Quick Fire Review: The Fault In Our Stars


Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort , Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe

What is it about?

2 teenagers meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. Hilarity ensues. Well more hilarity ensues than you would expect.

Why did I want to watch it?

John Green is an incredibly interesting person who vlogs to his brother once a week, does fabulous work for charity including projectforawesome , has a fan community called Nerdfighters (of which I am a part) and is also a very good, Forbes honoured, writer of fiction.  He wrote the book for the film I am reviewing here today. If he hadn’t done all the things I mentioned, I would never have been introduced to his writing, and subsequently this film.  The Green brothers’ motto is Don’t Forget To Be Awesome (DFTBA). He is frequently awesome and so since I enjoyed the book and knew of his involvement with the film, I had high expectations.

Did I like it?

The film plays around with the clichés around cancer stories and whilst not entirely schmaltz free, certainly has a discernible edge. This is not a predictable story. You may think you will be able to guess the ending but you won’t and hopefully, like me, you will be charmed by it, irrespective of if you are familiar with the book.

I found it refreshing and sweet and the casting choices are exceptional.  I am pretty sure there is no one else who could play Willem Defoe’s character and the other choices fit seamlessly into my head when reading the book (which I did the minute I finished the film).

It was one of the most interesting book adaptations I have encountered. I expected things to be cut out for the compressed timeframe of the film, however they have played fast and loose with the book’s timeline without losing the core integrity of the book or significantly changing the message…enjoy what life you have.

NB: This is a criticism of the film which is a comparison with the book which in no way detracts from the quality of the film.

The film loses almost all of the beautiful literary passages from the book, which I understand, but I missed them – not least the Shakespearian quote of the title – and am hoping for some on the dvd extras.

Should you watch it?

What is your tolerance for tearjerkers?  Anywhere form moderate to high – this is a must see.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?  http://bechdeltest.com/

Yep, plenty of lovely mother and daughter chats. The named female characters barely talk about men at all (they are preoccupied with higher concerns). On a side note – the father-daughter chats are also lovely.

Other films it DOSEN’T remind me of:

Sweet November, 50/50, Steel Magnolias, Love and Other Drugs.  They all have a place in my heart (well not 50/50) but this film carves its own bittersweet tale.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

Read the book.  It is worth your time.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower, another interesting book adaptation featuring young people dealing with life and the myriad challenges it presents.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries webseries created by John Green’s brother, Hank. Pride & Prejudice as a youtube blog.  It really works.

The  Vlogbrothers videos – example https://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers?hl=en-GB&gl=GB



Quick Fire Review: Kick Ass 2

Kick-Ass-2-PosterHere’s the Not Suitable For Work trailer

Who is in it?  Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, lots of side characters and most importantly no Nic Cage and no Mark Strong.

What is it about?  A kid who decided to become a real life super hero begins to feel alone and reaches out to other citizen heroes to form a league.  Meanwhile the son of the mafia boss he killed is out for revenge and forms a team of his own.  And a 15 year old girl learns about Union J. I wish i w

Why did I want to watch it? 

I really liked Kick Ass.

Did I like it?

I really liked Kick Ass’s direction, script, Nic Cage, Mark Strong and the Hit Girl character.  Most of which is missing from this film. This film is more about Mindy and Kick Ass and has a different feel to it.  There are some very good moments and Jim Carrey, distance himself as he might, is wonderful, but it felt less coherent than the first film.  Disappointing.  The best thing about the film is Mother Russia by a very long way, but she’s not worth the price of admission alone.

Should you watch it?

It does look pretty good on the screen, but if you are sitting on the fence you can wait for the dvd.

Other films it reminds me of:

Kick Ass but not in a good way.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

Mystery Men – a quirky comedy with an amazing cast about a group of inept amateur superheroes who try to save the day when a supervillian threatens to destroy a major superhero and the city.


Quick Fire Review : The Great Gatsby (2013)

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?
Tobey “that guy from that film” Maguire ; Leo “really needs an Oscar” DiCaprio ; Carey “Brit playing American” Mulligan ; Isla “Aussie playing American” Fisher, Joel “Aussie 2 playing American” Edgerton.

Seriously classy cast, and I highly recommend just watching Carey Mulligan’s entire back catalogue.

What is it about?

Jay Gatsby pursues the American dream in the hopes of winning back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan in spite of the complication of her husband and his mysterious background.
It’s an adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald novel, in which the notion of whether money can buy you your dreams is tested to destruction.
John Green does a lovely job of discussing the book as part of his Crash Course in English Literature Series.

Why did I want to watch it?

It is directed by Baz Luhrmann whose films always look amazing and have fabulous soundtracks. Strictly Ballroom is one of my favourite films and I have watched everything he has done since.
I also liked the novel and thought that the themes are a great fit for Luhrmann’s talent for fanfare (remember the Capulet party scene in Romeo and Juliet – of course you do – you’d better this is the only clip I could find).

Did I like it?

On the positive side, the acting is wonderful. Daisy, Gatsby and lousy lousy Tom Buchanan are pretty much played to perfection.
Baz Luhrmann, as expected completely delivers on the opulence of the age with his visual style. The modern soundtrack is extremely well put together and fits the era to a tee.
Yet the framing device *sighs* is both distracting and detracting. Igenerally  loathe voiceovers, and this is no exception, and the joy of Baz Luhrmann is that he can often create incredibly articulate images so I don’t think that he needs a convoluted story to tell this story. I would pay good money to see a reedited version of the film which left it out.
More on the whole framing device debacle is spoiled heavily here.

Should you watch it?
I would base this decision on your tolerance for Baz Luhrmann’s other films and your love of the book.
If you love Baz Luhrmann (we’re ignoring Australia, I liked it but it’s not his best work) it’s him largely on a high note and the cast is fabulous. If you have strong feelings about the book, maybe wait for the dvd. If you haven’t read it and like an exuberant ride of a film, then this is for you.

Other films it reminds me of:

Moulin Rouge with very rich people instead of really poor people and no songs.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

For a slightly more upbeat take on the roaring 20s, with a nod to F Scott Fitzgerald in the form of Tom Hiddleston (yum), watch Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris.


Take Five…Films I’m So Excited about this year


Much Ado About Nothing – 14 June

On screen Shakespeare adaptations from every corner of his repertoire are never far from our screens, from uber violent Corialanus to gloom ridden Hamlet & exuberant and even horticultural takes  or Romeo and Juliet, not to mention an entire High School based sub-genre including O, She’s The Man & of course Ten Things I Hate About You.  No longer the sole domain of thespians such as Kenneth Brannagh, one of cinema and TV’s finest wordsmiths, Joss Whedon, is the latest director to be added to the fold of those who have tackled the bard in modern times.

He even comes with a cherry picked band of players plucked from his many iconic projects.  It may not have Brian Blessed but it will clearly bring its own sense of style and flair to a story of crossed wits and crossed lovers. To gear you up before Nathan Fillion joins this crew of Big Damn Heroes, here’s  a very random treat from the internet.

Other literary adaptations flying off the shelf – The Great Gatsby – 16 May, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 22 November

Before Midnight – 21 June

Sure, since last year’s Avengers film, I’ve been anticipating the twin marvels(!) of Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 but my all-time favourite film franchise involves to 2 people walking around Europe and falling in love.

18 years ago 2 strangers met on a train and had an adventure which changed them both and which even though separated, affected their lives deeply.  9 years later we get to see how the intervening years changed them and what has remained the same, once again for a finite amount of time.  We last left Jessie and Celine 9 years ago with Jessie on course to miss his flight just to continue to bask in the presence of Celine, the one that got away.

Now we get to drop in on them like the old friends that they are, who we had been rooting for even though we don’t even know if they got together.  We get to discover if the romantic ideas they once held could endure when tested by the realities of life or if Richard Linklater wants to crush us hopeless romantics once and for all.   I, for one, cannot wait to find out.

Here are the trailers for Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – they worked as stand-alone films so  I have no doubt Before Midnight will too, but I definitely recommend catching them before plunging into another snapshot of their lives.

Other sequels out to charm us once more:  Kick Ass 2 – 14 August, Thor: The Dark World – 8 November and I’ve already seen Iron Man 3 and will no doubt revisit it.

The World’s End – 18 July

The Three Flavours Connetto trilogy concludes.  Along with Duncan Jones, Lynne Ramsay and Steve McQueen (below), Edgar Wright’s international success as a director gives me a spark of British pride.  His films embrace some singularly British traits but appeal to wider audiences and remind us why across the world people love the British sense of humour.  His heroes are not the coolest, but you root for the normal guy and  his bromantic companion of choice!

If the trilogy has an overarching ethos, it is probably that the natural refuge of a panic stricken normal British bloke is the pub and this film turns that concept into a pub crawl of apocalyptic proportions!

Also I’m a nerd and it’s a film with Simon Pegg in it!  The rest of the core cast is fantastic from Martin “Bilbo Watson” Freeman to Eddie Marsan who is always a beautifully random delight. On a personal note Paddy Considine can also take my money for retweeting a weird hen do picture I posted and Nick Frost is like the Helena Bonham-Carter to Pegg’s Johnny Depp!

It’s also the end of the world as we know it when these explode onto our screens: World War Z – 21 June, Elysium – 13 September

Ender’s Game – 25 October

I’ve been waiting for Before Midnight for 9 years, but I’ve been waiting for Ender’s Game all my life. At 11 years old I read Maps in A Mirror a compilation of sci-fi and fantasy short stories by Orson Scott Card.  One of the stories “The Battle Room” evolved into one of the most engaging stories I have ever read, about a young boy genius’ struggles to leave his home and become a soldier and eventually a leader. It’s months away so you have plenty of time to catch up on the original novel and one or two of its many, many sequels (Wikipedia has a helpful chart)  before it comes out in the autumn.

I am very encouraged by the cast which includes Hugo’s Asa Butterfield, True Grit’s Oscar nominated Hailee Steinfield and in the adult roles Sir Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford.  Let’s just hope, this beloved book of my youth, which I still reread, is more like Gavin Hood’s enthralling Oscar winning drama, Tsotsi than Gavin Hood’s underwhelming Wolverine.

Other Sci-Fi/Fantasy on the radar: Star Trek Into Darkness -17 May, Man of Steel – 14 June, and of course The Wolverine – 25 July

12 Years A Slave – December

When Steve McQueen and  Michael Fassbender team up I know I am in for a treat, albeit an emotional one.  With Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbach in the cast, as well as rising star Quvenzhané Wallis, I am hoping that it will have Oscar bait written all over it, although even if his work is overlooked by the Academy once again, I doubt it will be ignored by anyone else.  Steve McQueen has a talent for making me anticipate being uncomfortable.  The next 7 months are likely to be pure, beautiful agony.

To whet your appetite here’s a reminder of Steve McQueen’s spectacular direction – Carey Mulligan’s haunting rendition of New York, New York from Shame.

Clearly I couldn’t stick to just 5, so here are a few more films, with no particular reason or theme, to set you wishing away the weeks and months ahead.

Monsters University – June 21 : the Monsters Inc. prequel is probably the only film which will not divide my family this summer.

Don Jon – release date tbc : Joseph Gordon-Levitt is directing a film – woohooo!

Bad Santa 2 – December: I just know this is going to make my Christmas!



**all dates correct at time of writing**

 movie posters