29 November 2013

SAVING MR. BANKS- Review

Saving Mr. Banks is a cheeky bastard of a film. It's essentially about a corporate hijacking of someone's intellectual property, produced by the very same institution that was behind it, but becomes incredibly endearing via catchy tunes and nostalgia. Frankly, I didn't even have the composure to realise that this Disney-endorsed drama, about the making of 1964's Mary Poppins, was tugging me along on the same journey as our lead.

Our lead is Pamela Travers, the author who created the hugely popular series of books about a magical governess, and the film depicts the culmination of a long-running tussle with one Mr. Walt Disney, over whether or not he could make a film based on her stories. Due to financial difficulties, Mrs. Travers is forced to consider selling the rights to Disney, after holding out for two decades. She has the sneaking feeling that the House of Mouse's finest don't quite get the emotional significance of her character, and does everything within her power to prevent it from becoming a whimsical musical version. With cartoon penguins in it.

27 November 2013

THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR- Spoiler Review

We're a little way down the line now, but if you haven't seen the 50th anniversary special yet, go watch it here, then come back for the SPOILER-y review...
 
Over the weekend, Doctor Who celebrated 50 years in time and space with an anniversary special that follows in the grand tradition of previous birthday parties like The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors and, er, Dimensions In Time, in an adventure that teams Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith up with his predecessors David Tennant and... John Hurt?

Yes, following the contractual-credit-tastic cliffhanger of the previous series finale, the Doctor's greatest secret, a lost incarnation of whom he has never spoken, has come to light. In The Day of the Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor and Clara continue on their travels, they're summoned by their friends at UNIT to investigate a 3D painting in the National Gallery, depicting the darkest day of the Doctor's life. Just as the Tenth Doctor gets entangled in matters from foiling a Zygon plot in the 16th century, so his rogue incarnation is brought forward to the present, as all three Doctors are set on a course to relive that terrible day.

21 November 2013

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE- Review

The Hunger Games was the biggest sleeper hit in cinemas last year, riding the wave of the hugely popular novels by Suzanne Collins. Since then, the series has undergone a change in director, and a financially rewarding but no less rubbish decision to split the poorly received final book into two separate films, a la Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn.

Respectively, these two developments have meant that Catching Fire is a visually and narratively superior sequel, but one which should probably be quicker on its feet in the run-up to the finale than it actually is. Since we last saw her, Katniss Everdeen has been moved into a slightly less shitty house in District 12, right across the way from Peeta Mallark, her fellow victor in the previous year's Hunger Games, and her on-camera love interest. Their defiant victory has led to stirrings of rebellion across Panem, and the danger isn't over yet for either of them.

18 November 2013

DON JON- Review

Let's not mess about pretending that we don't all like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, yeah? I like him, you like him- by all accounts, he's a well-liked screen presence. His directorial debut, Don Jon is a romantic comedy about a man who's addicted to watching online porn, and even if the cards are stacked in the film's favour on account of its leading man's popularity and charisma, there's still a lot to like about it.

In addition to writing and directing this film, Jo-Go stars in the leading role, as Jon. While he manages to split his time between a disciplined routine of going to the gym, cleaning his bachelor pad and attending church every Sunday morning, he always finds himself returning to his laptop for sexual gratification. When he falls for Barbara, a smoking hot romantic who loves soppy movies, he's faced with the choice of changing for the better or sticking to his stagnant and objectified view of sex.

13 November 2013

GRAVITY- Review


In genre terms, Alfonso CuarĂ³n's Gravity has been described as a pure science fiction movie. It's not based on a true story, and it instead tells a fictional tale that (more or less) takes place within the bounds of what is possible with current scientific advancements. From a personal point of view, I'd say it's more of a survival horror movie, and that it's squashed any infinitesimal aspirations I had to go into space.

The film is essentially a two-hander, between Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, which takes place following a disastrous maintenance mission on the Hubble Space Telescope. Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a specialist who only has six months' space training under her belt, and the support of Clooney's more experienced astronaut, when the two of them are left spinning around in orbit of the Earth. With oxygen running low, and every option of escape becoming more and more remote, how can they possibly survive?

6 November 2013

DRINKING BUDDIES- Review

I like alcohol, but I do tend to take against mumblecore movies, so you can see how I was torn on Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies. Eventually, I decided to sit down with a beer and watch it a few months ago, which actually worked out pretty well. At the same time as I enjoyed it, it's not an excess of drink that made me forget about it entirely, until I saw it was being released in UK cinemas, last Friday.

At the same time as being more interesting as a character study than many more mumbly films of its ilk, it's also not especially big on story. The film takes place in a craft brewery in Chicago, where best mates Kate and Luke are co-workers. They spend their days flirting together, and their evenings drinking heavily, but both of them are already attached- Kate has a boyfriend, Chris, and Luke is engaged to Jill. After a weekend away together, all four of them reconsider their relationships, particularly as beer goggles blur the already-muddly line between friendship and love.

5 November 2013

ENDER'S GAME- Review

For one reason or another, Ender's Game wasn't really on my radar in the run-up to its release. Though hotly anticipated amongst fans of the books, it did have the air of a film that's on trajectory for that gulf of "Well, that happened", somewhere between a Star Wars knock-off and a Harry Potter wannabe. Unfortunately for those who revel in snarking about that kind of failure, this is actually pretty solid.

In the future, mankind is shaken by a devastating alien invasion by a race of insectoid beings, known as the Formics. Ever since, the military forces of Earth have been trying to figure out a way to both prevent and fend off a future attack, exploiting the intelligence and imagination of children to develop strategy. Ender Wiggin, one of the most promising young recruits, quickly ascends through the ranks in the course of his training, on his way to finishing the war forever.

4 November 2013

PHILOMENA- Review

As buddy movie pairings go, you could do a lot worse than Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. They're matched together in Philomena, a film that Coogan has co-written and produced, in addition to taking one of the lead roles, as something of a departure from his more comedic fare. As expected, Dench more than holds her own and steals at least some of the show back from her co-star.

She stars here as former nun Philomena Lee, while Coogan plays shamed journalist-cum-spin-doctor Martin Sixsmith, on whose account of the true story this film is based. Philomena has kept a harrowing secret- that she was forced to give up her son for adoption by her convent sisters- for exactly half a century, on the day that she finally feels compelled to confide in her younger daughter. Meanwhile, Martin finds himself unemployed and at a loose end, when the daughter recruits him to take Philomena on a journey to track down her long lost child.