Quick Fire Review: Magic In The Moonlight

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Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Colin “I really am rather posh” Firth, Emma “I really am rather quirky” Stone, Dame Eileen “Can anyone look at her without remembering that she turned down Colin Farrell for a jump” Atkins, Simon “Hey it’s That Guy” McBurney  and a highly competent supporting cast including Oscar nominees Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver as a stunning, blonde widow.

What is it about?

A reknowned magician and debunker of fraudulent mediums struggles to unmask a charming mystic in the South of France

Why did I want to watch it?

The inevitable Oscar nomination (screenwriting) and my friend is a huge fan of Woody Allen.  Otherwise I might have been happy to wait for the dvd.

Did I like it?

It was whimsically charming, and a very nice way to spend a Sunday.

Should you watch it?

This lifted my spirits in a way I hadn’t expected. I giggled a lot during the film and after Blue Jasmine this was a welcome relief.  The comedy is in the deft performance by Colin Firth’s austere and arrogant Stanley and his interplay with Emma Stone’s engaging Sophie.  Also some truly terrible ukulele playing is played for laughs in the most delightful way.  It won’t go down as anything extraordinary but it’s certainly not terrible.

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

It does, several times, my favourite probably being all the exchanges between Sophie’s highly calculating mother and the contrastingly trusting  Mrs Cattlidge.

Other films it reminds me of:

Easy Virtue & The Importance of Being Earnest. Well they both star Colin Firth and are set in the 20s.  Woody Allen is clearly trying to evoke Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward and is quite successful to a degree.  I thought it would remind me of Midnight in Paris but that was a more raucous affair, this was very restrained.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

An Ideal Husband.  By far and away my favourite 20’s set farce has to be the 1999 film led by an inimitable Rupert Everett.

ELC

Quick Fire Review: The Fault In Our Stars

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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

ELC

Quick Fire Review: Belle

Belle

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Sam Reid, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton.

What is it about?

One those “we’ll flesh out the life of a real person” period dramas.

Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay was the daughter of a naval officer and a slave, making her upbringing amongst the aristocracy somewhat complicated.  Wealthy but  illegitimate she needs to navigate a society not wholly comfortable with her race.

Why did I want to watch it?

I really really like the fact that someone made a period drama about a feisty young black woman.  This ticks my romcom, period drama and representation boxes.  Also I saw a film by Amma Asante  called “A Way Of Life” a few years back and it allowed me to answer the question “so how many black, british, female directors can you name?” with “2” (thank you too Gurinder Chanda)

Did I like it?

It was stylishly shot and the performances are first rate across the board, which is only to be expected from such a classy cast.  Its themes are straight out of Austen – Love vs Money, can a woman choose who she marries,  as you grow how do you learn to define and identify yourself in spite of how others define you.  It also tackles Britain’s tricky relationship with slavery.

There is a slight imbalance in that all the characters who are outright horrible to Dido are screamingly racist, whereas their views would have been pretty popular in that society, but Emily Watson’s character straddles the line of discussing how far society is willing to tolerate Dido, as opposed to accept her.

Should you watch it?

I can’t recommend it enough, although, obviously if you hate period dramas then this won’t be your thing and the legal bits are a tad on the dry side.

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

It passes both the Bechdel and Racial Bechdel tests. In one scene it passes them both at the same time, which is pretty sweet.  This is balanced of course by the fact that after race, the key theme is the fact that women are given a value based both on wealth and status in regards to family or any taints that might be associated with their birth.

Other films it reminds me of:

The Young Victoria, The Duchess, Sense and Sensibility, Amistad

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:   

Lost In Austen, another period drama featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (although not in period garb), The Good Wife, because really you need to see a bit more of Mathew Goode, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, because Tom Wilkinson is always delightful and Blackadder to ask why Miranda Richardson isn’t working more.

Also A Way of Life to see Amma Asante’s earlier film, although definitely have a Disney film cued up to follow it.

 

ELC

Quick Fire Review: Her

HER

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Joaquin (if there is a Magnum PI remake he’ll be first in line) Phoenix, Amy (where’s my Oscar already) Adams, Scarlett (just the right amount of sweet and sexy) Johansson.

What is it about?

Lonely dude falls in love with his self aware Siri.

Why did I want to watch it?

Spike Jonze is the man behind the Praise You & Weapon of Choice music videos, so he has a great creative vision. The festival reviews had been pretty encouraging. Oh and the Oscar nomination.

Did I like it?

I thought it was great. You have to worry that the idea is a little creepy, but even at its oddest points, the film does a great job of portraying the humanity of loneliness and looking for an ideal companion.

Should you watch it?

There is a good deal of quirk here, so if you like that kind of thing, the acting is top notch so definitely give it a watch.  Joaquin Phoenix is a very sweet romantic lead and Amy Adams balances looking simultaneously normal and adorable.  And who wouldn’t fall in love with the light-hearted whimsy of ScarJo’s voice?

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

Beats me.  I will say that there are a variety of interesting named female characters, who are people with well defined jobs and lives.  The problem lies with the fact that they don’t talk to each other, defeating the test.  That said there are named OSs with female personas, so it could be argued that they interact with women.  I would say it fails, but raises interesting questions and the female characters are nonetheless well rounded.

Some interesting discussions can be found here : http://bechdeltest.com/view/4860/her/

Other films it reminds me of:

Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind would fit in nicely into this universe.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

The Master .  Not only a thoroughly bizarre film sharing Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams in prominent roles, its lead is the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

ELC

Quick Fire Review: About Time

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Here’s the trailer

Who is in it?

Domhnall “the Dragon expert Weasley” Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Curtis veteran, Bill Nighy.

What is it about?

When he turns 21, Tim is told by his father that he has the ability, like the other men in the family, to travel in time. Tim decides to use this skill to sort out his life. His first aim? Get a girlfriend. Tim soon finds out that although he has used his powers to meet the beautiful Mary, time travel can’t save him from the stresses, sorrows and traumas of life that we all have to endure.

Why did I want to watch it?

It’s a Richard Curtis and although it has divided the critics like Marmite, I was looking forward to the big cuddle of optimism and escapism that his films usually provide. Love Actually is one of my all-time favourite films and I wanted a to see a feel-good film to kick start my cosy Autumn viewing.

Did I like it?

I wasn’t disappointed. Admittedly, it wasn’t my favourite Curtis offering and there were plot issues if you chose to think too carefully about it, but… I got exactly what I had wanted from the film. I liked the characters, I felt with and for them and I laughed and cried in all the right places. It was likeable and I escaped with the characters to their world. I was glad I had decided not to wear mascara. More profoundly, my first thought on leaving the cinema was that I should really give my Dad a call. I am now a teeny tiny bit in love with Domhnall Gleeson – and I didn’t say that when he was a Weasley!

Should you watch it?

Yes, if you are a Curtis fan and you are prepared to go with a film for pure escapism without picking the plot apart and questioning its plausibility. If, unlike some of its harshest critics, you aren’t bothered by the middle-class bubble by the sea which Curtis often portrays, it will be an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon at your local multi.

Other films it reminds me of

See Curtis’ back catalogue…. and that’s not a bad thing!

Watch this instead/as well/before/after

Again, it’s just a Curtis through and through. See it and then see Love Actually again to see Curtis at his absolute best!

LB