Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July in Movies + Break Time

Surprisingly enough, by the time I finish watching The Lorax tonight, July has been my biggest month for movie watching. In January, I saw 45 films, and this month, I did one better. Which is strange considering I didn't have any school in January at all, but in July, I had two weeks of school holding me back. The reason that I've been watching so much is mainly due to the fact that July was probably the best month for DVD releases that I've EVER seen. Seriously, the week I watched the least new releases in was the third week - and I got to see four movies. It goes without saying that July was a fantastic month, particularly because I finally got to see my darling The Dark Knight Rises and the Olympics have started. Despite the fact that it is my birthday next month, I can't see August being so cool. There's only like one release a week (apart from on my birthday, where there's a huge burst), and I'll be poor because every man and his bloody dog is having a birthday. I mean, even my dog has his birthday the day before mine. Anyway, here's how July went:

Films I had never seen before until the month of July...

Howl's Moving Castle - There's not a lot that I can remember about this, apart from Emily Mortimer's voice. I really like that woman.
Higher Ground - I honestly don't think that this has rented once. Oh well, I should be glad that we at least got it.
My Week with Marilyn - I still don't get how Marilyn Monroe supposedly had a fling with someone as inexpressive as Eddie Redmayne was. He was such a bore.
This Means War - I admit to enjoying this. But I still can't process Tom Hardy being in this and The Dark Knight Rises in the same year.
Sleeping Beauty - The amount of people who have picked this up expecting it to be some porno...
We Need to Talk About Kevin - I really wish that earthquake didn't happen halfway through this. I'm so paranoid now.
Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope - So I sat down in the holidays and finally gave this a go. I liked it more than I thought I would. I should really get to the rest of the series.
Maid in Manhattan - What was Ralph Fiennes doing in this movie?
Grave of the Fireflies - Excuse me while I go and have a little cry over this...
The Girl who Leapt Through Time - Time-leaping would be very helpful right now.
50/50 - The first of my crazy movie night. I'm really pissed that my blu-ray version that I got off Amazon in February worked. I can't believe I had to wait until July to see it.
Like Crazy - My friend and I love Felicity Jones. She's so purdy.
J. Edgar - So much bad makeup! So little lighting! Ugh, to think this movie was on my wall of 'movies I want to see'.
The Skin I Live In - I can't believe I tricked my Dad into buying a foreign movie for the shop. Unfortunately, it didn't work for A Separation.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - When I watched it I really didn't like it. I think that was just an after effect of it being after 12am and having watched so many movies. Now I think that it was okay.
John Carter - It wasn't so bad.
Rebel without a Cause - The extent of my homework in the holidays. I had to watch this for a class.
Paprika - LOL wut?
Millennium Actress - I can't believe more people didn't recommend this during my anime month. It was awesome.
21 Jump Street - Watching this after having multiple injections numbing my mouth wasn't very wise. It made it too hard to laugh.
London Boulevard - I honestly can't remember any of this film.
Headhunters - Oh Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, you're so good-looking. This film was really entertaining.
The Decoy Bride - I wish my accent was like Kelly Macdonald's.
The Dark Knight Rises - Stuff you all, I freaking loved this movie.
Spirited Away - I wish I could have paid more attention to this.
Aliens - It was good, but it wasn't as good as Alien. I don't know whether I should venture into the rest of the series.
Rampart - Wait...what was this movie about?
The Big Year - Not funny enough to be a comedy, not dramatic enough to be a drama, but still pretty okay. What a cast, too.
Haywire - I was so disappointed by this film. It was so dull.
Wanderlust - This movie was refreshing. I don't know how, but I felt refreshed after seeing it.
The Sitter - I was in the mood for an R-rated comedy, but unfortunately this one didn't suffice.
Martha Marcy May Marlene - So different to what I was expecting. But so good.
Akira - It was very interesting...but I should probably see it again.
Earrings - Alex Withrow is now in my list of reasons why I want to become a director. I really liked his short film. You can watch it here.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986) - I finally saw the musical version. The ending was so happy. Our play looks so depressing. But still, it is going well.
The Lorax - I'll be finished it soon, so I guess we'll shove it on here.

Films I've already seen before but felt the need to see again because I'm cool like that...

The Artist - Watching this with my friends was the funniest thing ever. We made it into a story about a man's love for Subway and a (really immature) remake of Shame. Because we're cool like that.
Drive - Wow, a lot of people die in this movie.
Memento - I freaking love this movie, to the end of the Earth and back.
The Prestige - Writing an essay about the revenge theme in this film is seriously the hardest thing ever. And now I have to 'connect it to society'. I need to talk to Chris Nolan about it.
Following - Oh gosh, the Batman sticker in this. Chris Nolan knows.
Insomnia - I guess I was having a bit of a Chris Nolan marathon?
Batman Begins - Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy were so unbelievably awesome in this film.
The Dark Knight - If I could do one thing before I die, it would be to see this on the big screen again.
We Need to Talk About Kevin - I mustered up the courage to watch this again so I could write an essay about the revenge theme in it (I'm so clever). While there was another earthquake, I appreciated it a whole lot more. And I'm so attracted to Ezra Miller in this film. It is so bad.
City Island - Yes, I rewatched this because it is the only Ezra Miller film I own. I loooooooooove him. And this movie is pretty cool, too.

Anyway, as you're all well aware, here comes the hour where I hang my blogging hat up and let it collect dust for a little while. Why? Because there's only so much this 16 year old can take. School is so busy that it has to spill into what little free time I have left, and that free time is taken up by the blog. Which doesn't leave me to do many normal things. And for once, I want to do normal things. So I'm taking a little while off to catch my breath. And once I feel that I've done that, I'll pick up my dusty blogging hat. Therefore, I can't tell you exactly how long I'll be, but I can at least promise you that it won't be terribly long before I start feeling a bit empty. Sorry for the melodramatics - but that's how I'm feeling at the moment.

So to close out this moment, I leave you with this rather appropriate song. See you later, and thanks for being so good to me in this past year!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My 20 Favourite Movies of 2011.

Okay, here we are. 20 may seem like a big number, but it was the only way I could fit in everything that I wanted to fit in. So let's not spend any time waffling - it is time for me to close out 2011 once and for all...

Honourable mentions: Hesher, Moneyball, Like Crazy, The Ides of March, Incendies, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Sarah's Key, The Adventures of Tintin, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Limitless, Thor, Young Adult, Hugo, Melancholia, Contagion, The Help, Crazy, Stupid, Love., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Super 8, X-Men: First Class, Source Code, Jane Eyre, Rango, Another Earth, Perfect Sense.

20. The Skin I Live In - Dir. Pedro Almodovar

A little strange? Definitely. The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodovar's latest film, explores themes of loneliness, sexual identity, death, and possibly the most unique tale of revenge that I've ever seen. In other hands, this would have been the stuff that fits right into The Human Centipede's generation of horror. Almodóvar creates his macabre, ominous tale with elegance, kitsch and malevolence. The Skin I Live In is almost in a breed of it's own, playing out as a horror that dares you to get under your skin and make you question your own identity. Which is somewhat funny to see these days when horrors are all about scaring you with more blood and guts than are probably possible to be inside one person.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My 10 Favourite Male Performances of 2011.

After checking out my favourite directors and ladies of 2011, it is time to look at the lovely men that impressed me on screen. Tomorrow, it'll be time to unveil my favourite films of 2011 - finally! However, back to the men of 2011: wasn't last year really a 'year for actors'? There were so many great performances that it made it hard for me to cut my list down to ten. Hence the fact that I have a rather long list of honourable mentions, who in a perfect world, would have all been in my top ten. Seriously, all of them just missed out on a place.

Honourable mentions: Ezra Miller - We Need to Talk About Kevin, Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Ewan McGregor - Beginners, Christopher Plummer - Beginners, Colin Firth - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mark Strong - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tom Hardy - Warrior, Joel Edgerton - Warrior, Patton Oswalt - Young Adult, Leonardo DiCaprio - J. Edgar, Rhys Ifans - Anonymous, Antonio Banderas - The Skin I Live In, Ben Kingsley - Hugo, Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn, Ryan Gosling - The Ides of March, Ryan Gosling - Drive, Albert Brooks - Drive, Jonah Hill - Moneyball, John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene, Peyman Moadi - A Separation, Andy Serkis - Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Hunter McCracken - The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt - The Tree of Life, Michael Fassbender - X-Men: First Class, Adrien Brody - Midnight in Paris, Corey Stoll - Midnight in Paris, Tom Hiddleston - Thor, Anton Yelchin - Like Crazy, Matthew McConaughey - The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Fassbender - Jane Eyre, Christian McKay - I Melt with You, Peter Mullan - Tyrannosaur, Paul Rudd - Our Idiot Brother, Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Hesher.

10. Michael Shannon as Curtis LaForche in Take Shelter.

Michael Shannon has always been a great actor who has taken supporting roles and stolen the entire film within a few minutes. Revolutionary Road was a classic example of that. In Take Shelter, Shannon gets the lead role, and totally rocks the entire film. Curtis is a rather difficult character who is on the cusp of madness, constantly trying to make everyone believe that there's an apocalypse coming. Shannon's performance is a study of paranoia, instability and weakness. If it hadn't been Shannon playing him, I doubt that I would have felt so connected to Curtis. Instead of viewing his actions as irrational, I definitely felt as if I should get a shovel and pitch in with his plans.
Key scene: "There's a storm coming!"

Friday, July 27, 2012

My 10 Favourite Female Performances of 2011.

Here we go again with a little 'nostalgia' (I guess we can call it that). With this list, I wasn't really aiming for the 'normal Oscar crew' - these are lady performances which I just loved, despite the fact that they didn't get as much love as they should have. And no, you won't be seeing any Meryl Streep here. Without further ado, my favourite women of 2011 who totally rocked on screen...

Honourable mentions: Juliette Binoche - Certified Copy, Lubna Azabal - Incendies, Hayley Atwell - Captain America: The First Avenger, Vanessa Redgrave - Anonymous, Emily Browning - Sleeping Beauty, Vera Farmiga - Higher Ground, Berenice Bejo - The Artist, Emily Watson - Oranges and Sunshine, Elena Anaya - The Skin I Live In, Helen McCrory - Hugo, Mary Page Keller - Beginners, Rachel Weisz - The Whistleblower, Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn, Evan Rachel Wood - The Ides of March, Carey Mulligan - Shame, Jennifer Ehle - Contagion, Leila Hatami - A Separation, Sareh Bayat - A Separation, Shailene Woodley - The Descendants, Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs, Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis - The Help, Octavia Spencer - The Help, Kristin Scott Thomas - Sarah's Key, Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids, Liana Liberato - Trust, Mia Wasikowska - Jane Eyre, Eva Green - Perfect Sense.

10. Saorise Ronan as Hanna in Hanna.

Maybe this comes out of pure envy. Saoirse Ronan is around the same age as me, and all I can think of when I see her is "how the heck does she do it?" She's such a talented performer, always lighting up the screen in whatever she's in. However, there is something truly terrifying about her performance in Hanna. First of all, she kicks ass. Second of all, she puts on this perfect accent - which is pretty hard for someone like myself to do (any European accent just sounds Indian if I do it). Third of all, she brings this strange fish-out-of-water aspect to it, wandering around her surroundings with such amazement and wonder. You can't help but feel sorry for poor Hanna, but then you remember that if you got on the wrong side of her, you wouldn't come out the other side all that well.
Key scene: "I just missed your heart."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My 10 Favourite Directors of 2011.

2011, you say? That thing that happened over seven months ago? Sorry, guys in the future, but my mind has just clicked out of 2011 mode. I've seen all of the '2011' films that I'd wanted to see (apart from Carnage, which doesn't hit for another month, unfortunately), so I figured it was time to give my full, official 2011 retrospective. Why didn't I just do that at the start of the year and leave all of the 2011 films released in 2012 to be 2012 films? Because that's dumb. I didn't really want to be talking about films like War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Artist etc etc etc when it came time to make my 2012 list. And it's better late than never, am I right?

Tonight, I'll be looking at my favourite directors of the year. Tomorrow will be reserved for actresses, Saturday for actors, and Sunday for my favourite films of 2011. So set those clocks back and bear with me: I know I'm behind, but you try live in New Zealand!

Honourable mentions for my favourite directors of the year: Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist, Pedro Almodovar - The Skin I Live In, Martin Scorsese - Hugo, Jeff Nichols - Take Shelter, Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene, George Clooney - The Ides of March, Bennett Miller - Moneyball, Mike Mills - Beginners, Cary Joji Fukunaga - Jane Eyre, Asghar Farhadi - A Separation, Neil Burger - Limitless.

10. Brad Bird - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

This may strike some as an odd choice for a list that is filled with a whole lot of independent/arthouse films, but hear me out. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was definitely one of the best blockbusters to come out last year (and to think I nearly missed out on it because I couldn't be bothered watching the first three...and I didn't even need to), mainly because it has some kick-ass action set-pieces. I mean, come on, that scene way up on the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai? That had me scared like I've never been scared before. There's also an extremely well choreographed scene which involves a lot of cars. And not to mention, an action sequence taking place during a sandstorm. It is a heavy load to carry in order to ensure that these insane sequences look slick, but Brad Bird - in his live-action directorial debut - manages to take it all in his stride and make a rousing blockbuster.
Key scene: The Burj Khalifa Tower scene was definitely one of the most memorable of the year, but the scene involving all of the cars was pretty darn well choreographed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Anime: Spirited Away and Akira

And here we are, closing out another month of dipping my toes in one of my cinematic grey areas: the beautifully magical world of anime. I'm ending things with Spirited Away, which I probably should have started with since it's one of those 'gateway' anime films, and Akira, which I deliberately left until last because it's one of those animes that need a little background. Did the month end on a high note, though?

I must admit, my watch of Spirited Away wasn't as good as it could have been. I sat down to watch it on Friday night, but then the news struck about the shootings in Aurora and I couldn't bring myself to keep watching the film. The next day, I sat down to watch it again, only just making it through. My mind was trying to process everything that had gone awry in the world, so I had the attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo. I know, it is a downright shame, and I'd love to see Spirited Away a little further into the future when I'm not so damn angry with the world. That said, it was a very good film.

In fact, Spirited Away is one of the reasons why I have taken to anime a lot more than I thought I would. I wouldn't say that this film is primarily made for kids, but I'm sure it was made with kids in mind. Instead of alienating kids with OTT characters obsessed with being simple, Spirited Away tells a rich, layered story of a young girl taken to a strange alternate world where humans are animals and gods, witches and monsters rule. It takes a fairytale and puts this strange spin on it. Strange being the operative word, because this film goes in several directions that you would never think it would. However, there's not much more I can say about this that hasn't already been said, apart from the fact that the visuals are so simply beautiful. And that I'd love to see it again in the future. It looks like it has that rewatch quality.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Links and Other Stuff #32

What I'm watching tonight...

The only good thing about being sick is that I have an excuse to sit around all day and watch movies. Which is good, because I can watch all of the releases (which also have very small run-times - a definite plus). I've caught up with The Big Year, a surprisingly average film with a great cast, and Haywire, which was pretty close to being a terrible film. Now I just have Wanderlust (for the cast, people, for the cast), The Sitter (this movie is exactly what I'm in the mood for) and one of the last 2011 films I'm anticipating, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Exciting.

Many apologies/announcement...
I'm sure no-one has noticed but I've been absent all weekend. Mainly because I've been far too busy for my own good, but also because this is a little bit of foreshadowing. For the remainder of the week, after I've done my last anime post, I'm going to be doing my 2011 retrospective. I realise that 2011 happened seven months ago but we all have to remember that I live in NZ where we're seven months behind in everything. I'll do my monthly review post and then I'll be letting the blog go for a little while. I don't know how long I'll be - I'll probably come out of hiding when I can finally enjoy giving all my nights up to blogging again. Sorry, guys.

Video of the week...

I'm sure that there were variations of this song in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but this track from The Dark Knight Rises' soundtrack is beautiful. Please. I need to see it again.

Last week I was interviewed by the LAMBpyre. Check it out.

Nikhat wants to know: who's the more badass female superhero of the year? Black Widow or Catwoman?

Jessica sheds some light on the awesome Strange Days, which never gets enough love.

I could share a whole lot of reviews on The Dark Knight Rises here but chances are you're sick to death of them. But I did LOVE Alex's review, mainly because we're both on the exact same page. Which is more rare than I previously thought.

Leith shares his thoughts on 50/50 and 21 Jump Street, two of the most enjoyable films on DVD here at the moment.

Brittani shares some love with the brilliant Tyrannosaur.

Mette looks at the costumes from The Avengers. I'd take any opportunity to dress up as any one of them.

Final word...
What's your hobby outside of film-watching/film-reviewing?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Firey End to an Epic Trilogy.

Film: The Dark Knight Rises
Year: 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Juno Temple.
Running time: 164 min.

Let me be straight-forward from the start: The Dark Knight Rises is the biggest film-event of my life so far. Sure, I've only had 16 years for films to compete for that title, but this film takes the cake by a long shot. That is not to say that The Dark Knight Rises is my favourite film ever. I honestly don't think it will have the mass effect that The Dark Knight had, with it making it's way to the top of IMDb's top 250 or anything like that. Simply put, The Dark Knight Rises isn't as good as The Dark Knight. But there's no denying that this is a grand-scale finish to what is probably the best trilogy of films that I have ever seen. The only problem that I have is that now the trilogy is all over. I guess that I can now properly understand how all of those Harry Potter fans felt when their series came to a close this time last year. Even though Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise and I didn't get off to the most conventional start, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic over the way The Dark Knight changed my perception of films when I was just about to leave primary school. Now I'm nearly on the precipice of leaving high school, The Dark Knight Rises has come along and reminded me of why I love Nolan's take on Batman, why I love Nolan's films in general, and why I love going to the cinemas. However, Nolan's closing the door on his Batman, even though he's leaving the door somewhat open for someone else to pick it up. Which I hope isn't the case, because I don't think anyone can do the superhero genre better than Nolan. Hell, this guy invented his own genre.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Christoper Nolan Retrospective/Appreciation Post

I make no secret that Christopher Nolan is my favourite director ever. Call me unworthy of a cinephile card, miseducated or just a fangirl, but before you unfairly throw those labels out, here my story of just why it is that I love the guy.

On July 30th, 2008, my friend and I went to see The Dark Knight. We were both super excited to see it, even though I hadn't even seen Batman Begins (and I didn't for another two years). I could tell you everything about that day until the very last detail. Mainly because it was an awesome day that ended with an awesome film. I hadn't had expectations for it, so I came out completely shocked by this new breed of superhero film. And when that title hit at the end...that's my favourite thing I've ever experienced in cinemas. I was obsessed with that film from the time I saw it, even bringing it along to school for everyone to watch. I was even more interested in the way it swept across the film nation, bringing everyone together in the harmony of Heath Ledger's masterful performance. Little did I know that at age 12, I'd inadvertently been introduced to the man that would change my cinematic life forever - none other than Christopher Nolan.

I became obsessed with the guy in 2010 when I was anticipating Inception like it was the air I needed to breathe. The funny thing was, at the very start of that obsession I had only seen The Dark Knight, which I backed up with The Prestige. Before I saw Inception, I saw every film of his apart from Insomnia, which I got for my birthday. However, the period in which Inception took over my life has to be one of my favourite periods of time in these near 17 years I've been alive. As you'll probably know, I saw the film three times in cinemas, and 14 other times on DVD. Those three times were magical, but I wish I could go back and see it for a first time again. Just the sheer brilliance of it, how shaken I was after it (I couldn't even eat my Burger King), and how my friend and I tried to sort out the plot on the whiteboard in maths the following day. Plus, I count the time I went to see it with most of my friends as my favourite birthday ever (well, it was two days after).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Anime: Paprika and Millennium Actress

The anime month keeps on rolling, this week focusing on a couple of films by Satoshi Kon. I've already checked out Perfect Blue (which was not only the first anime I ever saw but also one of the awesomest), so I was looking to back that up with Paprika and Millennium Actress. Spirited Away and Akira will be coming up next week, probably a day late due to availability. Anyway, the week at hand...

I guess you could say I chose Paprika as part of my mini anime syllabus because when I said that Inception seemed original to me, I got a few hate-filled comments about how Paprika looked at dream space before it. To be honest, I didn't like Paprika more than Inception. In fact, the gap is so wide there's probably ten layers of dream space between them. It was a little more Strange Days than Inception to me, but that's just the way I saw it. Paprika is an imaginative little film, but sometimes it's imagination runs a little too far ahead of itself. Which doesn't make for the most clear watch, as I often found myself a little confused by the erratic shifts of action. That said, it's imagination is something that should be admired.

Basically, the large majority of the film takes part in a dream. There's a new gadget making the rounds called the 'DC Mini' (which did remind me of the SQUID device in Strange Days, which also recorded stuff, hence my comparison), which a therapist uses for her patients. However, when the thing gets out, the therapist tries everything in her power to not let anyone fall victim to some of the dangers that the DC Mini comes along with. That part of the story is quite interesting, but then the film kinda goes crazy with the dream space, with several scenes of large dolls parading through the street all the time. Everything whirred around in my head at about a thousand miles and hour, which made me a little light-headed. There was a lot to take in, but sometimes there was too much to take in. It just felt like one of those cases where the story looked better on the script than it did on film. However, on film, there were some great visuals that made Paprika something special. Who knows - I'll probably like it more on a second watch. But that movie just about blew up my brain, and I can't decide whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Links and Other Stuff #31

What I'm watching tonight...

This is kind of a lulled week in July: the mighty month of great releases. I caught 21 Jump Street (so funny) and London Boulevard (I've already forgotten it) last night, along with a rewatch of Batman Begins. Tonight I'll be checking out smaller titles Headhunters and The Decoy Bride (Kelly Macdonald!). School may be back in business, but all I'm worried about at the moment is The Dark Knight Rises. Two more sleeps!!!!!!

Video of the week...

I feel like The Perks of Being a Wallflower trailer kinda went unnoticed, especially because I can't remember when it was released. Anyway, I'm excited to see it because of Ezra Miller, who I'm kinda crushing on after We Need to Talk About Kevin even though he scared the crap out of me. I love being a teenager.

Tyler shares his favourite closing shots in films. A list idea I'd like to have a crack at in the future.

Mette writes a perfect post about her confuzzledness over movie-watching and blogging. This is basically the story of my life.

Alex does a wonderful retrospective on Christopher Nolan's films to kick off his week of Nolan. I think he may even love Nolan more than I do (!)

Anyone else a fan of An Education here? Steven has a great review of that wonderful film.

Nikhat updates us on her animation month marathon, with the brilliantly sad Grave of the Fireflies in the mix.

Andy has a review of the ever elusive Margaret, which I want to see based on the interesting comments coming out of it.

Have you been checking out the LAMB's review tourney? I thought I'd be able to pick the writers out from under their pseudonyms, but I'm stumped!

Lesya has two blogathons for us: one focusing on silent films and the other calling for recommendations on New York-centered films. Go join!

Jessica's blog The Velvet Café has just turned one. Go wish her a happy birthday!

Final word...
What's your favourite experience in cinemas ever?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Young Hearts Run Free.

Film: Like Crazy
Year: 2011
Director: Drake Doremus
Written by: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Starring: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, Oliver Muirhead, Finola Hughes, Chris Messina.
Running time: 86 min.

Unless you're counting famous people, I guess you could say that I've never been in love. So when Like Crazy came knocking on my door, I didn't know whether I'd consumed with the tale of two young people who fall hopelessly in love with each other, only to be torn apart. Luckily, I had adorable people like Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin playing young lovebirds Anna and Jacob. Also playing to my advantage was the fact that this isn't your typical Hollywood love story. It isn't the kind filled with dreadful pop songs and half a tonne of sugar. It doesn't even fit into the twee-romance-between-two-hipsters-indie category. Writer and director Drake Doremus based the film off his real life experience with a long-distance relationship. Added in with a considerably low budget of $250,000 and the fact that basically all of the dialogue was improvised (which makes me wonder why there were two writers, but anyway...), Like Crazy tells a raw story of love, the hard way.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More than Meets the Eye.

Film: The Skin I Live In
Year: 2011
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Written by: Pedro Almodóvar and Agustín Almodóvar, based on the novel 'Tarantula' by Thierry Jonquet

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo, Eduard Fernández, José Luis Gómez, Blanca Suárez.
Running time: 124 min

I'm always getting judged for the movies I like and the movies I watch. That's why I shy away from the question "what's a good movie?", unless I really know the person enough to predict how it'll all turn out for them. Otherwise, people will just look at me and go "you must be really stuffed in the head." The Skin I Live In is exactly the kind of film that I won't be phoning home about. But it isn't a film that left me totally indifferent. Far from it, in fact. I can see that a whole lot of other people would separate the strangeness of the main twist and the film itself. Yes, the twist comes as quite a shock. It's the kind of twist that I had to wonder whether it was successful because it was weird, or if it was just plain weird. However, there's a lot more to this movie than meets the eye. Which I guess is kind of the point of all the whole film.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cancer. With Laughs.

Film: 50/50
Director: Jonathan Levine
Written by: Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Serge Houde, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall.
Running time: 100 min. 

"That doesn't make any sense, though. I mean, I don't smoke, I don't drink...I recycle." - Adam's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) response to being told that he has a tumour in his spine. We go through life believing that nothing bad will ever happen to us if we do right by the world, because we don't deserve it. Unfortunately, a fact of life is that we'll all be linked to someone who has had to battle cancer, whether they beat it or succumb to it. Maybe it'll be us. Cancer doesn't care if you recycle, or if you're the best person on Earth. For Adam, he is only 27 when he's told that he has the illness. And while he can't make sense of it, his situation allows him to make sense of himself and the people around him. 50/50, Jonathan Levine's follow-up to the brilliant stoner comedy The Wackness, isn't My Sister's Keeper, though. It isn't out to turn the waterworks on or soak any tissues. Instead, it does the inevitable and brings some laughs to an otherwise sad story. Most of all, it puts a new spin on a topic that is used in films to make you feel guilty for being alive. There's no guilt to be felt with this one.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dear Hollywood: J. Edgar

After a ton of Thursday nights being filled with the sarcasm of Christopher, it's time for him to take a break. I mean, he's had to talk to the likes of Jack and Jill, Breaking Dawn Part 1 and New Year's Eve this time around, so I think he needs to get his brain back together. However, while he's not making the rounds (I promise that he'll come back in the future), I have a new feature to keep your laughing gear warm and toasty on Thursdays (well apart from next Thursday, since I'll be watching The Dark Knight Rises): 'Dear Hollywood'. How does it work? Well, you know those columns with the 'agony aunts' that go:
Dear Agony Aunt,
I'm always cold. What do I do?
From I. C. Colde.
That's basically what this is all about. But we're putting it in the context of a movie, and Hollywood will be replying to the sender. Let me just get into my Dear Hollywood all about J. Edgar, and hopefully it will make a little more sense!

Dear Hollywood, 

I've been an actor for quite some time now. In fact, in 1993 I was given an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for my performance in What's Eating Gilbert Grape as Johnny Depp's mentally retarded brother. A lot people said I had class, and that I could be a contender. In 1997, I starred in a small independent film called Titanic. A few people went to go see it. You know that Justin Bieber fella? Well back in the day, I used to be as popular as him. In fact, there was Leo-Mania sweeping the woman-folk back in the 90s. After spending a lot of time letting the hotness waft off me, I decided that I needed to become more serious. So I started being in serious films. I got a couple of Oscar nominations. That wasn't enough though. I started starring in lots of movies where I have a dead wife. Apparently no-one likes that. I cry a lot in my films. NO ACTOR CRIES MORE THAN ME! People on the internet always highlight the fact that I do so much to get Oscars, but no-one else cares about me. What do I do to get that damn Oscar?

Yours sincerely,
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Anime: Grave of the Fireflies and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

It seems that y'all love anime. I don't try to pay attention to such things, but waking up to (a record, I'm sure) 18 comments that were put in overnight was quite a pleasant surprise. However, there's a downside to that: you all recommended some great films, but there's no way I can dip my toes in all of them. All's not that bad, though: in the future, I'll be able to get my feet wet with anime (ba dum psh). Anyway, here's the other four films that I'm going to check out before the end of this month: Spirited Away, Millenium Actress, Akira and Paprika. If you're favourite is not in there, I'm sorry, but those are the four I want to see the most. Now, onto Grave of the Fireflies and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time...

When I watched Toy Story 3 for the first time, people wondered why I cried so much. How could a teenage girl cry during an animated film? Because even animated films have the capacity to get the waterworks going. Which sounds like an understatement when applied to Grave of the Fireflies. Basically, the film follows Setsuko and his little sister Seita who are in the midst of World War II. When their mother is killed in an air raid, they are sent to live with some relatives, but they do not get along with each other. The two decide to move out on their own, and seek residence at an abandoned bomb shelter. While they're free and have the ability to do whatever they want, they also have to keep food in their bellies and learn how to survive on their own accord. Being two young kids who have probably not spent that much time alone, they have a lot to learn - unfortunately, their current condition isn't the best time to be learning that sort of stuff.

This is possibly one of the most beautiful, yet totally sad stories ever committed to film. When Setsuko and Seita first go to the bomb shelter, we feel sure that they'll be able to make their own way. However, that's just the way we'd think: we have probably all been living in the security of older, much more able people who have the means to look after and protect us. Even though I'm on the precipice of leaving home and making my way out of that security, while I'd relish in the freedom, I can't imagine being on my own. That's what I found so heart-breaking about Grave of the Fireflies - Setsuko and Seita wanted to prove everyone wrong, but they just weren't ready for full-blown independence. And it only gets worse: there's a war going on. Sure, we have our Saving Private Ryan's and the like to show us all the horrors of the war, but Grave of the Fireflies is definitely one of the most effective. No, Setsuko and Seita aren't fighting in the war - they're fighting the effects of the war. And that's something that we rarely see in films that tackle the war, yet something that I find just as horrifying. If you haven't seen Grave of the Fireflies yet, then what else can I say? Grab some tissues and witness one of the most beautiful animated films ever made.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lame Trailer Clichés: 8 Things You'll Always See In Rom-Com Trailers

Ah, romantic comedies. When did we last see a good one? Well, if you did, chances are they weren't made for Hollywood's sake or they were made years ago. I think the question that we really need to be asking is when was the last time you saw a trailer for a romantic comedy and thought "YES. I'm going to see that because it looks so original." Yeah...didn't think so. That's because romantic comedy trailers employ the same techniques. Here are the main five:

1. "Meet this person in this glorious freeze frame."

The ironic thing about this freeze frame introducing us to Stephanie Plum, Katherine Heigl's latest 'heroine' from One for the Money, is that her facial expression is pretty much how I looked through the entire movie. Foreshadowing, perhaps? Oh One for the Money, you really are too good.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Under the Radar: Higher Ground and Sleeping Beauty

There's always a set of films that pique my interest even though I've heard so little about them. As it would happen, 2011's set consisted of Vera Farmiga's Higher Ground and 'erotic fairytale' Sleeping Beauty, which I saw within 24 hours of each other. While I didn't love them, they're still worth a few words...

Vera Farmiga has always been a favourite actress of mine, especially since she completely won me over with her work in Up in the Air. So naturally, when I heard that she was going to be directing her own little film, Higher Ground, I got pretty excited. My 'excitement lights' were dimmed as the year went on, especially as her film wasn't getting any closer to a release date. Upon seeing it, I can only but wonder whether the fact that it slipped under the radar was something that was right for it, or completely wrong for it. Let's divvy it up:
This is an important film. Why? It looks at a woman's connection with faith throughout her life. As far as I'm concerned, faith and religion aren't the most prominent themes in film. Especially ones that actually look at the connect and the disconnect between someone and their religion. Most of all, it is a fairly accurate portrayal of someone processing all of the emotions inside of them. This isn't the sort of film that usually makes the rounds - well, the American rounds, anyway. Like wine, I'm sure this will only get better as it ages. However...
It isn't a particularly exciting film. For all it's possible importance, there's little holding all the shining moments together. It rolls out like a typical 'chronicle' film, teetering on the edge of 'textbook American independent films 101', repeating itself and going on such strange routes that never get fully realised. Vera Farmiga often approaches subtlety, which is something that I genuinely enjoy in films, but in this film, that subtlety never builds up to anything more - something that I felt it needed. It is a bit of a flat experience for the most part, particularly as it some of the scenes are so brilliant on their own that they don't have the glue to stick them together.
However. The performances are all great. Especially Farmiga's, which was quite different to anything I've seen her do. Plus, she's a dab hand behind the camera, too. I can't wait to see her next effort.

What I got:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

5 Movie-Themed Biopics That I'd Like To See

Earlier in the week I caught up with My Week with Marilyn, which had Michelle Williams (in an Oscar-nominated, amazing performance) playing the one and only Marilyn Monroe and endure a week with Eddie Redmayne's boring Colin Clark. While the film was a perfectly serviceable look into the difficult shoot of The Prince and the Showgirl, directed by Laurence Olivier (a great Kenneth Branagh), it wasn't as interesting as it could have been. In fact, I spent the whole time wishing that I was watching biopics of other people. By the end of My Week with Marilyn, this is the list I came up with:

Vivien Leigh

This is a pretty obvious choice on my part. It's just that after reading four different biographies on her and then writing my own, I know how interesting her story is. While it would be a little bit exhausting to see her entire life play out on screen, it would be quite heart-breaking to see her descent into mental illness. Basically, anything around the time when she was filming Caesar and Cleopatra and what happened after that. Or, if we were wanting to go on a Blue Valentine route, we could chart the relationship between she and Laurence Olivier and how that dissipated over the year. Or maybe down a bit of a less-intense version of We Need to Talk About Kevin showing the slight disconnect between her and her daughter Suzanne. Or maybe just down the traditional road of making a movie about the making of Gone with the Wind. It has been done in a TV movie, but I feel like that story could be a whole lot more. With Vivien, there's a whole range of opportunities for stellar movies, which was one of the reasons why I didn't totally feel My Week with Marilyn: her character was treated poorly. Mind you, I suspect the problem with a biopic on Vivien is the fact that absolutely no-one could play her. She really was one in a million.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Enough to Warn Me Off Becoming a Parent.

Film: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Year: 2011
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Written by: Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear, based on the novel 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rock Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich, Alex Manette, Kenneth Franklin.
Running time: 107 min. 

As a teenager, I'll be the first to admit that we are scary little creatures. I mean, really scary. Okay, so I'm not a parent, but it must be so disappointing when you spend all of that time being excited over having a tiny bundle of innocent youth...that turns into a huge bundle of angst. Yeah, that's probably an underestimation of teens (because I don't like being underestimated).

Or maybe I'm taking that idea straight from We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Eva (Tilda Swinton) and Franklin (John C. Reilly) fall in love. At that point, Eva is a successful travel writer who has been places, and wishes to keep going places. However, she and Franklin get married, and have a son called Kevin, which puts her plans on an indefinite hold. While Franklin instantly warms to his son, Eva feels doesn't feel any connection to him, partly because of the fact that she'd much rather be pursuing other interests. She can't control his constant crying - even standing by a jackhammer and revelling in the relief that that annoying sound makes, or control her son, as a matter of fact. And this is only when he's young.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Anime: My Neighbour Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle

There's nothing like setting up little challenges like this in order to get the job done! After having a month filled with French New Wave films, I'm onto something that might be a little happier - Anime films. Now this is one giant gaping hole in my movie knowledge, because before I decided to take on this challenge, I had only seen one anime film. Which is a little sad. But there's no time like the present to change all of that, so here are my takes on My Neighbour Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle...

I really don't know how to start off my review of My Neighbour Totoro other than by saying this: I wish I had watched this movie when I was a kid. There's something about the sheer fantastical nature of it that got right into the little kiddie spot that's still reserved in my heart and tugged on it for the whole time. I mean, how could you not feel all mushy inside from it? There is so much mushy-ness! Like:
-Mei, the younger sister, who I seriously want as my kid. She's just the cutest little ball of innocent youth that I've ever seen.
-Totoro! I must admit, I used to have make-believe characters as my friends when I was a kid. Totoro was the figment of my imagination that I totally missed. I mean, how awesome is Totoro? He's this giant teddy bear that only has a leaf on his head for protection from the rain. Forget Forrest Gump, this is the kind of thing that warms my heart.
-THE CAT BUS! I admit to being a major cat lover but how awesome is that cat bus?! Like, I wanna drive it and I hate driving almost as much as I hate earthquakes (as last night's full blown panic attack where I nearly hyper-ventilated to death - and it didn't even do any damage - would show), so that's kind of a big deal. Whoever invented the cat bus deserves a Nobel Prize or something.
...and this is why you should never let me review kids films.
Especially great ones, like My Neighbour Totoro. The only disappointment that I felt about it was that I never got to see this when I was younger. When characters are that rich and detailed, and the problems they face are true (the poor girls having to deal with their mother being in hospital and all), I can't think of anything better to fit into a young person's film diet.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday Links and Other Stuff #30

What I'm watching tonight...

This week's nowhere near as huge as next week, but I'm LOVING July so far. I checked out Higher Ground last night, My Week with Marilyn this afternoon and I have This Means War, Sleeping Beauty and my most anticipated We Need to Talk About Kevin to keep me warm on this freezing Tuesday. I love you, holidays.

Video of the week...

I'm pretty excited about pay-day tomorrow so I can buy The Artist's score and Shame's soundtrack. This piece is particularly incredible. I won't be getting over Shame any time soon, that's for sure.

Blog of the month...

As you may have noticed, every month I change my sidebar around and highlight one blog for 30-31 days. This month's highlighted blog is FRONT ROOM CINEMA. Now, Scott Lawlor, the man behind it all, is someone we could all learn from. He's such a kind guy, and actually dedicates a lot of time to sharing the love around the blogosphere. Plus, he and his team have created one rockin' site! I dare you to deny the fact that he has grown the most out of any other blog in such a short amount of time.

Archery is pretty darn popular in the movies these days, aren't they? Brittani shares her list of bad ass movie archers.

Reel Insight has another ep up, this time focusing on Michael Fassbender. Because the Fassbender is pretty much the awesomest actor alive.

Lesya recently held a 'Paris in Genres' blogathon, and there were some great recommendations across the board.

Anna celebrates her 1000th post with 100 film facts about her.

Alex shares ten great movies that he never wants to see again. I second the Tyrannosaur notion.

Sati finishes up her 20 favourite TV characters. Ah, why don't I watch more TV? (I'm starting Game of Thrones next week, though)

It seems that Tyler loved Hunger just as much as I did.

Ruth gives us a bit of an insight into her recent sound gig. Such a lovely read.

Final word...
Favourite film location?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sometimes I Take Photos...Part II

Over a month ago I shared some of the photos I've taken during the year. As I roll into a month that will be filled with lots of movies that I want to review, I wanted to calm things down before the storm. So we'll just take a little detour to the world through my amateur lens. Unlike the last ones, these ones have been a little touched up on the computer, but only coz I wanted to achieve that look. But there's no let's-put-something-in-here-that-makes-no-sense-at-all business or let's-saturate-the-crap-outta-this-photo going on. Because that's not my deal at all. I like things that are real.

Hi, my name is Stevee Taylor and I like to make things ten times darker than they should be because I love playing with the exposure. I guess that should speak wonders about me, but I'm not a very dark person. I just think silhouettes have a better effect.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Watch Me Talk About Why I Love Movies...

If anyone was stalking my tweets or whatever a couple of weeks ago, you'll know that I was pretty stressed about this speech here - because I'm a speech perfectionist. Anyway, all went pretty well, as I came out the other side with an excellence grade and my teacher saying that I was "so enthusiastic about it that he thought I was going to pee my pants". Yup. I thought I'd share the videos of me talking about why and how I came to like films since it may interest a few of you. It is 16 minutes, so if it doesn't interest you at all, then you can shoot me. Or something.

Note: any jokes directed towards The Shawshank Redemption or 'leading up the garden path' are kinda in-jokes with our class. So that's why everyone is peeing themselves over them.

And don't be freaked out by how strange I am. Because I am pretty much a fruit loop.


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