Archive | February, 2013

Post Valentines Day – My Top 10 Romantic Films.

17 Feb

Post Valentines Day and I hope that everyone had a great time with their loved ones, whether it be family, friends or partners! One thing I stand by is that every day should be Valentines Day where we let those that we love know that we love them, so to keep you in the mood I have compiled my Top 10 romantic films, both conventional and un-conventional, complete with trailers so that your reading and viewing pleasures are all satisfied.

Please remember that this Top 10 (which is not in any particular order) is entirely my own opinion, developed from the films that have brought about the largest emotional response within me. Also I am right, so listen damn it.

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10. Crazy Stupid Love – Definitely the most recent film on my list, this film skyrocketed its way into cinemas in 2011 with its stellar cast of Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. Aside from its impeccable comedy and fast-paced script, the central love story is as charismatic and sweet as the actors who play the parts. It feels different to a lot of other romantic comedies, possibly as it focuses on a more realistic premise of a man, Cal Weaver (Carell) who after being told by his wife that she wants a divorce, goes about trying to rediscover his manhood and his life, but also because it is less of a picnic in the park and more brutally honest. A truly great watch.

Selling Point – Gosling taking his top off and Stone tells him he looks like he’s been photo-shopped. Genius.

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9. Never Been Kissed – When I begin to write I often think about a quote from this film: ‘Someone once told me that to write well, you have to write what you know’. This is an incredible film about Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore), a geek to the core who has never had a real kiss. As a journalist she is given the task of going undercover at the local highschool to show what teenagers are really like, and in turn falls in love with the cool and sexy English teacher Sam Coulson (Michael Vartan) who of course thinks she is a teenager. The story is incredibly sweet and Barrymore’s strength through innocence is a captivating watch. Funny, relevant, corny and beautiful, this coming of age film is one of the classics.

Selling Point – Guy Perkins. If you have seen it and you were once a girl with a crush on the cool kid in school you will understand what I mean.

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8. Lars and the Real Girl – This is definitely not your stereotypical love story. It follows Gosling’s character Lars Lindstrom who starts an unconventional relationship with a doll that he purchased from the internet. Brilliantly written and acted, it is a quirky story that at times will make you feel awkward but will ultimately leave you with an overwhelming sense of joy and compassion.

Selling Point – Gosling has cemented his place in the Hollywood mainstream but it is ‘indie’ that he does best. Truly astonishing performance.

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7. 10 Things I Hate About You – In the summer of 1999 the world was introduced to a young Australian actor. His name was Heath Ledger. 10 Things which is adapted from the Shakespearian play ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, begins at Padua High where new student Cameron has developed a crush on the beautiful Bianca Stratford. Unfortunately for Cameron, sophomore Bianca is unable to date anyone until her older ‘shrew’ sister Katarina dates, so Cameron goes about finding a bad boy who can tame her. Cue Ledger.

The film is simply solid. It doesn’t exactly hit you over the head with its storylines originality – a sweet, romantic comedy with pretty teenagers falling in love, big whoop – but its excellence comes from the young actors who embrace their characters and make every movement, every line, every quip believable and fresh. You end up feeling like you have never seen this stuff before, but trust me, you will want to see it over and over again.

Selling Point – Ledger plays Patrick Verona perfectly. Dark and mysterious whilst remaining warm and kind-hearted. A great beginning to a short-lived but exceptional career.

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6. Dirty Dancing – I recently showed my partner this film as he had never seen it, and he did not understand what all the fuss is about. This is what the fuss is about. A seemingly ordinary girl (Jennifer Grey) from a middle-class family goes on vacation to find herself falling in love with the leather-wearing, trouble-making, smooth-operating dance teacher Johnny Castle (Swayze). The soundtrack, the wistful romance, the good girl meets bad boy element and the feeling of risk and excitement make this film a true classic. It seems like this is and always will be one for the ladies what with its fairytale storyline, and all I can say to that is, I am glad to be a lady.

Selling Point – Do I really need to tell you?

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5. He’s just not that into you – There have been an influx of ensemble casts over the last few years, movie posters screaming at us with how many A-List stars they have managed to cram into one movie. This is by far the only one that has got it right. Based on the book of the same name, this films interconnecting storylines are superbly crafted, all giving each character and each relationship enough screen time so audiences are able to connect and relate. Often funny, hugely heartbreaking and overall sweet, this film is a romantic must-see.

Selling Point – Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck’s realistic and charming relationship is a wonderful watch.

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4. Beautiful Girls – Willie, an unsuccessful pianist who is struggling with commitment, returns to his home town of Knights Ridge, Massachusetts for his 10 year highschool reunion only to find that his friends have all come to similar crossroads in their lives when it comes to love. His return brings about a change in the group and forces them all to accept responsibility for their actions and grow up, once and for all.

Beautiful Girls is devoted to character building, both literally and metaphorically, and does so through complex but exciting scripts, believable scenarios and wonderfully timed wit. Natalie Portman shines as the young girl-next-door with wisdom beyond her years, whom Willie (Timothy Hutton) finds himself romantically attached. The rest of the cast which includes Michael Rappaport, Uma Thurman, Matt Dillon and Noel Emmerich, are also exceptional. This film is a real gem about small time guys with big time dreams who learn to accept that the love they have is as good as any.

Selling Point – Rosie O’Donnell’s feminist themed scene where beautifully delivered script is coupled with outrageous humour to really steal the show. Link here.

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3. The Object of My Affection – This 1998 film sees Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd combine in a charming tale of romance and all its complexities. Aniston plays Nina, a pregnant New York based social worker, who whilst dating the ambitious Vince falls in love with her gay roommate George (Rudd) and decides that she wants to raise the baby with him. The plot is dramatic and heartwarming, and unlike many predictable rom-coms it leaves you guessing until the end. Just a delightful watch.

Selling Point – Rudd and Aniston work so well together. If for nothing else, watch to see them shine.

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2. Mystic Pizza – I could not tell you how many times I have watched this film but it is probably coming close to triple figures. Mystic Pizza follows the life of two sisters Kat (Julia Roberts) and Daisy (Annabeth Gish) Arujo, and their friend JoJo (Lili Taylor) as they struggle to find and deal with love in their home town of Mystic. There is something so special about this film – much like Leona’s pizza there is some sort of secret ingredient that brings it to life. Although this film propelled Roberts into the film career she has today, Gish is by the far the most superb element of the film, playing the young naive Kat who falls in love with the married man (Tim – William R. Moses) whose child she babysits for. Their relationship is both compelling and tragic, and reminiscent of everyone’s first all-consuming crush. The film conveys all aspects of love through three very different relationships and despite all the changes, one constant remains: the love between the three girls.

Selling Point – Matt Damon popping up at a dinner table for his first appearance in a feature-film. More trivia than selling point however.

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1. Chasing Amy – Before you ask, no I haven’t put this film in my Top 10 because my name is in the title. Even though it is spelt the same way I promise it has no bearing on my decison…..The reasons that I love this film are three fold; Kevin Smith is an absolute genius when it comes to directing and writing dialogue-rammed screenplays, Ben Affleck is exceptional at delivering those screenplays and making them believable, and they are both involved in this film. It is the perfect combination. Chasing Amy is about Holden (Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee), two comic book artists who meet fellow artist Alyssa with whom Holden falls in love with. He is struck down however when it is revealed that she is a lesbian. There is literally nothing wrong with this film. Its examination of sexuality, its humour, its dialogue and its cast are all at the top of their game, and sitting on top of all of them in his throne of comedic and relevant genius is Mr. Smith. If you haven’t already seen it, watch it right now.

Selling Point – Read all these quotes and you will be sold.

To End.

Romance films are pure fantasy. We look at the screen and become enthralled in a world where love is the key objective, where passion proceeds profession and love proceeds life. We are all hoping for those moments of chivalry and exciting wistful romance but we are so busy hoping for them, these things that rarely exist, that we miss the truly wonderful things we already have. The beauty of the actors and the timing of scripts and scenarios all make for a pleasing visual experience, but let’s not forget they are only movies. All be it very good ones.

So don’t wait for that one day a year where people tell you to buy chocolates and flowers. Do it today. And every other day you can.

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Coming Soon – Love is in the air.

11 Feb

To celebrate the holiday that I never ever celebrate – Valentines Day – I will be compiling a list of some of my favourite romantic films to get you in the mood for love. Whether you are spending the day with a loved one or bitching about the opposite sex with your friends, it’s the perfect time to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and some popcorn and watch some beautiful people fall in love.

However as I am also a slight bah-humbug about this commercialised day, I will also be including within the list, some unconventional love stories for those of you with a similar cynical mind.

Keep an eye out, and until then I shall love you and leave you.

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Big Ass Spider!

8 Feb

Yep, you read it correctly, exclamation point and all. ‘Big Ass Spider!‘. One of the latest trailers to be released is for Mike Mendez’s film about a giant alien spider that decides to go on a rampage through the streets of Los Angeles after escaping from a military lab. Sounds plausible right? And it’s not like any pther spider related films have gone wrong in the past right? I mean, who didn’t like ‘Eight Legged Freaks?…..

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I am surprised that I am able to write anything about this trailer as I am lost for words. After viewing it all I was able to mutter repeatedly for a few moments in an inquisitive manner was ‘It’s got to be a joke’. But I’m not sure that it is and that frightens me (even more than the special effects).

I very much doubt that there will be anything gratifying about this film, it doesn’t even look like it will fall into the so-bad-it’s-good category. Even the director doesn’t seem confident about its release, showing up at the beginning of the trailer begging the audience not to download his film for free as he has ‘worked so hard’ on it. Yeah, that’s really evident….(insert sarcastic exclamation point here)….

Big Ass Spider! coming to screens near you soon…..ahhh who am I kidding….coming straight to Bargain Bins near you soon.

Senna

6 Feb

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He came. He crashed. He conquered.

Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia) is the astounding documentary about Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula 1 racing driver who after winning the World Championship three times crashed to his death in 1994 at the youthful age of 34.

Despite being a Formula 1 fan, or at least enough to choose its company on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I had not heard of Ayrton and the tragedy that ended his life before this film screeched its way into cinemas in 2010. However doing a small bit of research and discovering these sorrowing facts before viewing the film had no effect on its potency.

Put together using a mixture of Formula 1 behind the scenes/racing footage and home videos, it shows the beginnings of Ayrton’s career as a single-seat karting champion after his move to the UK in 1981, his progression into F1 with Lotus with whom he gained his first podium position (second place) at the Monaco Grand Prix 1984, his transfer to the McLaren team in 1988 and his relationship with both the politics of the sport and his McLaren teammate, Alain Prost.

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The film is made to feel very much like a race. Much like commentators, the friends and family who are interviewed for the film are only ever heard not seen, and the dramatic fast-paced edits add to the intensity of a portrayal of a life full of drama. The racing footage is used skillfully and the back-stage images speak for themselves in terms of watching a man’s career being controlled by others and jeopardized by his reluctance to become involved in the sports politics.

It is easy to assign substantial relevance to some footage when we look at it in hindsight, such as Senna’s facial expressions on the day of the fatal race and his sisters proclamation that he read scripture from the Bible that morning which said he would ‘meet God’, but really all it comes down to being an eerie, all be it extremely eerie, coincidence as the footage simply aligns itself nicely with the subject matter.

So much seemed to be against Ayrton Senna but much like his home country of Brazil which faced huge poverty and civil uprising throughout his career, he never gave up the fight. In the face of adversity, of politics and of possible impending death, he raced on. The film celebrates the life of a man who touched an entire generation and who’s legacy continues through a foundation set up by his sister Viviane Senna aiming to provide young children and teenagers the skills to develop their full potential as people and future professionals (interestingly now partly advised by Alain Prost). After his death in ’94 serious safety advancements have been made in Formula 1, including improved crash barriers and major cuts to engine powers, and as the film states in its ending titles, there have been no fatalities in the sport since that year.

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Whether you are a Formula 1 fan or not, this film is not to be missed. Senna remains an inspiration long after his death and Kapadia’s film is by far the most perfectly crafted documentary I have seen thus far.

Forever Young. Forever Fast. Forever Champion.

Why No Star Rating?

5 Feb

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There was one thing that I wanted to avoid when I started this blog that most film/book/television programme reviews have and that is star ratings. I find it interesting that most reviews try to remain objective, at least in accordance with the policies of the magazine it comes in or the opinions of the presenter it comes from, and then at the end they counterbalance that by proclaiming that something is 10/10 or five stars. That result is in itself a subjective thing. I could tell you that ‘A Few Good Men’ is 10/10, that it has everything you want from a film; an incredible script, a compelling plot, a world class cast and all from a brilliant director, a film that is as thrilling as it is captivating. You might watch it and think I must have been taking the wrong medication.

Although I am going to be avoiding the star rating I am by no means going to remain objective. If I like something I will let you know and hopefully encourage you to open your mind and enjoy all that this world of entertainment has to offer. However being objective does seem to come somewhat naturally when you are trying hard not to reveal certain plot-lines or twists but I am hoping to make sure that I come down on one side of the fence with each review.

To make up for no shiny gold stars I will be continuing with the newly created parts of my reviews, the ‘Selling Point’ and the ‘Quote-a-rama’. The former is where you will get an insight into what really stood out for me, whether it be an actors performance or the soundtrack and the latter will show you which wonderfully crafted part of the script really deserves a mention.

All I ask of you, my readers, is that you remain as open-minded as I do and know that whether I loathe or love something it is just my opinion. I implore you to watch, read and listen and then make your own mind up. If we agreed with each other about everything, what an un-entertaining world it would be.

Happy reading.

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Last Night

5 Feb

Last Night is a film that you would pick up in your local entertainments store and the front cover wouldn’t tell you anything about what you are going to see. It looks like every other generic but enjoyable romance-fuelled film, where the cast are pretty and the storyline is glossy. But that isn’t what this film is and boy is that a wonderful thing.

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The story centres around Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington), a young married couple who despite having some minor quarrels seem to have it sussed with a very honest and thought-provoking relationship. After Joanna confronts Michael about his possible attraction towards his co-worker Laura (Eva Mendes), he leaves on a business trip leaving the couple separated for one evening. While Michael attempts to resist his feelings, Joanna runs into her past love Alex (Guillaume Canet), and so begins a night that no-one could have anticipated.

last_nightThe film is extremely flirtatious. It does not take sides but relies on you drawing from your own experiences to relate to a character at any given moment. Your emotional connection with the people involved flips almost instantaneously as their actions become more and more destructive. What’s interesting is that it causes you to look deep into the past and question yourself and why the film/scene/line has effected you a certain way. Pure unadulterated relatability. This relatability coupled with a brilliantly written script and stellar performances (particularly Griffin Dunne’s supporting role as Alex’s friend Truman) makes for a wonderful piece of humanistic cinema.

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Massy Tadjedin’s (The Jacket) Last Night is a modern morality tale. As Joanna and Michael try to fight temptation they are pulled deeper into a world of seduction and danger by the elements around them. What sets it apart from the rest of those glossy rom-coms is that it truly is the most honest tale of relationships and life, keeping you hooked from start to finish.

As well as feeling tempted to watch it again and again, Last Night will leave you with one thought – What is the biggest betrayal: a man who has sex with a woman he feels nothing for or a woman who sleeps next to a man she loves?

Selling Point – Guillaume Canet is truly exceptional as the man who wishes he was Michael and had married Joanna. His performance is heartbreaking but sweet and easily the best element of the film. Canet, you have earnt yourself a new fan.

Quote-a-rama – ‘People don’t change when they’re married.  At most your weight fluctuates and you start dressing different.’