. My favourite book in the trilogy is Catching Fire and Mockingjay least, but the film, was amazing. The film stays close to the book, obviously adding the much needed interludes from the Capitol and scenes of rebellion from some of the other districts. It's a cliche, but its an emotional rollarcoaster from start to finish, its not wonder Katniss goes s little crazy in the book, they show less of her breakdowns in the film though, this speeds things up and makes her a stronger character. The book is all told from Katniss' point of view and a lot is lost there, but the film is structured perfectly, introducing characters are story goes smoothly along, not bombarding the audience with them unnecessarily. Another welcome change is Effie Trinket. In the book Katniss' prep team have a larger role but Effie is substituted in, replacing them and another character which was understandably cut out. 

Changes aside. This film is a lead up to the fight in the Captitol, showing us how they rally the districts into rebellion and fighting. This idea makes far more sense then everyone just fighting. For a YA book, its very bloody and violent but that may be part of the appeal. This is also the film where Katniss and Peeta are separated. They are used against one another but they share a connection. Peeta, no spoiler here, is being tortured, obviously and still protecting Katniss, while Katniss is refusing to help District 13 in fear Peeta will be harmed. The two of them are most definitely the heart of the film, even though Peeta has far less screen time. The use of the book's song 'The Hanging Tree' is brought to life in the most beautiful yet tragic moments in the film. I may be making a bigger of this film, but it truly is a Hunger Games dream. Only problem, waiting for part 2. 5/5

Alan Turing was the man who broke the enigma machine code the Nazi's used during the second World War, he was then, years later, arrested for 'gross indecency'. This basically meant he was arrested and convicted for being gay, as in the 50's this was illegal. The film is split between the time his team of code breakers worked on the enigma machine, when he is arrested and his time at school. The film and by extension uses its characters to pose the question, was he a war hero or criminal. Its a brilliant story alongside a tragic time in a person's life. Alan Turing was given a posthumous pardon in 2012, long overdue. Cumberbatch is excellent as Turing, outsiders being speciality. The code breaking team are also brilliant, even Keira Knightly. It is different type of war film, it focuses on those fighting at home, not with violence but those trying to prevent attacks, strategising and breaking codes. It is also a biopic, second on the list. At first you do not feel attached to Turing but then when he starts to open up to a friend and flashbacks to his school days are shown, his character and suffering is revealed, you feel sympathy for him. A brilliant bio war film that shows a another side the war and what happened, that you don't often see. 4/5

Tuesday 25 November 2014

My Snowmen

Christmas is coming! Don't fight it.

Usually I hold off on all things Christmas until December, but this year, feels a little different. The decorations were out end of October, I was annoyed about this as usual, Christmas was briefly cancelled squashed but things seem to be looking up, Christmas-wise anyway.

I happened to be walking up my hughstreet around 8pm the other night on my way back from work, it was so dark, it felt later. Where I live, the hughstreet and centre of our small town, they have made an effort. Lights have been put up. They appeared over a week ago but weren't lit. That night they were and it looks really beautiful, they made the ugly hughstreet look pleasant, thats the spirit of Christmas breaking through.

Last year I spent quite a bit on Christmas cards from some of my favourite artists but this year I wanted to try. I always make tags for the presents but I'm actually really pleased at how these designs turned out. I wish I had done 5 though.

Snowmen are my favourite Christmas/Winter themed thing to draw, maybe because they are quite easy to draw or maybe its in my genes (my mum drew different snowmen, from Raymond Briggs' The Snowman for my primary school's Christmas bazaar). I've made snowmen cupcakes in the past and last year the present tags were the same theme. I also have a Christmas mug featuring some tea loving snowmen which appears every year. And, of course, I love the classic animated film.

I might make this a tradition for next year or try making something different, maybe an advent calendar...

Keeping in with the snowmen craze, I bought an addition for the tree when it goes up next week, a little snowman with reindeer antlers.

Hope everyone is slowly getting into the spirit!

Wednesday 19 November 2014

The First Time I Watched ...

I wanted to call this post, 'do you remember the first time' but I didn't want readers to get the wrong idea.

I remember the first time I watched The Fellowship of the Ring. It was 2001 and had wanted to see the film, the 'big' fantasy film that I had read about. I wasn't reading Empire magazine regularly back then, but I used to collect the free magazine from my local Cineworld and I was interested. I had already read and listened to the BBC radio drama of The Hobbit and I was told by my mum and aunt about other J.R.R Tolkien books. So, as I said, my interest was peaked. I was outraged my family had gone to see the film without me. I badgered my dad to take the next weekend. It felt like going to see any other film, I was excited, I was allowed popcorn and it was on the big screen.

From the second the film started (not joking) I was in awe.

From the moment I heard Galadriel's voice say, 'The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in  the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost, for none now live who remember it.' I was hooked. I think one of the greatest advantages was, going into that film, I knew little of the story and it was so well told, I didn't need to ask any questions throughout, everything was laid out for me to enjoy. I loved the characters, they all had spirit and their own stories and destinies. The scenery was beautiful,  the music provided the perfect emotions for every scene, situation or personality. It was breathtaking. You cannot replace that feeling you have when you see the film that changes your mind.

I've always loved film but I had always wanted to act. Lord of the Rings changed that for me. Although, a few months earlier I had seen Moulin Rouge, which also played a large part in my mind changing experience, but really it was LOTR.

There was an emotional journey while watching The Fellowship of the Ring. I remember being really annoyed when Merry and Pippin first tagged along, but they turned out to be my favourite characters. When Gandalf fell in Moria, the cinema was silent. I knew his character from The Hobbit. I couldn't believe he was just, killed off. I thought pace changed and everything felt unbalanced, but with further viewings, it was needed. I was in despair when it took 3 arrows to take Sean- I mean Boromir down. There was a small part of me that hoped he'd still get up and run after the Uruk-Hai. But alas, 9 became 8, then 8 became 7. When everyone began splitting off into groups, I could feel the end coming but I didn't want the story to end.

After the film, I was tad annoyed by the cliffhanger at the end, until I released The Lord of the Ring was trilogy. I had a million questions, mainly if Merry and Pippin (my favourite characters) survived. I called my aunt, who was an expert on the books, as soon as I got home. She leant me The Two Towers, I read it as fast as I could. I needed answers. I was obsessed with Tolkien. Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings. I went to see the film 3 times. I begged my dad to find it on pirate VHS. Yes, it was that long ago, VHS was the way to go.

I was 12 and I went to an all girls secondary school. I read Empire magazine. I loved Lord of the Rings, at that time and that age, I could be seen as a bit of an old ball. But I didn't care. When I was told it was a 'boys' film, I argued back. A film cannot be categorised as a male film, you can say more 'boys' would watch it but 'girls' can still watch it too. As you can guess, teenagers didn't want to debate this subject that less interesting things to discuss.

All I wanted to do was talking about the film.

I would still defend LOTR to ends of Middle Earth and the trilogy holds a very respectful place in my top ten films (they count as one). I don't believe its over the top to say, it is one of the greatest trilogies ever made, three of the greatest films ever made. It's been over 10 years since The Fellowship of the Ring was released and the films have not dated. Other film fans, critics and enthusiasts would agree with me too. Unlike when I was 12 years old, sitting in class holding my Tolkien dictionary, I am not alone.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

A Finnish Interpretation

Gearing up to the what 'they' are calling the final film in the Middle Earth Saga, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, I am getting more and more excited about the film.

Of course, there is a little part of me that knows, somewhere along the line, New Line will make The Silmarillion. It would be a whole new cast and I'm betting they wouldn't make all of it, unless they split that book into 5 films, its that 'fat' and in depth.

I have quite a few Middle Earth themed posts planned but first I want to share a discovery I made a few days ago. Other die hard fans will already know but I recently found this:

Celebrated author Tove Jansson illustrated the Swedish edition of The Hobbit. For those Moomin fans out there will appreciate these beautiful gems. I have tried my best to find an edition of the book to purchase but alas I have not been lucky.

Although black, white and grey, they are still amazing to look at. Having seen many an interpretation of Tolkien's work, it's interesting to see characters such as Gollum (above) in comparison to Bilbo, especially in size. In these illustrations and others I've seen, there is the presence of the Moomin creator, a darker feeling to the characters and scenery, similar to Jansson's work in Alice in Wonderland, which are terrifying and beautiful, the darker side to her happy Moomin family.

If anyone knows where I can find (and buy) a copy of this edition, please let me know. It would be something that would be 'precious' to me. See what I did there?

Saturday 8 November 2014

What I Love About Movies ...

To celebrate the release (and much talk) of Little White Lies book, 'What I Love About Movies' last month, I thought I'd share what I love about movies, film, cinema.

No matter how I'm feeling or what's been going on that day or even a few moments previous, I am absorbed into the story on screen. Sometimes, if it's been a particular spectacular film, I stand up and forget where am I for a second. I can immerse myself into the story and still be aware of the people near by but for those few hours, I don't care. All I care about is the film I'm watching.

I am proud to say, I have only once fallen asleep in the cinema and the circumstances will back me up. I was watching previews of films for two days straight, it was glorious. But I needed a rest and found myself drifting for about 10 minutes. I really needed that sleep. Other than that one occasion, I am glued to the screen, even if I don't like the film much.

That's what I love. No matter what, I'm taken in. I wouldn't say it was like I was part of the film, it's better. I get to watch everything and no one bothers me. Going to the cinema is part of the reason why I love movies. I settle in, I have my coffee and choice of fruit (most of the time) and I can sink down or lead in, lean back and its my time.

The main reason why I love films are the stories. I know people say you can get lost in a good book but you can explore through a good film. I am a story addict. If the characters are compelling or there's good dialogue, great, this adds up to a story I won't forget. Stories you can tell others, stories that seem new are familiar, stories go on forever and you're never tired. Films are stories and they're inspirations for my own stories too.

I've always loved film and I always will.

What I Love About Movies is out now

Sunday 2 November 2014

Halloween Night

Last year was one of my favourite Halloween nights. The best times were while I was at University, my friends and I held parties and they were so much fun. Dressing up (and drinking) was the best part.

If you follow this blog, you'll know I dressed up as Boris and Barbara, the half and half one year. My favourite costume, I couldn't top it so I dressed up as my version of the Mad Hatter the following year. But last year, all I did was watch Cabin in the Woods at my friend's house. I had seen it but it still scared me. There was no hassle just a calm evening.

This year, I'm dressing up again and I have to admit, I have missed this part.

The Day of the Dead is actually a three day festival, 31st October, 1st & 2nd November and it is where family and friends gather at cemeteries to remember their loved ones who have died.

My choice of costumes was inspired by this day and by the recent release of The Book of Life which was recently released. Unfortunately, I've still not seen it.

Hope you all had a spooky Halloween! I think I had better think of next year's costume, just to be prepared.