sam preston

Title: Tangled

Director: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman

Genre: American Computer Animated Musical Fantasy-Comedy

Released: 2010

Seen Before, When, Who With: Seeing for the first time, on the 1st March 2014.

Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor, Frank Welker

Running Time and Rating: 100 minutes, and a PG (Parental Guidance) rating.

Thoughts: For me, Disney films, and Pixar films as well, have a magical quality to them. They’re escapism shroudred in the beauty of childhood with the emotional resonance of adulthood. The viewing of a Disney or Pixar film will often have heartfelt emotion and great comedy, the ability to entertain young audiences and adult audiences in equal measure. But Disney suffered in both the 1980’s and the 2000’s, the standards of Disney seemingly dropped, leaving audiences disappointed. And then, in 2007, things began to change. Enchanted was released, and whilst being live-action, showed a new level of self-referential humour for audiences. The year afterwards, Bolt surprised audiences. Then The Princess And The Frog proved that Disney was back with fantastically written stories that had creative character and emotional depth, but also a development with the first ever black Princess. Would Tangled continue their form?

Zachary Levi is hilarious as the co-protagonist, his character has a fantastic slapstick style, and with Levi’s naturally goodfy charm, he’s imposisble to dislike. He’s full of scoundrel nature, and his chemistry with Rapunzel shines through even on animation. Moore herself is full of kindness and beauty, her natural naivety creating a wonderful mix of excitement and fear, goofy montages and vignettes symbolising her inner turmoil. Donna Murphy is an awesome villain who implements just enough false kindness to make it believable that Rapunzel would want to follow what she says. Frank Welker did some great work as usual, portraying a feisty horse called Maximus, and a chameleon called Pascal.

The animation is computer generated but based on handwritten, traditional style, and creates beautifully expressive art, especially with impressive detail in running water and lanterns. The beauty of the animation creates settings that inspire the heartfelt emotion of the songs, some of the songs just grab your heart strings and tug with abandon. In my honest opinion, this may be one of the best Disney films I’ve ever watched. It’s got the strong female presence of Mulan or Belle from Beauty And The Beast, and it has a great human male persona in the vein of Tarzan or Aladdin. It also hasthe comedic abilitiy of Disney classics such as Aladdin, The Jungle Book, or The Lion King, the musical beauty of Make A Man Out Of You, or Beauty And The Beast. But most importantly, it has the beautiful relationship of classics such as Aladdin and Jasmine, or Robin Hood and Maid Marian, or Belle and The Beast. Flynn and Rapunzel are a charismatic couple, and I wouldn’t even complain if they returned in another film.

I absolutely loved this film, I am gutted I never saw it in the cinema, and that it has taken me four years to see this. I legitimately laughed out loud several times, and that is very unlike me.

Thumbs Up, 8 out of 10.

Title: Closer.

Number: Thirty-five.

Directer: Mike Nichols.

Writer: Patrick Marber

Genre: Romantic drama.

Released: 2004.

Seen on: DVD.

Seen Before: Never.

Starring: Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts.

Running Time: 104 minutes.

Favorite Performance: Clive Owen as Larry

Favorite Line: “Lying is the most fun a girl can have with her clothes on…but it’s better if you do.”

Favorite Moment: The break up scene between Larry and Anna is both real and full of anger, a break up that feels authentic, Larry bristling with fury, his language shocking and coarse, but realistic.

Thoughts: I’d never seen the original play, but I was a fan of all four actors, granted by differing degrees, but still a fan. I mostly bought this film because of the performances, I’d heard it was a good “actors” movie, which I looked forward to.

The film is a love rectangle, four different people who fall for, love an betray one another at different times, over a four year period. First obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) meets stripper Alice (Natalie Portman), and they become a couple. Later on, he meets photographer Anna (Julia Roberts), becomes infatuated with her, despite accidentally introducing her to her new partner Larry (Clive Owen). The four of them battle for their desired loves.

Jude Law is technically the lead, and I was happy with his performance, he started off quite sheltered, quiet, and then became more forward and desperate, mixed with a broken shell, and I thought Law switched between the roles very well, seamlessly almost, despite the fact he was supposed to present a character development over 4 years, he played it well.

Julia Roberts was supposedly the female protagonist, but I actually felt she was the weakest of the four predominantly. For most of it she was slightly a cold fish, and the only time she really showed passion was her break-up scene, which granted was the best scene acting and passion wise, but I just found it a little unbelievable that both men would be fighting over her considering she came across very cold. However, performance wise Roberts was fine, it was more just story content.

Clive Owen was a tour de force at times, turning into an animal at times, he was a dirty, maniacal bastard who would do anything to win. In two different occasions he became so emotionally volatile that you legitimately had no idea what he will do. He never came across as creepy, or strange, just full of furious, angry passion, and I felt he put in the most shocking performance.

However, Natalie Portman was very close, as a sexual nymph who hides her child-like needs behind a stripper persona. At times broken and desperate, others manipulative and strong, she was very impressive. You can get the feeling she isn’t as strong performance wise as she is in later years, but as one of her earlier roles, she isn’t out of her depth at all.

The most fascinating element is how all four characters have their own moments where they are in power or out of power, the difference in relationships was really good in terms of script writing and performances. The dialogue is very good as well, each character feeling distinctive.

Thumbs Up, 8 out of 10.

If I could have an convention....

We’d hold it on the moon, in the Crystal Palace with Queen Serenity overlooking the whole event. OBVIOUSLY The Doctor would be in attendance, seeing as he hasn’t visited Queen Serenity’s Queendom in quite some time. Luckily with him being there, he would have brought some of the greatest, and most well known people from across time and space. 

Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan, along with Rufus will have followed The Doctor through the Time Vortex. They are the musical guests for the Con, nothing is better than Wyld Stallyns playing in the background.

The Doctor nabs Dean, Sam, and Cas, trying to prove that aliens are in fact real, and Dean’s fight dissipates as he sees the Sailor Scouts….. Then Cas glares at him because Cas is the only one for Dean <3. 

Somehow The Doctor was able to jump dimensions! Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the rag-tag group of dwarrows stumbles upon the event. (That is after being picked up in a blue box and confused out of your mind… Bilbo definitely doesn’t know if he likes this adventure thank you very much! And Thorin’s being Thorin and glaring at every person in the room, especially the Queen who he believes is an Elf.)

Then crossing through his own timeline The Doctor obtains every single companion he has had to date, including his own granddaughter.

Yet, I am not done. The crew of Serenity realize that something is not quite as quiet in this area and come to investigate. Kaylee and Sailor Jupiter become fast friends, while the others wander about. 

Kili and Fili end up running about with Bill and Ted, causing all sorts of trouble, and the citizens of the Crystal Millennium watch in awe as all of the newcomers astound and surprise them. 

This convention will go down in history as the most ridiculous, amazing thing to happen in the history of the Crystal Millennium. And during all of this, The Doctor sat back with Sarah Jane, Rose Tyler, Romana, and his many other companions catching up, and appreciating the greatness of the convention.

Title: Ice Age

Number: Six.

Director: Chris Wedge & Carlos Saldanha.

Writer: Michael J Wilson & Michael Berg.

Genre: Computer-animated comedy.

Released: 2002

Seen On: DVD, my own.

Seen Before: Twice, once about 2003 at the age of 13, and again about 2 years ago.

Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary & John Leguizamo.

Running Time: 81 minutes.

Favorite Performance: Ray Romano as Manny

Favorite Line: Manny hits Sid over the head with his trunk, which makes the baby laugh. “It’s makin’ me feel better, too!”

Favorite Moment: A surprisingly tender moment where Manny flashbacks to when he lost his partner and child to a pack of humans.

Thoughts: It is always interesting to see how you respond differently when you rewatch a film you first saw as a child or teenager. ‘Ice Age’ always reminded me of 'Shrek’, mostly a family film which had one or two adult jokes or double entendre for the older audience to agree. But more importantly, like the first Shrek, and most Pixar films, there is also a strong, clearly concise storyline that doesn’t go overboard.

A pack of Saber-tooth Tigers want to eat a baby human as revenge for the baby’s father hunting them. The baby is found by a Woolly Mammoth and Sloth who have come together by chance. The two of them, alongside a Tiger who is trying to trick them on behalf of the pack, travel to find the humans with the intention of returning the baby, and hi-jinks ensue. There is the plot, in a nutshell, with lots of potential for development.

Whilst the film is funny, and the story is solid, the element that makes this film enjoyable is the solid development of friendship between the three main characters: the dour, melancholic Manny, the mammoth played by Ray Romano; the hyper, clumsy Sid, the sloth played by John Leguizamo; and the surly, battling Diego, the saber-tooth played by Denis Leary. Leary was probably my favorite, his voice and weary tones giving his character a level of gravitas, dealing with two contrasting sides of loyalty.

Whilst there was mostly a comedic side, at times there was dark edges, the plot of the saber-tooth’s attack on the baby, Manny’s family loss, a moment where Sid’s description of his family slowly going from funny to depressing. 'Ice Age’ is an above-average family film with levels of entertainment for both young and older, as I for one, enjoyed it.

Oh, and also, the inclusion of Scrat in a sub-plot adds to the overall world and is more slapstick orientated, still enjoyable.

Thumbs up, 7 out of 10.

Title: The Godfather

Number: Fifty-Two.

Directer: Francis Ford Coppola

Writer: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola & Robert Towne

Genre: Epic Crime

Released: 1972

Seen on: DVD.

Seen Before: Twice, both two years ago.

Starring: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Richard S. Castellano, Diane Keaton

Running Time: 175 minutes.

Favorite Performance: Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.

Favorite Line: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli”

Favorite Moment: The ending montage is one of the best I have ever seen, great use of imagery, symbolism, build-up.

ThoughtsThe Godfather is one of those films that constantly battles for the best film in history, up there with “Citizen Kane” supposedly. I first saw this film two years ago, and straight off the bat, I fell in love. To me, it is a brilliant piece of cinema, ‘epic’ is the appropriate description.

I’ve read the book, and the book is…kinda awful. As in, I have no idea how a book that terrible made a film this awesome. What really cements this film as a classic, for me, is the performance of Al Pacino. This made Pacino’s career, and you can see why. I don’t think there is a better development of a story arc than Michael Corleone. Beginning the film as a more secluded, almost shy, lawful character, as the film goes on, Pacino stands up a little straighter, speaks out a little more, takes charge, shows his intelligence, and becomes more ruthless, until by the end of the film, he IS The Godfather. It would take a lot of work and performance to make it believable for a man to change this much without feeling like the audience has missed something, and Pacino achieves it, he has a strong physical presence that makes him electrifying to watch.

Marlon Brando represents the older Generation, the original Don, Vito, and he is full of gravitas and strength. His body language is that of someone in complete control and confident in his strength, at no point do you question his leadership, it works, and Brando creates a characterization that inspires Michael. It’s what makes the events that occur to Vito so impactful.

The supporting cast is extremely strong, the three brothers of Sonny, Fredo, and adopted Tom, as played by James Caan, John Cazale and Robert Duvall, help elevate the proceedings due to their strong individual performances. Caan is intelligent but hotheaded, Cazale is a more emotional and brittle character, and finally Duvall, is a strong and loyal character, business-orientated but loving. The three of them are integral to the film.

Diane Keaton is the love interest, and whilst her role isn’t as vital to the film as the others, she offers a more human side to the proceedings, humanizing Pacino early on, making his development that much more shocking when Keaton reacts to it.

This film is not a quick film, it takes a lot of time to build up the characters, cast, and plot, thereby allowing the audience to be drawn in and become more involved. The feel of the film is authentic, with the camerawork, direction, and location, with a beautiful grey tone to the atmosphere. The film is a masterclass in script, direction, and most importantly, character & performances. In fact, I am struggling to find a complaint.

Thumbs Up, 10 out of 10.

Title: Thunderball

Number: Forty-Six.

Directer: Terence Young.

Writer: Richard Maibaum & John Hopkin.

Genre: Spy.

Released: 1965.

Seen on: DVD.

Seen Before: One time when younger, not in a few years though.

Starring: Sean Connery, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Bernard Lee, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi.

Running Time: 130 minutes.

Favorite Performance: N/A

Favorite Line: James Bond is holding a shotgun: “It looks very difficult” clay pigeon comes out and 007 shoots it with ease. “Why no, it isn’t, is it!”

Favorite Moment: Bond has just made love to villainous Fiona Volpe: “My dear girl, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for King and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure, do you?” Fiona replies, furiously: “But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue…but not this one!” And Bond mumbles to himself: “Well, you can’t win them all.”

Thoughts: This is one of the most infamous of the James Bond films as it has not only impacted upon several infamous Bond films, but also influenced parody films such as Austin Powers. The villains steal nuclear warheads and hold major cities to ransom, just as Number 2, Emilio Largo, does in this film. The villains will have sharks, just like Largo, in this film. The evil villain may have an eyepatch or reside on an island, just like Largo. But as the original, does it work? Mostly it does.

The plot, contemporary wise, was very new, and an interesting new idea, it allows to set up the plot very quickly, and gives 007 an agenda for the entire film. It also is executed in an interesting manner, including plastic surgery and facial doubles to accomplish the task, a now regular inclusion for spy or thriller movies. Here it seems more believable, it takes two years to accomplish and is primarily for use of disposable employees.

Emilio Largo is an okay villain, his methods are more frightening than himself, I found him to be slightly bland at times, but other times he was pretty good, he just needed more consistency. The better villain was actually Fiona Volpe, the most endowed woman in the Bond worlds yet, and also happens to be equivocally evil, she was both beautiful and maniacal, and I was more invested in Bond defeating her than Largo. However, I did enjoy again that Number 1 of SPECTRE was cut throat and willing to use any method. The film helped build up SPECTRE as a more worldwide villain, as opposed to being portrayed as just a drug cartel or gang.

The Bond girl is just okay, Domino was mostly a means to an end, Bond getting close to her through her connections as sister of a dead pilot involved with NATO and as the lover of Largo, it was interesting to see Bond as a more manipulative character, and she in fact ends up becoming very vital by the end of the film, but I didn’t find her very memorable.

One thing I noticed was the inclusion of several water scenes, which sometimes looked good, and others…were detrimental. At times it was difficult to tell who was who underwater unless they were colour coordinated, and also there was sometimes 20 minutes dedicated to fight scenes underwater, which became slightly boring, replying purely on average music. I applaud them for trying something different, but I’m uncertain it worked.

Of course, unsurprisingly, Connery was good and solid as Bond, which kind of goes without saying, he just suits the role very well, he relies upon his strengths: charm and physicality. However, whilst the film was interesting on paper, in execution, I was slightly bored in small areas, and am uncertain whether it ages well. I would still watch it again, and recommend it, but I wouldn’t recommend thinking too much about the plot or what is occurring, just kind of go with it.

Thumbs Up, 6 out of 10.

vimeo

X-Men: First Class opening credits in the style of the 1960’s with a edited version of the 1990’s theme, looks pretty good actually :D

Title: Akira

Number: Seventeen.

Director: Katsuhiro Otomo.

Writer: Katsuhiro Otomo & Izó Hashimoto.

Genre: Cyberpunk science-fiction anime.

Released: 1988.

Seen on: DVD.

Seen Before: Never.

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taró Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki.

Running Time: 125 minutes.

Favorite Line: “Did I say that out loud? By the way, your bike is still on fire.”

Favorite Moment: The flashbacks to the childhood memories had great emotional resonance, which I loved.

Thoughts: This film was mind blowing, full of imagination and visionary. I can see why it was such an impactful movie, as the story and animation still has resonance decades later. The animation is beautiful, with imagery of which is unbelievable, I reckon. You can easily believe they just translated from the manga to the anime, which ends up looking stunning.

The story was much darker and disturbing than I imagined. People would be shot and blood would splurge from their eyes, mouths, body, you could see guts, organs, blooded tissue matter, no image was censored. There was hints of attempted rape, extreme violence, torture. This was not for any child, and was here to push the boundaries on animation.

There were some anime shows and films I saw that would cut corners, this worked hard on every single little piece. There was facial movement in supporting characters, I could see characters swallowing, blinking, mouths actually moved in sync with speech, little things that showed the director really went all out for it.

The plot is deep but not entirely complicated, I think they explained many issues very well and slowly drew the audience in. The running time was a little long for an anime, but you can see why with such intricate characters and massive set pieces. This is a classic movie that deserves its recognition.

I reckon, if they ever did try to make a live action version of just parts 1-3 of the manga, which covers the same areas this film, it would easily cost $200 million, if not more. ‘Inception’, which I thought of whilst watching this film due to several similar set pieces, cost $160 million, and that was with Nolan going for as many practical effects. That budget may cover the first half of Akira, but not the entire film. Maybe Hollywood should just hold their hands up and back the fuck up.

Thumbs Up, 9 out of 10.

Title: Zidane, un portrait du 21e siécle (Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait)

Number: Eighteen.

Director: Douglas Gordon & Phillipe Parreno.

Genre: Documentary.

Released: 2006.

Seen on: DVD.

Seen Before: Never.

Starring: Zinedine Zidane.

Running Time: 91 minutes. 

Favorite Line: “Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all.”

Favorite Moment: The flashbacks to the childhood memories had great emotional resonance, which I loved. When Villarreal go ahead with a penalty, there is a moment when the sound dies down, silence mostly, as if the viewer, akin to Zidane, has become shell shocked.

Thoughts: This film was an interesting idea that doesn’t execute so well in practice. The idea of placing cameras around a stadium and just following one player would be a scouts dream, especially a genius such as Zidane. His touch and passing ability were beautiful to see.

Unfortunately there was also 70% of the game dedicated to Zidane just watching and assessing. To start off with it is interesting to see his eyes darting around, reading the game, but then it gets a bit repetitive. At times the game mixes with philosophical thoughts from Zidane and shots of rides on a pier and crowd shots.

An interesting idea that left me a slight bored unfortunately, but was definitely worth a look.

Thumbs Up, 5 out of 10.

Title: Chronicle

Number: Eighty-Seven

Directer: Josh Trank

Writer: Max Landis

Genre: Science-fiction point-of-view

Released: 2012

Seen on: Cinema.

Seen Before: Never.

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Alex Russell

Running Time: 83 minutes.

Favorite Line: Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery

Favorite Line: “Yes, it was the black guy this time…“ Steve’s magnificent line.

Favorite Moment: When the three of them learn how to fly for the first time, it really sold how amazing and fun these new powers would start out as.

ThoughtsThis is what a POV film should be. Not one that hides as much action as possible, that gets lazy with its writing. This is one where the POV style is just to lower your expectations and then suddenly, BANG!, shock you. I have to admit, I knew that this wouldn’t be like normal POV films, but I was still left surprised.

This is an superhero origins story done in the style of POV, and I love the fact that Max Landis came up with such an idea. You think afterwards, "how come this wasn’t done before?” The idea of super powers also helps avoid the usual difficulty of having the inclusion of a video camera make sense. Here, it makes perfect sense that they would document themselves having super powers, but even before that, it made sense. The script is surprisingly dark and could have made an interesting dramatic prose for the main character, which leads in well to the main plot.

Our main character, Andrew, as played by Dane DeHaan, is regularly beaten down by his alcoholic father (played by a character actor I really enjoy, Michael Kelly), his mother is dying, and his life in school is pretty shit, regularly bullied and treated as a freak by females. He is sheltered, and feels unloved. Tired of his crapsack life, he decides to start documenting his life. Interesting start, makes sense, and I already feel for the character, he comes across as someone who just needs a friend. As the film develops, Andrew makes a fascinating protagonist, the introduction of powers to his life offering a chance at happiness that seemed so unlikely beforehand. Because of this, you develop empathy with him, and his actions that continue through the film makes him a character that you can’t help but feel sorry for, no matter what, which was an interesting turn.

The one person he is friends with is his cousin Matt, played by Alex Russell, who is a very likable, everyday guy, whose love of philosophy is an interesting characteristic, his role seems small in places but is still very important, his friendship with Andrew seemingly one of only two positive relationships that Andrew has, and he also helps implement the plot into action, his wish to include Andrew into more outgoing environments, leads to their introduction to the super powers. There was an early scene where he is singing in the car, and I thought “singing badly in the car with your mate, I LIKE this guy”, he just felt very recognizable.

My favorite character, however, was probably Steve, played by Michael B. Jordan. Steve was the supposed popular guy in school, who was hinted at early in the film, and then joined up with the main two following the discovery of the super powers. He could have come across as quite arrogant and headstrong, but instead he was very charismatic and funny. His growing relationship with Andrew and Matt didn’t feel at all forced, the chemistry between three flowed very easily and they made a good ensemble cast from the very beginning.

The major setpieces, such as flying scenes, and fighting scenes, are impressively done, with the use of found POV giving it the feel of happening outside your house, inserting you into the scene itself. The major set pieces in the latter half of the film actually feel earned as well, the characters developing and interacting very closely in the early stages, which makes the later scenes more impactful and emotional.

I actually hope there isn’t a sequel, I think the film as it is stands firmly on its merit, and to make a sequel would be quite difficult. This film has a good plot, likable characters written in a believable manner, some great action, and feels refreshingly different. I for one, loved it.

Thumbs Up, 8 out of 10

Title: The Librarian: The Curse of The Judas Chalice

Number: Fifty-One.

Directer: Jonathan Frakes

Writer: Marco Schnabel

Genre: Action Comedy.

Released: 2008.

Seen on: Blu-ray.

Seen Before: Never.

Starring: Noah Wyle, Bob Newhart, Bruce Davison, Stana Katic, Jane Curtin

Running Time: 95 minutes.

Favorite Performance: Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen.

Favorite Line: Flynn: “Charlene, how big is the Library.” Charlene: “As big as it needs to be.”

Favorite Moment: Flynn’s excitement at seeing Noah’s Ark.

ThoughtsI quite enjoyed the first one, but was left disappointed by the second. Thankfully, this is a return to form, the whimsical fun and enjoyment of the first film appearing in this one as well, thankfully. This film has a slightly darker content to its predecessors, but this helps the stakes feel much higher, as opposed to the stakes in the second film.

The main strength is definitely Noah Wyle, as the main actor he has an ability to sell the idea he truly believes in what he is doing, that he struggles with the world he is but is also determined enough to continue. He can balance the humor and the physicality very well, which is difficult in a film such as this, in fact, I’d be hard pressed to suggest if the main actor wasn’t Noah Wyle, we wouldn’t have the third film.

Stana Katic may be the strongest female protagonist in the Librarian series, I didn’t rate the one from the second entry that much, and I enjoyed the first one a lot, but this one made a more melancholic character, especially as played by Katic, and her accent was very good as well, which could have tripped her character up if not done correctly. Bruce Davison is also a good inclusion, I’ve always found him a solid character, and he definitely is an improvement on the guest star in the second film.

Again, this is whimsical and fun, some action, and a good leading man in Noah Wyle. I won’t rewatch it again very quickly, but I won’t mind rewatching it.

Thumbs Up, 6 out of 10.