Saturday, March 22, 2014

Films I've Seen Of Late - March 2014

Here are five movies I've had the fortune to watch at the local cinema or on my telly at home recently. It's my blog, so it's my opinion. Spoilers may be ahead - ye have been warned!

Monuments Men (2014) - Cineworld, Newport
I don't know why this film has received so much stick. It's not that bad, honestly. Some have complained that the filmmakers have veered too far away from the facts and that it's too pro-American blah blah blah. Get a grip, people. It's a movie, not a documentary. The most important thing is that this film highlights an aspect of WW2 that most people had never heard about – namely, there was a bunch of people working hard to preserve and rescue Europe's culture, while bombs were falling from the sky and troops were advancing across the continent to stomp out the Nazis. Sure, it's not perfect. The performances are okay and there are some weird scenes that don't seem to fit in very well with the rest of the story – but, it still works as a story and has an important message: if your culture (in the form of paintings, sculpture etc.) goes up in smoke, what are you really fighting for?
(6 out of 10)

Elysium (2013) - DVD on the telly
Neill Blomkamp's violent futuristic thriller is a story that speaks to contemporary events, pitting the haves against the have-nots. Matt Damon is one of the billions of have-nots who finds himself on a mission to leave overcrowded and decaying Los Angeles for the 'Elysium' space-station habitat of the mega-rich. Damon is not, however, a freedom fighter or political activist – his motives are, initially, far more selfish – which makes this movie feel a bit too shallow. Of course, its commentary on poverty and freedom is there, but is not as explicit as it could have been. Whilst the visuals are impressive and convincing, the portrayal of our civilisation 150 years from now is one that is too close to 2014 than it should be. Niggles aside, this is a compelling film that is engaging and enthralling (if a little too gory at times).
(8 out of 10).

The Lego Movie (2014) - Odeon, Cardiff
I had high hopes for this one after hearing positive buzz about it and I wasn't disappointed. Full of amazing scenes involving millions of Lego pieces, it manages to get the comedy just right (for both adults and kids) as well as successfully shoehorning in a message about individuality, conformity and teamwork. Whilst this is simply one long advert for Lego, you can't help overlooking the fact because it's such a good film. I went with JKY and a few of his mates for a kid's birthday party and they loved it. I was amazed to learn that the entire film (apart from the end sequence) was made entirely with CGI. The animation is as good as the real thing and I'd just assumed they'd used stop-motion. Of course, to achieve what they did in stop-motion would have taken years. Understandably, a sequel is already in the works – but I can't quite see where the story will go after the first movie. Let's just hope they can maintain the quality for the second film.
(9 out of 10)

Lincoln (2012) - DVD on the telly
Gosh, this was looooong. But not that long – just about bearable, actually. Daniel Day-Lewis played Lincoln without pandering too much to the usual portrayals of the former president. Focusing on the struggle to emancipate the slaves, rather than the whole of Lincoln's life, the story is just about tight enough without feeling too meandering. As with most films that are centred around American politics, you have to concentrate hard to keep up with what's going on as the complexities of the US Political system race past you, but it's no different that watching an episode of The West Wing. If you can endure the length, this film offers an intriguing insight into one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.
(7 out of 10)

Watchmen (2009) - DVD on the telly
A group of costumed crimefighters, known as the Watchmen, have been outlawed and so now try to live normal lives trying to ignore their past. One of their members, however, is assassinated and it is up to those left to figure out who's behind the murder. Throw in a plot about an imminent nuclear war between the US and Russia and that's the basic premise (of course, there's a bit more to it than that). I have a bit of a problem with Zack Snyder, and was a bit wary of watching the Watchmen (heh!) after seeing a few of his previous and most recent films. I think his vision is epic and worthy but he does seem to fall foul over certain things. In 300 it was the obsession with slow-mo (if all the scenes in the film were played at normal speed, it would have finished 30 minutes earlier). Man of Steel was a disregard for plot in lieu of big set-piece battles. I felt Watchmen, however, was faithful and true to the source material as much as any film could be. I've had a copy of the graphic novel for some time and found it hard to follow so never got round to finishing it, but since watching the movie I can actually make sense of the comic (which is quite something I think). If you can handle the extremely dark undertones and visceral violence, this is a compelling story thankfully re-imagined for the cinema with the respect and care it deserves.
(8.5 out of 10)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A terrifiying vision of Britain

Watch this video if you haven't already, then keep reading.

When I saw this for the first time, I was almost driven to tears and made a donation to Save The Children straight after. Such was a impact it had on me. You may feel differently, of course, which is fine, but it struck a chord with me and has haunted me for days after.

Here's why: what is portrayed in this video is not that far fetched and could very much happen in a 21st century Britain. Conflict continues across the world, which shows that we still haven't learned from the last century, the most violent in all of mankind's history. Why would we be immune on our tiny little island? I cannot help but think of my own children when I see this video, and wonder how they would feel if their comfortable and predictable lives were torn apart by conflict or disaster.

Arguably, Britain is unlikely to experience the kind of disintegration that countries like Syria, Ukraine or Lybia have. Our nation has endured countless wars, attempted invasions and internal strife but ever since the English Civil War way back in the mid-seventeenth century, life in Britain has never been quite as precarious (in my humble, non-historian non-politically-minded opinion).

Saying that, one can never assume that things will always stay the same. In fact, things never do. Change is always round the corner, it just depends how much and how quickly it arrives. Given the evident oppression of the poor and less-well-off by the establishment in this country, I wonder how long things can hold together. All it takes is a large enough groups to cry "Enough is enough!"

I pray that those nations across the world experiencing upheaval would soon know peace and stability, and that the children of those nations would soon return living to a normal childhood: one which is free from danger or distress – where they can play, have fun and enjoy life to the fullest.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Someone's Putin their face about at the Oscars!

What did everyone's favourite warmongering president get up to during the Oscars?

Yes, it's rubbish Photoshopping I know, but I haven't got all the time in the world....