21st century girl

reviews – my way.

Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of ignorance)

The type of love that I’m talking about is absolute!’ 

Birdman is about a slightly washed up actor name Riggan Thomson (Micheal Keaton) who is mostly known to play the fictional superhero known as Birdman twenty years prior to the events of the film, and Thompson tries to make a comeback by writing, directing and starring in his own broadway show. Birdman also stars Edward Norton as Mike Shiner, a cocky actor and star of the show, and Emma Stone as Sam, a drug addict, along with Zach Galifiankis as Jake, Riggin’s lawyer, Naomi Watts and Andrea Risenbrough (the latter of whom I previously saw in Shadow Dancer).

Generally, I heard mixed reviews about the film. Some people said that it was terrible and depressing, and other people liked it. I’m also lead to believe that it won a couple of Oscars. I liked how the camera followed the main character around, perhaps playing with his subconscious, and the voice that he is plagued by is in fact his younger self as Birdman. It is up to your interpretation into what really happened at the end. He either jumped and fell to his death or he jumped and thought that he was Birdman.

As for the rest of the film, I didn’t really like Emma Stone or Naomi Watts as actresses, but that is only my opinion. I do like how Thomson’s Birdman character was the voice of his subconscious, pushing him to near insanity. While watching this film, it made me realise how much of a huge part journalism actually plays in reviewing and giving impressions about a play or a film. I only watched it because it was on Netflix and it had Edward Norton in it. Although the drumming background noise got a bit frustrating, I think it was intended to build suspense.

I do like the camera work i.e the 360 degree shots, the continuous long shots throughout the film. There’s the constrast between the rather dingy looking backstage at the theatre and the part of the theatre that people pay good money to see, and the difference between the young, heroic Birdman, and the old and rather washed up Riggan Thompson. There are also various discussions that say that Black Swan and Birdman are the same sort of film and they’re both about people who think that they are birds and who strive for perfection.

Apart from that, the movie went in for a bit too long, and I ended up having to watch it in two parts. At times, it dragged on,  sometimes I liked it, sometimes I didn’t. Edward Norton had a good screen prescence, and I don’t think I’ve watched a Micheal Keaton film before but he’s rather well known. It was also rather brave of his character to run through Times Square in his briefs.

Good cast, interesting camera work, great perspectives and considerably better than Map to the Stars (another movie about fame) but generally average everywhere else.

3/5

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)

We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you not know that?’ 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a movie based on the book of the same name by John Boyne, and it is about a forbidden friendship between a German boy named Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and a Jewish concentration camp inmate boy named Schmuel (Jack Scalnon). It also stars Vera Farminga as Bruno’s mother, Rupert Friend as Lieutenant Kotler, David Thewlis as Bruno’s father and and Sheila Hancock as Bruno and his sister Gretel’s grandmother.

I read the book for school back in year 5 and year 7 respectively, so of course I’ve had to analyse both the book and the film to death. I distinctly remember having to get our parents to sign permission slips back in year five as we were all too young to watch the film at the time. We were also all not allowed to watch the ending at the time as well, and I do recall my old teacher calling the book ‘the Boy in the stupid pyjamas’.

Despite that, I think anything from a child’s eyes when applied to a serious subject such as the holocaust and World War II is particularly horrifying. Considering its subject matter, I would never consider this movie to be my favourite film, and for the most part, the movie is downright depressing. However, this was the movie that originally got me interested in the actor Asa Butterfield, who was ten when he was in the film, yet his performance was far more striking than anyone else’s in the movie. I think it’s the fact that he went on to do several more brilliant, thought provoking films and has since done incredibly well in his acting career. Apparently him and his other young co star Jack Scalnon did not know anything about the Holocaust at the time, which makes it slightly more haunting. Now that I’m considerably older than when I last watched the movie, I picked up on a couple of smaller details, such as the fact that it sounded as if Lieutenant Kotler’s father was actually a Jew.

There are a couple of plot holes in the movie, for example, wouldn’t someone notice a boy hanging around outside the camp? I think the camp that divides them was for metaphorical purposes, as Bruno seems to be very free and comfortable in his own life and Schmuel is imprisoned only because he’s a Jew, showing a contrast between the two boys. Also, young children would be killed upon arrival to the camp,so the entire film is slightly inaccurate. I’ve always found the friendship between Bruno and Schumel to be a rather forbidden one. When it comes down to it, it’s the things that you do for a friend that ends up getting you killed.

Other than that, the cast was good. Asa Butterfield and Jack Scalnon worked really well considering that they were both very young at the time, I’ve seen David Thewlis in a lot of things and he was good both in the film and as the character of the emotionally distant father who happened to be a Nazi soldier. Rupert Friend graced his scenes with his charming screen prescence and secretly snappy mannerisms, and Vera Farminga was good as Bruno’s mother. She’s also been in her fair share of horror films. The film really shows how impressionable and naive children actually are, from the way that Bruno thinks that the camp is a farm, believing what was actually propaganda and calling the camp ‘Out-With’ to his sister Gretel having Nazi propaganda posters on her wall. Children will also believe anything. You are almost caught up in their naivety and blinded to the actual horrors of the war and the holocaust, that are now a huge part of our history today. The ending in itself is considerably emotional. How has an empty room that slowly faded to black shown more about the truth of the Holocaust than going in to great detail about it? It’s as if the viewers have been hit in the face and had their emotions played around with. I’ve also always found the bit when the man with the gas mask pours in the gas rather scary.

Overall, a rather haunting and emotionally stringent film that is considerably more poignant as it is seen through the eyes of an eight year old child.

3/5

 

Beauty and The Beast (2017)

‘Be Our Guest!’ 

Beauty and the Beast is the live action version of the 1991 Disney film of the same name, and it follows the story of a young woman named Belle (Emma Watson) who is taken prisoner by a fierce Beast (Dan Stevens) in a castle to save her father, and befriends many of the castle’s staff, including a candle called Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a clock called Cogsworth (Ian McKellan) and a teapot called Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson) and her son Chip (Nathan Mack). It also stars Luke Evans as Gaston and Stanley Tucci as the organ.

I went to watch the movie at the cinema with my older sister, and apart from the parents of the children watching the film, we were the oldest people in the cinema. My one criticism of this movie is the fact that it uses Stockholm Syndrome as a main motivation to move the story on, though I have avoided reviews before and indeed after watching the film.  Likewise, it is a rather good live action remake. Emma Watson was brilliant as Belle, and I previously saw her in Perks of Being a Wallflower and Harry Potter, the latter of which was a huge part of my childhood, along with the animated version of the Beauty and the Beast. The scene where Belle arrives at the ball in the iconic yellow dress reminds me of the Yule Ball scene in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, though I watched Besuty and the Beast with that in mind. It was great to see some of my favourite actors (including Ian McKellan, who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings) in a spectacular version of a childhood classic. My favourite part was the bit when the Beast gives her a library, and maybe the ball scene, and the castle looked wonderful. The cinematography was incredible, and Dan Stevens brought his charm to the character of the Beast (along with his lovely blue eyes). I did hope that Gaston and Lefou would end up together as I heard something about a gay subplot long before I watched the film. Though I don’t watch that much of Luke Evans’ work, he did play a better Gaston than the one in the 1991 original.

My sister and I knew most of the songs off by heart, and she ended up singing some as we grew up with the original. It’s good to do a good Disney original justice, along with adding a bit of backstory, instead of ruining it entirely. It was also good to play guess the actor when all the inanimate objects became real people at the end. I think this is the first movie that Ewan McGregor has sung in since Moulin Rouge (2001), which is also another great movie.

Overall, it’s worth a watch. Maybe multiple viewings if you must. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s supposed to be for children.

4/5

The Boys are Back (2009 film)

‘My son will never replace your daughter,’ 

The Boys are Back is an Australian/British film about a sports journalist named Joe Warr (Clive Owen) who has to raise his two sons, Artie (Nicholas McAnulty) and Harry (George Mackay) alone following the death of his second wife Katy (Laura Fraser).

From the very start of the film, it tends to suck you into an emotional rollercoaster that grabs at you and never lets you go until the credits roll. I went into watching the film thinking that it was going to be a really dull road movie involving children, but I was quickly mistaken. At times, I thought that it would land into some huge cliches, for instance, Clive Owen’s character running off with the mother of Artie’s female friend, but that never happened. From there, however, there could be some contrast between raising a daughter as a single mother and raising two children as a single father.

I found it quite sweet how Artie’s mother seemed to be a huge part of Joe’s life, to the point where, at some points in the film, she would be heard before she could be seen. If I ever watched the film again, I would look out for the positioning of Katy in the shots to make it appear that she was dead and he was alive, therefore he’s talking to her in his grief stricken subconsciousness. What’s so good about this film is that at times, it’s from the perspective of the father, but sometimes you see an insight into what it is like for the children. The film made me laugh, cry and smile and have a whole range of unpredictable emotions. One minute, I’m disliking Joe because he abandoned his eldest son Harry, the next, I’m getting used to him because after all, he only wants to bring his children up well. Perhaps the generation gap between the mother and the grandmother as a result of the loss of Katy- Joe’s wife, shows that Artie’s grandmother had to somehow take her daughter’s place, and she doesn’t live in the same household as them so Joe and his family have a household without women. It takes you on a journey to explore the somewhat troubled father-son relationship in close detail, and it leaves you thinking about it afterwards. There is also a metaphorical battle between childhood from Artie and teenage angst from Harry, who is indeed quite insecure, and hates his father. This is a heavy difference from Artie.

Like every other broad character, Joe does make mistakes. That’s where Clive Owen’s diverse acting range comes in. Having seen Clive Owen interviews about this film before watching the movie, I’m aware of how much the film basically feeds into his life. You could tell that he enjoyed being part of the film. His range of emotions throughout the film were superb. He could go from a ‘hey, let’s go on a road trip!’ to ‘Oh, for goodness sake. How about I teach you some manners afterwards?’ within moments. You could see his point when he lost his temper, though at times it came out of nowhere, and the fact that he pushed away his eldest son until it was too late was a bit uncool for. As for the actors who played the boys, they were both very promising, and I hope they do wonders in the world of acting.

I did not expect to watch the film with so many thoughts and emotions. As a fan of Clive Owen, I’ve seen both good and bad movies of his, and I think this one becomes second best beneath Children of Men. All the other actors were good in their own way, and the cinematography was excellent. If they would have carried on with that plot line between Joe and his youngest son’s friend’s mum then I would have turned it off entirely. The end had me in tears, though I don’t know if I would feel sad in the same way if I watched it again, though I will certainly give it another few rewatches.

If you haven’t watched it, go and watch it and say what you think of it.

4.5/5

Stardust (2007 film)

What do stars do? They shine,’

Stardust is a movie based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman. It follows the story of a young man called Tristan Thorn (in the book, he was named Tristran), played brilliantly by Charlie Cox, who goes on a quest to win the heart of a woman named Victoria Forrester (Sienna Miller). When he gets to the star, he discovers that it is actually a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes) but the evil queen Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants Yvaine’s heart for eternal youth. It also stars Henry Cavill, David Kelly and Robert deNiro.

I read the book before I watched the film, so I knew all the background story that was either cut out or not explored in too much detail in the film. I was aware of the Take That song ‘Rule the world’ that played in the end credits, and it suited the context of the film perfectly.

The cinematography is brilliant and so were the actors. At times, it did feel like the Michelle Pfeiffer show, but she nevertheless captured the role of the evil witch incredibly well with her screen prescense and her female villain aura about her. I think it would be really cool having that magical green light coming out of your finger, and I spent the entire film paying attention to her character. Good characters are boring. The scenery looked incredible as well, though it gave off the impression that it was set in medieval times when it’s actually set at some point in the Victorian era. I like how a children’s film like this one can sweep you off somewhere magical, though I am aware that a lot of the mature bits in the book had either been condensed down, assumed or cut out entirely. The unicorn also looked quite sweet.

I would probably watch this film again. The ending was quite sweet and I watched the film and looked out for all of the cast members that I recognised. Though I don’t tend to watch Robert DeNiro films that much, he is rather good and quite legendary. The best part is that it’s narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. I didn’t, however, like the character of Victoria Forrester. If a guy promised to give me stardust, I wouldn’t laugh at him. I also don’t like how Ricky Gervais has to be in every film, this one included. Some of the lines in the film made me laugh, for instance ‘I’m not your mother, get off me!’. It was also quite sweet how he reunited with his mother eventually and became king.

I would highly recommend that you watch Stardust if you haven’t already seen it, and if you have a spare two hours.

4/5

The book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B Edwards

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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is a semi autobiographical novel about a man called Ebenezer Le Page who lived his whole life in Guernsey, the Channel Islands, an island between England and France that isn’t necessarily anything like any of its surrounding countries. Ebenezer goes through everything on the island, from losing his friends in both world wars to seeing the rise of tourism on the island.

I was recommended this book by my best guy friend, who, like the character in the book, and like myself lives with the cons of living on a small island. Considering that I usually read books to escape, there was no escapism value to the book. It felt too close to comfort to even be comfortable considering that I live on the island that it is set in. Likewise, I like the narrative, and there are so many places that I recognise that he describes in a lot of detail. The author himself only just finished the book before he died, and it ended up being published after his death. Despite that, in recent years a few notable people have come from the Channel Islands, a main example being the tennis player Heather Watson.

Overall, it is a relatively good book, though I cannot offer an outsiders perspective as I reside where the book is set.

3/5

Primal Fear (1996)

‘Where is Aaron?’ 

Primal Fear is a movie based on the book on the same name by William Diehl, and it is about a lawyer called Martin Veil (Richard Gere) who solves the case of an altar boy named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), who is accused of murdering a priest.

Conisdering that this was Edward Norton’s first film, it was rather good. Edward Norton has become one of my favourite actors simply because his screen presence is overpowering amongst other things, and he was incredibly good in this movie. Richard Gere was rather brilliant in his role, and he fell for Aaron’s lies as he was tricked.

The movie is interesting if you look at it from a psychological perspective. I am not a psycho but I have always been fascinated by how and why murderers commit a crime-and often deny it. What I particularly find intriguing is the plot line about multiple personality disorder. In this case, you have Aaron, an angelic looking, rather quiet alter boy who has a stutter, and you have Roy, an angry, violent psychopath, maybe the hidden, unsympathetic beast inside Aaron, perhaps a personification for his insecurities that can only be taken out with rage and denial. That’s my opinion anyway. The fact that this was Edward Norton’s first role was not the point, though he was nominated for an Oscar for it, and he deserved the nomination. He brings so much emotion to the character that you could almost see the mask slipping from the guy’s face to reveal two entirely different personalities.

As for the film’s likeability, it’s not a movie that I would convientionally enjoy. However, approaching it from an analytical point of view is quite interesting. For instance, does the closeup of Aaron’s hands and face suggest the uneasy suspicion and tension of switching between his two personalities? It’s the type of film that you would watch, and it would make next to no sense, but it’s only afterwards that you start to bring all the hints and clues together. Was it Aaron behind those prison bars all along, or was it Roy? Was Aaron groomed by the archbishop, and in anger, he took revenge by killing both his girlfriend and the priest, therefore creating those two personalities to make him seem insecure? Was the quote ‘There was somebody else in the room’ a early hint into his dual personality?

The use of cross cutting interlinking the crime scene and the scene where Aaron is fleeing with blood all over him is particularly effective. The fact that mostly everything is reported on the news in the film also concludes that nothing is secret and the police and the lawyers defending you are not idiots. I am not a huge fan of prolonged courtroom scenes. I find that they all follow the same formula, yet they seem to keep the film flowing. Yet the slight twist at the end personally makes me question what I’ve just watched. The ending is also up to your interpretation.

It’s certainly not my favourite film but it is definetly a kickstart into Edward Norton’s successful career as an actor. As for Richard Gere, I’m not a huge fan of his work but he carried the film along with his charisma and his prescence on screen, and all the other actors in the film were good in their own way, though I don’t think I would be able to look at priests in the same way again.

4/5

 

 

 

Suicide Squad

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Harley Quinn. Nice to meet ya,’

Suicide Squad is a movie starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Cara Delevigne and Jared Leto, and it is about a group of super villains who save the world from the apocalypse. It includes iconic modern day characters such as Harley Quinn and The Joker.

I was ID-ed to buy the movie (the movie is a 15 and I’m 18 in six months) but I actually watched the movie with my best guy friend, who likes action films. Last Halloween then a lot of people seemed to dress up as The Joker and Harley Quinn, and I didn’t really understand the hype. As for who played The Joker better, Jared Leto and the late Heath Ledger interpreted the character in their own way. I liked the art direction in the movie, the cinematography, the soundtrack and the colour scheme were astounding. I generally heard mixed reviews about this movie, some said that it was good, and others said that it was terrible. For me, it’s not my favourite movie but it does have its good points about it and its downsides too. At times, it seemed to drag and it seemed like it was very much the ‘Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Jared Leto Show’.  I can see why Harley Quinn is such an iconic image for both men and women. As for her and The Joker’s relationship? It was toxic, and Jared Leto adapted the character of the Joker in his own sinister way. The green hair and tattoos suited him very well. I think that Cara Delevigne’s witch character might have been a representation of multiple personality disorder (her good side and her enchantress side) but I’m not too sure about that.

Overall, a decent film with a good soundtrack, cast, special effects and visuals. I can understand why Margot Robbie was chosen for the part of Harley. Although she’s not my favourite actress, her character reminds me of one of those confident, attractive characters who seems to attract the men with her sex appeal and badassery.  I previously saw Margot Robbie in Wolf of Wall Street, and I didn’t really like it that much.

If you haven’t seen the movie already, go and see what all the hype is about. It also features a Batman cameo.

4/5

John Hurt

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I woke up to the news that John Hurt had sadly died at the age of 77. He was the sort of actor who was so diverse in his acting range that you probably wouldn’t guess that he played so many different kind of roles in his life time. He portrayed John Merrick in The Elephant Man, he was in Doctor Who, he was Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter, he was in Alien as the guy who had the alien bursting out of his stomach, V For Vendetta, 1984 and Perfume amongst many other roles. I also distinctly remember him being on the TV show Who do you think you are? He came across as being a distinguished looking old man who has played more characters than you have ever cared to imagine.

I do not know which film of his is my favourite, but it is most likely to be The Elephant Man because of the screen prescence and emotion that he put into his role. He was one of those actors who delivered raw intensity to every role of his, which probably explained why his career was so long, and he never really played the same person again and again. He was actually an incredibly good actor and he was one of my favourite actors as well. I would have loved to have met him just to say thank you. Luckily he got and actually deserved a knighthood. He was one of those actors who was in every film that you could imagine but he was never once an annoying character in any way. I am yet to see one of his most recent films, a Natalie Portman film called Jackie but I’m sure that it would be a sweet tribute to watch it. It was also quite ironic that he played Winston Smith in 1984, and switched round so that he led a very Orwellian society in V For Vendetta. Pancreatic cancer has also killed Patrick Swayze, Steve Jobs and Rex Harrison.

Rest in Peace, John Hurt.

1940-2017

 

 

Outnumbered special

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What’s the wifi password?’ 

The Outnumbered gang Pete (Hugh Dennis), Sue (Claire Skinner), Jake (Tyger Drew Honey), Ben (Daniel Roche) and Karen (Ramona Marquez) are back for a spin off episode. The Brockmans want to scatter Grandad’s ashes, but they are stuck in a pub after an accident  on Boxing Day, and things go wrong.

I have watched all of the previous episodes, and this one came as a surprise. First of all, the children are all older. I also feel like the series is a bit too close for comfort, and the episode is fairly poignant considering the fact that the actor who played the grandfather died a few years ago. The episode is a sweet little tribute to him. Outnumbered was originally a show where the children ad libbed their lines, but now we have matured with them. There were some good one liners, mostly based around Brexit, and maybe the hilarity of the name ‘Billy Spaz’ but other than that, some of the humour generally fell flat, except for the comic timing of the men who were pretending to be Nazis. It just left me thinking ‘Is that it?’.

I do not think that it would suit having another series, but that’s just my opinion. The show was good while it lasted, and the actors certainly contributed well to the episode. It’s not just that the children are all grown up, but it was completely different from what we expected. Luckily the show grows with us in a realistic way, but there was something slightly off about it. Can kids really be kids forever? Or should we let them grow up?

3/5