Star Wars: Episode 2- Attack of the Clones (2002) REVIEW

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Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) REVIEW

Hey guys! And yes I know I know, this film has been reviewed to death and still continues to be analysed to the core and beat up for all of it’s problems, so that is why I would usually avoid this one completely to review. But, the Star Wars saga has meant a lot to me for many years now after being introduced to it by my parents on the original VCR tapes of the original trilogy and I even still own this film on tape! It has always been one of, if not my favourite movie franchise ever since I was little, from it’s compelling story, to it’s revolutionary special FX, to it’s well rounded and fleshed out characters, it’s fantasy style elements such as the Force, to it’s iconic swooping score. So, I was feeling in a Star Wars mood today as you do and have decided to finally review the whole saga, something that I do find quite daunting as I’m well aware of the mixed opinions on all of the films having watched tons of reviews of each film, but all I can offer is my personal opinion and experience growing up with this wonderfully epic sci-fi franchise so I’m really excited to get started on this and I hope everyone is open to another opinion! 🙂

So lets get on with the review! In preparation for writing this review I made a list of the pros and cons of the film since I know how controversial it is and I was surprised and relieved to find out there were more pros than cons! When I was younger, about eight or nine years old, I remember being obsessed with this film, I know it’s crazy! I owned some pyjamas with Anakin Skywalker’s face on it and collected loads of action figures and watched this film over and over again, so I knew immediately when watching this today that this film is completely overrated in terms of the hate it gets! Of course, I know this has problems and of course isn’t the best Star Wars film at all, but if an eight year-old could enjoy it for what it is-an adventure, fantasy sci-fi epic with some fun action scenes, decent acting, a wonderful score by the great John Williams and some beautiful cinematography, then this film really can’t be regarded as the worst thing to ever come out of the Star Wars universe.

However, watching this from an adult’s perspective has made me appreciate the bad points and the things George Lucas and his team probably could have changed or done differently to make the final product more appraising of it’s source material, so I’ll start with the cons first. As many have already said, the plot of this film is very convoluted and sometimes hard for children to follow, as these films are mostly aimed at the younger audience, it’s pretty hard for them to become invested in taxation, trade federation and politics. I know I can’t even follow the politics in this film and the scenes in space on the droid ship and down on Coruscant with the Queen go way over my head even today. The opening sequence to this film I have to admit is pretty boring, you wouldn’t expect the iconic opening crawl to include words like taxation and trade federation in a Star Wars film would you? Some scenes are pretty dull to sit through, but there are plenty of pros that make this film worth watching which I will get to 🙂

The next point on my list is an over-reliance on CGI, which is more of a minor point but for many scenes especially containing Jar Jar Binks and his interactions with the actors, it’s sometimes quite distracting and doesn’t quite appear realistic enough, although I am able to forgive this considering the time this film came out. Although, I do agree with others and think that George should have perhaps taken the time to find alternate ways to show off special FX, such as using the amazing practical effects that were used in the original trilogy. Of course, another big issue is Jar Jar! Everyone knows it so I’ll just gloss over it, I know he was made for the children as George Lucas stated that the movies were aimed at them, but I honestly didn’t realise how annoying he actually was until I watched it through an adult’s perspective. He never really bothered me when I was little, but the fact that he constantly interrupts and slows down the plot just really aggravates me and I’m looking forward to watching Attack of the Clones when there is less of Jar Jar in it!!

My next point is more of single ones I wrote down but will compile them into one point. The script has some odd moments and line delivery by most of the actors is very monotone and quite dull, especially by Queen Amidala, and I don’t blame the actors for this because even the best like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor suffer from it and it’s all down to a bland script with characters that don’t have enough ‘human’ interactions and emotions. When you think back to the original trilogy and the bickering and banter that went on between the main heroes, you really miss it in this film, with everything just feeling underwhelming. This is also the same for Darth Maul, the evil Sith apprentice of Darth Sideous who faces off with our main Jedi heroes towards the climax of the film, but the problem is there is no character development to him at all, even though his design is pretty cool he just seems to be someone who doesn’t talk a lot and that’s about it.

Furthermore, there is also the odd choice of casting Samuel L Jackson as a supposed wise Jedi master, even though he does come into his own during the later films when he is fighting with a lightsaber, but during the council meetings his line delivery comes across as a bit stilted and rather strange for an actor used to a different genre of film. He’s by no means terrible though and this may also be down to George Lucas’ script, although I have always thought that perhaps an older dark skinned actor like Morgan Freeman might have been a more appropriate choice for his character.

My final negative point is the choice of having four battles going on at once during the climax of the film, which has also been covered by other reviewers. When I was younger, I used to enjoy watching Anakin defeating the droid control ship in space as the idea of a nine year-old being able to do this just appealed to me, but I’ve never been particularly excited when watching the Gungans fighting the droids because even then Jar Jar goofing around didn’t entertain me and I was just waiting for it to cut away to something else. Padme leading the others to the ViceRoy was essential to the plot so I can’t argue against that and as for Darth Maul’s fight with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, I’ll leave that to the pros list!

So there are my criticisms of this film! There are a few, but for me personally there are more positives than negatives to be found and here they are! The first one has to be John Williams’ incredible score, it’s just as good as the original trilogy and really makes The Phantom Menace feel part of the Star Wars franchise, with the iconic opening theme and crawl and fan favourite Duel of the Fates playing during the final battle between Sith and Jedi; it’s an absolutely fantastic track with the haunting epic choir and wonderful visuals accompanying it. I also loved the use of Luke’s theme when he was learning the ways of the Force, which also plays a couple of times when Qui Gon is teaching young Anakin the Force, which is a nice little continuity element and a way to tie the family together with their connection to the Force. John Williams’ score makes me feel happy, excited, moved and also sad and depressed, it’s a great addition to the Star Wars universe.

I also really enjoy the huge scope that George Lucas has to offer of this universe he has created and it’s all thanks to wonderful special FX artists, sound design and creature designs! From the opening shot, we get a very realistic sound of a space ship’s engines as it whizzes past the camera to board the trade ship, some great sound design from Ben Burke who also worked on the original trilogy. Another sequence in the film that really makes use of sound is the podrace scene, which many claim is one of the better scenes in the film and some argue it to be too long, but I personally believe it is just the right length, allowing us to indulge in the realistic and beautiful sounds of the pod race engines and speed as they whizz past the camera and some explode. It also gives the audience a lot of time to really invest in Anakin, even though we know he has to win since he is the central part of the trilogy, but there’s something just thrilling and exciting at seeing a little boy manage to pilot a massive dangerous pod racer and manage to defeat horrible creatures in order to claim his freedom-an excellent sequence with some brilliant special FX and sound design.

What also gives this film a huge scale and scope is the cinematography and technology, allowing the audience to see brand new planets as well as the creatures that inhabit them. The different shots of the planet Naboo where Queen Amidala resides are simply stunning, with a beautiful castle like building surrounded by waterfalls and buildings that remind me of the quiet, tranquil streets of Venice. There is also the intriguing addition of the city-like planet Coroscant, which has many speeders flying about the skies at all hours which must have taken ages to animate. I also really appreciate the fact that Lucas and his team decided to shoot on location again for Tatooine as they did in the original trilogy, which allowed the setting to feel more realistic and the sense that the audience were right there when Anakin and his mother were getting to know the Jedi and Padme. There are also some nice ship designs, such as the Naboo sleek silver ship that takes the group to Tatooine and the Naboo fighters that help take down the droid control ship, aswell as the Gungan bongo which is provided for the Jedi to reach the city centre, travelling in the water. So the different designs and special FX are mostly pretty good and definitely add more to this amazing universe, which became the building blocks for the rest of the prequel trilogy to follow.

Additionally, back to my previous point about the end battle between the Jedi and Sith, Darth Maul, even without any character development or personality, this fight is simply EPIC! I know many have criticised the actual fighting to be overally choreographed which I do understand, but this sequence is just too entertaining to not enjoy. Accompanied by the music and visuals, this is one of the best fights we have ever seen in the Star Wars Sega and it’s great to see young Obi Wan in his prime as he becomes a Jedi Knight after Qui Gon is killed.

I have seen many many people complain about Jake Lloyd’s performance as Anakin Skywalker over the years and I really do have to say that he really isn’t that bad in the film at all, definitely not as bad as Jar Jar. His performance, although a little over the top at times, is what Lucas required of him and sometimes honestly delivered a good scene, such as when Anakin says goodbye to his mother. His acting in that scene is pretty believable and realistic and we have to remember that he was only a child and did the best that he could do and he even quit acting soon afterwards because of all the hate he received and the bullying he got from his peers, so I really can’t see why people are so harsh towards him. His meeting with Padme (Natalie Portman) is actually quite a sweet scene if you ignore some of the odd dialogue, but they build quite a nice relationship in this film because they are children and get along well with each other. Plus, Jake’s chemistry with his on screen mother Shmi, played by Pernilla August, is perfect. Everytime I watch their scenes, they are just so heartwarming and tender as Shmi clearly loves her son and wants nothing more than his happiness, with their interactions coming across as very realistic. The goodbye scene is performed wonderfully by both actors which is only strengthened by John Williams’ fantastic score. So yes, I don’t think Jake Lloyd deserves all of the hate he has received and maybe George Lucas should have chosen a more accomplished child actor to play young Darth Vader, but Jake definitely wasn’t the main reason why the film may not be as good as the others.

Finally, although I have touched on how the dialgogue can be rather odd and strange at times, there do happens to be some good choices and witty lines placed here and there, mainly taking place between Obi Wan and Qui Gon. It’s a shame that Obi Wan isn’t the protagonist in this film as his older version clearly said that he took it upon himself to train Anakin as a Jedi, when in reality it was actually Obi Wan’s master Qui Gon who saw potential in Anakin and it was only after Qui Gon died that Obi Wan reluctantly took on the job. I like the relationship between Qui Gon and Obi Wan anyway, even though a bit dull like the other characters, Ewan McGregor gets to show off his charm from time to time like the line ‘You were right about one thing, master. The negotiations were short’, just after they had almost been gassed to death and killed by the people they were supposed to be negotiating with. And Liam Neeson was a great choice to play the wise Jedi Knight and his soft tones deliver some nice lines when guiding Obi Wan and by the end, it is clear that there is a strong teacher-student, maybe even father-son relationship between the two, which makes Qui-Gon’s death all the more moving and sad, mostly thanks to the actors’ great performances.

So there’s my review for Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace! I do apologise if it comes across as a bit of a disjointed list of the goods and bads, it’s such a difficult one to review since everyone has already done it and for the amount of hate it has received over the years. I know that this film has it’s fans like me, so how bad can it possibly be people?! For me personally, I can sit down and watch this one as part of the Star Wars Sega, I’ve enjoyed it ever since I was little and still continue to be entertained by it today, whether if it’s because of the epic score, the nice special FX or simply seeing Lucas’ vision of how we would meet a young cast of the original trilogy! It’s not one to be skipped and it should be commended for its achievements, regardless of the negative points!

Thank you so much for reading guys! 🙂 Looking forward to the next one!

 

The Beatles Questions

Hello internet! So anyone who is close to me knows that I’m a massive Beatles fan and to tribute my love for them as people and their music, I’m going to do a one off post so any other Beatles fans can get to know me and my favourite things about them! So here goes:

  • Top ten favourite Beatles songs? (Excluding all Sgt Pepper album tracks because they’re all amazing!)

10) Two of Us-I am the Walrus-Strawberry Fields Forever-Can’t Buy Me Love-Another Girl-Don’t Bother Me-Things We Said Today-Tax Man-Across the Universe-1) The Word

  • Top three favourite Beatles albums

3) Help!-Revolver-1) Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

  • Favourite Beatle?

Paul McCartney

  • Favourite Beatle wife?

Cynthia Lennon

  • Favourite Beatle child?

Julian Lennon

  • Favourite Beatle movie?

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

  • Which Beatle would be your best friend?

Ringo Starr

  • Which Beatle would you marry?

Paul McCartney

  • Which Beatles song do you listen to when you are sad?

She’s Leaving Home

  • Favourite era looks and sound wise?

Looks-1964, Sound-1965-7

  • Favourite Beatles love song?

If I Fell/And I Love Her

  • Favourite Beatles music video?

We Can Work It Out (because of John and Paul’s hilarious banter)

  • Which Beatles song makes you happiest?

Hey Bulldog/Sgt Pepper

  • Favourite Beatles album cover?

Abbey Road

  • Top five things about each Beatle?

John Lennon-Wit, peace activism, warm man underneath all the hard layers, leader and older brother role in the band, artistic flair in music and drawing

Paul McCartney-Charisma, the fact that he is still performing at 75, great father,                 vegetarian, able to play several different instruments

George Harrison-Quiet and more sensitive than the others, dedication to Indian culture, great father, good singer, youngest of group and managed to still impress John Lennon with guitar skills aged 14

Ringo Starr-Funny, adorable, great drummer, compassionate and caring

  • Favourite Beatle solo career?

Paul McCartney (mostly because he made it a family thing)

  • Favourite early Beatles song?

Boys

  • Most inspiring Beatle?

Paul or George

Hope you guys enjoyed this 🙂

 

 

 

 

Two of Us (2000) Review

Hello internet!

Now, it’s been a while since I last posted as I’ve recently gotten back from a ten day holiday abroad so I can finally get back to writing reviews! I actually watched this film on holiday after stumbling across it accidentally and I initially thought how strange a concept it was to have John Lennon and Paul McCartney be played by actors which led me to believe that the film would be a bit underwhelming overall, but I was very surprised at just how beautiful and touching this film really is. Being a huge Beatles fan, it is easy for me to say that and I do have to admit that anyone who isn’t a die hard fan of The Beatles probably won’t find much enjoyment out of this picture, simply because the whole hour and a half running time consists of the two protagonists talking and reminiscing about past events and I can see a lot of people finding the pacing a bit dull. However, for me personally I think that this film is a believable portrayal of the rumoured meeting between John and Paul in John’s flat in New York, 1976 and certainly made me feel incredibly moved by the end credits.

‘Two of Us’ is directed by Michael Lindsay, the same director behind the Let it Be documentary about the Beatles’ last album recording together, so it is clear to me that he had a good knowledge on how John and Paul acted, their mannerisms and their own personal opinions. This was because whilst watching, I found myself mesmerised by these two actors, who both give a very convincing performance of these musical legends. Jared Harris plays John Lennon and does a wonderful, impressive job at portraying Lennon’s sarcastic wit and outspoken attitude, whilst also portraying his reserved side. Aidan Quinn plays Paul McCartney almost perfectly and captures the man’s soft spoken, romantic ‘pretty face’ nature perfectly which really helped the film’s emotional, tender scenes when Paul is confronting John on the hurt he felt when Lennon begun to bring Yoko into the recording sessions of Let it Be. Again, having the director of the Let it Be documentary at the helm really makes these scenes of dialogue between the two that much more believable and genuine.

Furthermore, I found the dialogue to be very well written and beautifully captures the charisma, friendship and love shared between these Liverpool mates, but also adds a huge amount of tension and drama, especially during the first couple of scenes when Paul visits John. It is clear that these old friends have a lot of patching up to do and that is basically what the film is about, two mates catching up after years of not talking and also learning to accept their differences and confront their past. This is more focused on John as he eventually opens up about the pain he feels after his troubled childhood with his father leaving early on and his mother being killed in a car crash, with Paul being able to relate with the fact that they both lost their mothers at an early age and McCartney recently lost his father. It’s truly heartwarming to watch these old friends rekindle in organic scenes of the two laughing and making silly jokes, putting on fake German accents when they get caught by police for taking drugs in the park, whilst also addressing some interesting apparent issues between John and Paul, such as John’s competitive attitude with Paul’s success with Wings and Paul’s hurt when John spent so much time with Yoko Ono, as Paul (Aidan) stated “I felt as if I was losing my best mate.” The two actors also smoothly speak in the Liverpool accent and coupled with John’s circular glasses and Paul’s 70’s mullet, I soon forgot that the two were being portrayed by actors, their performances are simply stellar and they clearly respect and admire the real John and Paul.

There are also some funny little easter eggs and nods to close fans of the Beatles which of course, I picked up on and really enjoyed, such as when John sarcastically refers to a ‘hard day’s night’, the famous title of the Beatles’ first film in 1964 and a known hit. I also liked the references to the last concert the band ever performed on top of Abbey Road Studios, with Paul jokingly quoting John’s famous witty comment after performing ‘Get Back’ “Thank you all from ourselves and we hope we past the audition!”. These little moments added to the believable dialogue as two old friends happily reminisce about the ‘good old days’ of being in such a popular group.

Another interesting quality of the film is the lack of Beatles music actually played, not one of their tracks are played throughout the whole running time, though the protagonists make constant references to a few. ‘Yesterday’ for example is included to address John’s annoyance at constantly being asked by fans on the street to sing it when he is not the original writer, Paul is. The soundtrack for this film is by David Schwartz, known for composing several American TV show soundtracks, who provides a very relaxing, touching score to the film which perfectly blends with the emotional dialogue and heavy content of some of the scenes. I really enjoyed the scene when Paul is coming up the lift to visit John, which has a playful bouncy feel to it, making me excited and intrigued to see what happens and when the music stops for the first few scenes between the two, it is clear that nothing is going to be as easy as it seems! Schwartz also provides a beautiful, sombre and simple piano piece which is played with the more heavy, emotional scenes.

Two that stick out in my mind is when John and Paul start fighting over past events with Yoko and eventually Paul leaves only to return a minute later with the two going out for some air; the superb acting combined with this tender score is incredibly powerful and making me really empathise with these men. Another scene, my favourite scene of the film is when John and Paul are on the rooftop of the flats sharing a cigarette and John slips his glasses of, asking Paul what he really sees when he looks at him. Paul replies by referring to John as a ‘beautiful boy’ (a nice nod to the song John wrote for his young son Sean called ‘Beautiful Boy’) as he softly tells Lennon that he doesn’t realise how special he is. Accompanied by the piano melody underneath, Lindsay and Schwartz with Quinn and Harris manage to deliver a simply beautifully emotional scene, which when I first watched it on holiday left me choked up and moved.

The film also has a very dreamlike, almost fantasy element to it, with the decor of John’s flat being mostly white, which Paul comments on in a moment of awkward silence between the two as they secretly share a bag of drugs. This helped to isolate the men from the rest of the world and allowed me to focus only on their dialogue and interactions. I really liked a scene when Paul started playing John’s piano, which was shot on a white piano with white walls in the background and with very little dialogue, Lindsay manages to portray Lennon and McCartney’s bond over music, especially when the two start playfully singing together which captured their friendship perfectly.

To sum up, really I’d call ‘Two of Us’ a hidden gem for any Beatles fan to dig up and watch, it’s just a fantastic concept explored to its full extent with one of the greatest friendships of all time being treated with true respect and care. It’s a wonderful little watch and I would recommend it to anyone who loves The Beatles simply for it’s authenticity at capturing the personalities of John Lennon and Paul McCartney and their lifelong friendship.

 

The Lion King Film Review (SPOILERS!)

Hi guys! So I’ve had a bit of a lazy day today and decided to watch this Disney classic and one of the best animated films ever made. Being born in the 1990’s, I’m probably one of the only kids who grew up without this film in my life, instead I watched the sequel The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (which I would actually recommend, it’s definitely not as good as the original but it’s still a really good direct to DVD sequel.) So my only experience of the original is actually through an adult’s perspective, but luckily I can say that The Lion King is a film that can be enjoyed by anyone at all because it’s maturity, compelling story and a relatable lead, Simba.

Loosely based off the Shakespeare play ‘Hamlet’, The Lion King follows the adventures of the young lion Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), the heir of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Simba’s wicked uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons), plots to take Mufasa’s throne by luring father and son into a stampede of wildebeests. But Simba escapes, and only Mufasa is killed. Simba returns as an adult (Matthew Broderick) to take back his homeland from Scar with the help of his friends Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). From beginning to end, this film is an entertaining package of humour, adventure, action, tragedy and is simply epic!! The iconic opening with the circle of life soundtrack playing over the impressive visuals is always a joy to watch and when the title appears and the music cuts, we just know we’re in for something special. As for the other songs, every one is just as iconic as the opening and equally memorable and fun to sing along with. 

Additionally, the famous celebrities who lend their voices to these characters all do a fantastic job, with my personal standout being James Earl Jones, who does a fabulous job at capturing the sense of power and authority of the king, whilst also relaying his love for his son, Simba. I also enjoy Jonathan Taylor Thomas lending his voice for young Simba which effectively captures the prince’s childlike sense of adventure and rebellion, which makes him all the more believable for the kids to relate to. Furthermore, the dialogue for the characters also appears natural, especially when young Simba and Nala, his best friend and future lover, interact when they visit the elephant graveyard and when Mufasa must tell his son off for endangering their lives. These scenes make the film more realistic which is admirable, especially for an animated feature.

Of course, we have to talk about the most tragic scenes of the whole film: Mufasa’s death. The whole setup already hints at what is to come, when Scar tells Simba to wait for a surprise that Mufasa apparently wants to show his son and when Scar says the surprise is to ‘die for’, we know that something terrible is going to happen. And when the look of pure dread crosses Simba’s face when he sees the stampede of wilder-beast coming towards him, a scene of tragedy takes place as Mufasa succeeds in saving his son but realises his brother’s betrayal and is killed. Whilst watching it today, I found myself trying to control the tears, but when Simba sees his father’s lifeless body I couldn’t stop them falling, it’s truly a powerful emotional scene and hurts every time I watch it. At this point, we couldn’t hate Scar any more, especially when he makes Simba believe that it was his fault his father died and he effectively goes into exile, leaving Scar the king of Pride Rock.

It’s a good thing the next scene consists of funny sidekicks, Timon and Pumbaa to distract the kids from one of the most heart-wrenching moments Disney has ever produced. I’ve always enjoyed the montage of this song as Simba grows up and forgets his past and his reunited with Nala again as he falls in love with her. One of my favourite moments of this film is when Rafiki shows Simba who he really is, with a clever little moral thrown in, teaching children that although the past may hurt it is important to face your mistakes and take responsibility. And so the epic climax of the film commences, with impressive gorgeous visuals as Simba and Scar fight to the death, accompanied by a action-packed score, funny sidekick gags for the kids and a final realisation that Scar is responsible for Mufasa’s death. It’s truly satisfying to see this jealous, corrupt villain become dinner to the hungry hyenas! Finally, we can end on a high note when Simba and Nala present their daughter (though we don’t know at the time) to the rest of the kingdom and completing a wonderful film!

Although I wished this film was part of my childhood, I can still enjoy it just as much as an adult. It truly deserves it’s praise, though a little overrated from time to time, it’s still a magnificent achievement by Disney and is something I can return to knowing I’m in for a treat!

Bambi Film Review (SPOILERS!)

Hey guys! I’ve finally finished A Levels after a stressful last few months so now I’m looking forward to watching lots of new films and having more time to review them! So I watched Bambi a couple days ago to refresh my memory. Bambi is one of Disney’s classics made in 1942 and follows the simple story of a young deer’s life as he grows up in the forest and finds love, whilst having to avoid ‘Man’, the villain of the film.

Bambi is one of those Disney films that I saw rarely when I was younger and I suppose that was probably a good thing because of the dark themes and scenes in the film, but when I did watch it I was always emotionally drained after each viewing. Now, I can watch it and it will still have a similar effect on me but I do believe it is a beautiful, unique and timeless film which I would even say is one of the greatest animated films ever made. The animation in this film is absolutely stunning, every single frame is rich with detail and authenticity that you really become engulfed in this forest and you feel that you’re right alongside Bambi as he grows up and faces the highs and lows of life. One of my personal favourite scenes is the ‘Little April Showers’ scene when Bambi experiences a thunder storm for the first time, the animation is incredible here accompanied with a beautiful haunting choir to make the scene even more effective.

Walt Disney ensured the animation team used real animals in order to make the animals in the film look as realistic as possible and they definitely pulled it off! A personal highlight just showing what this team can accomplish is the ice skating scene, when Thumper, Bambi’s best friend, helps him to learn how to ice skate. It’s pure harmless fun that encapsulates childhood innocence just before Bambi’s mother is tragically shot by hunters. Speaking of, of course this heart wrenching scene has pretty much scarred many children for life and rightfully so! Every time, I know it’s coming, but it doesn’t make witnessing this tragic end to such a loving mother any easier. I think the worst part is when Bambi is left alone, calling for his mother in the falling snow, it’s just horrendous to watch and I have to breathe a sigh of relief when the scenes that follow involve the light, cliche ‘love at first sight’ gimmick.

In terms of the animation, I also particularly like the use of harsh contrasts, shadows and colours which are either used to signify ‘man’ or danger, such as during the stag fight. Accompanied by the thrilling score, a highlight for me being the theme used for man which has always frightened me since I was little, these scenes are always thrilling to watch and really get across the sense of danger that these woodland creatures face on a daily basis. The use of children to voice Bambi, Thumper, Flower and Faline, are also very effective at making the story more realistic as all of the children do a wonderful job by sounding incredibly natural and organic. Thumper (voiced by Peter Behn), for example, is constantly told off my his mother with the famous line ‘What did your father tell you?’ and on one response the actor actually forgot his line for a few seconds, speaking “If you can’t say something nice-“, then pausing to think before finishing “-don’t say something at all.” Little moments like this make the film more realistic and effective at demonstrating the innocence of childhood and youth.

If I did have to nitpick, I do think that the film feels a tad outdated at some points. It’s strange to think that even female animals in animation can be sexualised! Even though I still enjoy the ‘twitterpated’ scene, when Bambi and his friends are effectively seduced by their future partners, it’s pretty funny. I can’t really enjoy it fully since the women are presented so stereotypically as sex objects who look after their appearance, but to be honest it is just a tiny nit pick and it definitely doesn’t hinder the quality of the rest of the film. It’s pretty much made up for by the thrilling climax of the film when Bambi and friends have to escape ‘man’ when he returns again and accidentally starts a forest fire, it’s pretty much edge on your seat stuff, especially after Bambi is shot and we don’t know whether he’ll survive.

So overall, I think Bambi is a wonderful film and an important achievement in animation history. I can watch it anytime, in any season and still be blown away by the beautiful animation that effectively takes me away into the forest for an hour. It’s not something you could watch over and over again like other Disney films, being a bit dark and heavy in places, but Bambi is a timeless classic about the life cycle of animals in the forest with some fab music, good voice cast and an effective simple story that anyone can relate to.

 

 

Wallace and Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review (SPOILERS!)

Hi guys!

Okay, so I watched this last night with my family and all I can start with is I LOVE THIS FILM! Wallace and Gromit has always been a warm presence in my childhood, as well as most of Aardman films, such as Chicken Run. I can’t remember it not being in my life thanks to the TV shorts playing all the time and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this film a hundred times but for me it never gets old! It’s a nostalgic gem for me, and will always be one of my favourite childhood films 🙂

So, in the duo’s first feature film (and I really hope they do another one soon!), Wallace (Peter Sallis) and Gromit have started a pest control business and find themselves employed by Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) to help find a were rabbit destroying the town’s crops before the vegetable competition takes place, whilst Tottington’s pompous boyfriend Lord Victor Quatermaine (Ralph Fiennes) fights for her affection with Wallace. Due to Wallace’s own mind experiment going wrong, it turns out that he himself is the were rabbit, so it’s all up to Gromit to save his master before the town find out!

The animation in the film, as expected from Aardman, is absolutely fantastic. Every frame is rich with detail and beautiful clay models of the characters we all know and love. There are some clever, funny visual gags used in a lot of the scenes which many children will not pick up on and are obviously intended for the grown-up audiences, so it’s quite amusing for me to watch it as an adult and pick up on the sense of humour. However, there’s plenty of ‘cheesy’, slapstick humour for the children in the audience, and even then it isn’t the over-the-top, in the face type, it will probably get the adults laughing too. I also absolutely love the sets in this film. Since this is a full-length feature film, the sets are much grander and on a bigger scale than those used in the original classic shorts. Every time I watch the film, I always get caught up in the typical British countryside village or town and living in Yorkshire makes it easy to relate to and admire. As always, the best part of the animation for me, has to be the way Nick Park and his team animate Gromit; the character doesn’t speak a word and yet his facial expressions such as a roll of the eyes, are enough to tell the audience what he is thinking and create a perfectly relatable, endearing character in the midst of the madness.

Another stand-out for me is the brilliant use of camera work and lighting to build up the suspense of the big reveal that Wallace is in fact the were-rabbit, and although fairly predictable for the adult audiences, it isn’t too obvious so you’re always invested in the plot, and with delightfully entertaining characters like Wallace and Gromit, you’re always going to be entertained. The film cleverly ensures that the audience don’t see the were-rabbit until a full transformation scene, with a great use of dark lighting and blocked out camera use so we only see a few shots of the creature before we see him fully transform. Of course, the plot does seem pretty silly, but what works is that the creators already know this and some of the characters make fun of the whole idea of a giant rabbit destroying vegetables, such as a policeman voiced by the hilarious Peter Kay and, of course, Ralph Fiennes’ Victor.

Another element I must mention is the incredibly EPIC score by Hans Zimmer. Whilst writing this review, I’m currently listening to it now, and it makes perfect sense that Zimmer composed the score. As usual, he has done a fine job here and I simply can’t imagine the film without it, it fully enhances the action scenes and adds an element of charm to the film. The stand-out for me is the main theme of the film, which plays at the beginning when the duo go on one of their pest control missions, and the montage of them getting ready is just fantastic, the music really inviting the audience to feel excited and ready for the adventure to come.

The voice cast do a splendid job, with very British voices making the film all the more relatable and charming to me. Peter Kay is always a win, his role is minor here but every line he delivers is hilarious and Fiennes and Bonham Carter do a very good job with their roles too. Of course, Peter Sallis does a great job as always, with his warm, eccentric voice perfectly capturing the adventurous, caring character of Wallace.

Amongst all of these elements and the nostlagia factor, I think what keeps me returning to this film is the huge sense of heart and the endearing relationship between Wallace and his dog, Gromit. There’s just something about a dog having to save his master from himself that always gets me invested and entertained. The relationship between the two is touching and they clearly care a lot for each other, even when Gromit has to go along with the bad inventions that Wallace makes and deal with the consequences on his own, but that’s just what makes him such an engaging character: his sense of loyalty and commitment to his master. Along with the witty banter that goes on between them (even if Gromit doesn’t say a word), my favourite scene that encapsulates their relationship has to be when Gromit saves Wallace as the were-rabbit from being shot by Victor, but then loses control of the fairground plane and before he crashes, Wallace catches him and hits the ground instead, therefore killing himself as the rabbit. That scene has always moved me, even though it is arguably a little over the top and cheesy, depending on your mood it is likely to engage you. And it’s really sad to see Gromit cry for a few seconds before Wallace wakes up as a human and everything is okay! Of course, we already knew it would be a happy ending 🙂

So! Wallace and Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit will always be one of my favourite childhood films, and probably just one of my favourites in general. The film is saturated in beautiful animation, a great sense of suspense with an hilarious plot which is very self-aware, an epic music score, fitting voice cast and wonderful emotional moments that leave me smiling or tearing up. All in all, I love this film and would recommend it to anyone at all, whether you’re five years old or fifty, you’re bound to enjoy this film. It is truly a fine example of what Aardman can do 🙂

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review (Spoiler free!)

Hey peeps! Yesterday, I was finally able to watch Fantastic Beasts because I wasn’t able to see it in cinemas. Being a big fan of the Harry Potter universe, with both the books and films making a huge impact on my life, I was looking forward to this new spin off film. I haven’t read the book under the same name as the film, so had no idea what to expect going in but from the spoiler free reviews I’d watched beforehand, it seemed like a good addition to the Harry Potter franchise 🙂

So Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in the 1920’s, seventy years before Harry Potter ever reads the book and follows the author, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who has a fascinating love of magical creatures which he keeps hidden in an enchanted old suitcase. Unfortunately, when he visits New York, some of the creatures go missing and he manages to get his suitcase mixed up with one that belongs to a No-Maj (the American slang for Muggles) Jacob and Newt has to find them all before they cause chaos to New York.

So Fantastic Beasts was directed by David Yates again, who also directed Harry Potter films 5-7, who I thought did a pretty good job on those films, but not particularly in terms of book to film adaptations. What I liked about this film was that the story was about the author of the book and the screenplay was written by J K Rowling, so there wasn’t any adaptation errors to worry about here. The film looks fantastic! Throughout the 2hr 13 minute running time, I thought the cinematography and colours were used very well and represented 1920’s New York accurately. Although, I did think the lighting was a tad too dark in many scenes which really took me out of the film at some points, because it was too hard to actually see actors’ faces.

I thought the character of Newt was very likeable as an awkward, bumbling introvert with a huge passion for caring for magical creatures and Eddie Redmayne was a perfect choice for him. I’m a massive fan of Eddie, I think he’s a really good actor and he presented an endearing character, handling the interactions with the CGI creatures with believable love and devotion, and his emotional scenes very well. But the one who stole the show for me was Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski as the No-Maj who accidently gets roped into the fantasy, action adventure. His reactions to what was going on around him when encountering the magical beasts were absolutely hilarious and appropriate reactions to say the least. There was a funny scene when Newt climbed into his suitcase as if going down some stairs and it cut to Jacob’s reaction which was on the nose perfect, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen it 😉

If I’m honest, I do think the other ‘good’ characters, which consisted of witch sisters Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Porpentina (Katherine Waterston) could have done with more character development. I found them to be quite flat characters, not at all unlikable but for me, simply lacked motivations, ambitions and rounded personalities. Especially because Porpentina acts as Newt’s love interest and the two even share a small moment at the end of the film, so I found it a bit disappointing that I didn’t feel too much emotion for the two, though there was definitely chemistry there between the actors. Since we are going to have about another 5 films in this series, I really hope these characters have more development and personality that matches the detail poured into the original trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione.

On the flip side, however, I thought Colin Farrell as Percival Graves was really good! He was very intimidating and chilling in his scenes, especially in the final act where the final battle takes place, but I promise not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it. I will just say that J K Rowling never disappoints with her clever twists in the plot and this film includes a pretty predictable one but also one I honestly didn’t see coming. It’s handled really well and lead to an emotional climax. However, I did think that this film did sometimes suffer with pacing issues and balancing action with exposition scenes. There were times when it did drag between scenes and I was just waiting for some excitement again, so I thought the film could’ve done with a bit more editing and chopping down but it wasn’t noticeable for the whole time 🙂

Additionally, I did think the animation on the magical creatures was done very well. Most of the time the human eye can usually spot what is real and what isn’t, which of course is no exception here, but I really admire the detail and creative ideas that have gone into these creature designs, ranging from as small as a grasshopper to as big as a bus!

What did really surprise me most about the film was the dark and depressing tone it had towards the end! I wasn’t expecting it to be similar to the Harry Potter films anyway since it follows a cast of mature adults in 1920’s, so I suspected that it would be a tad darker in places, but didn’t expect it to be quite depressing during the climax! I did think it was handled well with good performances by the actors and a moving score by James Newton Howard, but as I mentioned before, I thought the film could’ve done with being edited to appear a little brighter.

All in all, I thought Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a really promising start to the new franchise on it’s way and to any Harry Potter fan who is worried about watching this film, I would definitely recommend for the excellently executed action scenes, detailed creature designs, good performances by the actors and more magic!

Moana Review

Hello peeps! So I’m trying to post regularly to get a good system going so here goes 🙂

A few months ago I went to see Disney’s latest CG animated film, Moana, with a friend and I have to admit it was one of my best cinema experiences in a long time. I remember coming out and turning into the biggest fangirl I think I’ve ever been for a Disney film, I just couldn’t wait to watch it again and show it to my other friends and family to see what they thought and to double check whether the film was actually as good as I initially thought it was.

Moana is about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, she meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.

So today I watched Moana again on DVD (which of course I ordered on the day it came out) and unsurprisingly loved it just as much as the first time! This film is a great example of what Disney has achieved recently, not just in beautifully rendered animation but also having a more modern take on an independent female lead and a focus on a different culture which we haven’t seen too much of from them. Of course they did Princess and the Frog, but it was really nice to see another film respecting and admiring other cultures that are different to the traditional Western representation in most of their films.

Of course, many people have been reminded of Frozen when watching this film and for obvious reasons, with a strong female lead, musical numbers and funny sidekicks. And I definitely think it shows Disney is taking a step in the right direction. The characters, especially the main leads Moana and Maui, are very likeable and well developed with their dialogue coming off as hilarious when the two have to get along and soon an endearing friendship blossoms between the two. It’s also nice to see that Moana never gains a love interest in the film, for the majority of the time, the film focuses on her individual quest and her strong, but relatably adventurous personality that bounces off Maui’s arrogance and wit perfectly. There’s a great balance of humour and emotion as their friendship develops, with a delightful script that will entertain both children and adults.

I’ve seen many comments comparing Moana’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’ to Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ and to be honest, I can see why. This film’s main theme, sung beautifully by Auli’i Cravalho, not only captures the adventurous and daring character, but also invites the audience along on her epic journey to save her people. Speaking of Auli’i, it was nice to see when I watched behind the scenes footage, that Disney chose an actress originally from Hawaii to match the nationality of Moana, which I thought made her the perfect choice. She made a fantastic job at capturing Moana’s adventure, determination and quirky side and a powerful, promising performance in ‘How Far I’ll Go’. I also really liked Dwayne Johnson as Mauii, who was really good at capturing the typical arrogant, carefree character, whilst also packing a lot of power into ‘Your Welcome’. The two bounced off eachother so well I was actually surprised that they didn’t film their lines together! Another nod must go to Rachel House, who provided a calm, sweet voice to Gramma Tala, and was a welcoming extra to the film to provide support and love for her granddaughter, Moana.

There are so many sequences in this film that are stunning to watch. The animation on the water was essential to look good since the water is a character in itself, and it didn’t disappoint! So much creativity and effort has obviously gone into this film to make everything look as realistic as possible. This even included characters’ hair movements, especially Moana’s which looked incredibly realistic. Without giving anything away, I must say that the final confrontation towards the end was my personal favourite scene in the whole film because of the gorgeous animation and the moving musical score perfectly woven in underneath.

Anyone who hasn’t seen Moana yet I would definitely recommend you watch it! Without trying to exaggerate too much, it’s definitely one of the best films I’ve seen recently with memorable, relatable characters, a terrific musical score, talented voice actors, a strong story and female lead, and stunning animation-a must-see for Disney fans and anyone!

Billy Elliot Film Review (Spoilers!)

Hey guys, so this weekend I re-watched one of my favourite films, Billy Elliot, a heartwarming and feel-good film that always leaves me feeling inspired and relaxed. I’m sure many of you have heard of the musical made after the film’s release, but I’ll give a brief overview of the plot. Billy, played by 14 year-old Jamie Bell, is an eleven year-old boy living in Durham in 1984 with his father (Gary Lewis), brother Tony (Jamie Draven) and Grandma (Jean Heywood). His mother died of unknown reasons, though during the film the audience are made to feel her presence with a piano based theme dedicated to her and a few scenes showing the effect of her death on Billy. Billy soon finds a passion for dance, specifically ballet, which his mining family resent when they find out, leading to some tense and emotional scenes when the family must accept Billy’s talent and allow him to pursue his dream in a time when it wasn’t accepted well.

One of the reasons why this is one of my favourite films is the fantastic soundtrack and editing that fits the movie’s themes of family, ambitions and dance perfectly. For example, the opening scene features T Rex’s Cosmic Dancer played over our protagonist, Billy, jumping on his bed and we immediately identify with him and his passion. As for Billy, I think Jamie Bell was absolute perfect casting; Jamie is very believable in the film and carries the emotional scenes very well, especially the terrific on-screen chemistry he shares with his ballet teacher, Mrs Wilkinson, also played brilliantly by Julie Walters. The relationship that forms between them is both heartwarming and hilarious at moments.

Of course, the dancing is the main highlight of the film with fantastic choreography, bringing out the best out of the actors. Personally, my favourite scene in the film has to be the ‘angry dance’, when the family find out about Billy’s passion, cutting to a terrific dance montage in which the precise editing of the dancing and Jamie’s amazing performance creates a very well timed and emotionally engaging scene. There are many other scenes that easily stick out in my head, with many hilarious lines becoming more memorable very time I watch, like when Mrs Wilkinson is getting frustrated at Billy and he replies “Don’t lose your blob!”, always getting a laugh out of me. There are loads of other one liners and witty comments that get a laugh or two. However, the film does have a 15 rating because of the strong language consistently used by the adults and the children, so it’s definitely not for kids!

What also keeps me returning is the drama and wonderful acting from everyone involved. Gary Lewis as the father has the best character arc in the film. At first, he has the stereotypical ‘masculine’ view that his son should have nothing to do with a ‘girl’s’ hobby, but over the course of the film his opinion shifts as he realises how much talent Billy has and is willing to do anything to let him fulfil his dream. Julie Walters as the dance teacher also delivers a wonderful performance as always, balancing a strict head-strong woman with a caring one perfectly and a couple of the scenes with her and Jamie either bring a tear to my eye or leave me feeling moved and emotional. It’s a typical drama and an emotional roller-coaster, but one done very well. Directer Stephen Daldry managed to get the best performances out of the actors whilst also ensuring they were well rounded and developed.

The final scene of course is one of the best I’ve ever seen, very operatic and engaging. It shows Billy as a young man dancing the lead in Swan Lake as his emotionally overwhelmed father watches his son’s debut. The film finishes before we see the full dance, which is a little disappointing, but I’ve always loved the final shot of Billy leaping into the air with a quick cut to his father’s emotional expression before we see the jump in a long shot. The film overall is edited very well.

So I may have overally praised the film 🙂 and there are a couple odd plot choices that I’ve never understand, such as why Mrs Wilkinson doesn’t turn up to Billy’s debut performance? But, overall, Billy Elliot is a heartwarming, hilarious, thought-provoking and engaging film which has brilliant cinematography, a moving score and top notch acting from all the cast. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys feel-good, inspiring films and obviously Julie Walters is always a win for me 😉