Saturday, 28 March 2015

Home (2015) Film Review

I went to see this film tonight and I've got to say the adverts show the best bits. I was underwhelmed. The storyline was predictable and pretty much every single joke fell flat. It was cringe-worthy and predictable and nothing we haven't seen before.





Tip, voiced by Rihanna, and Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, are so distracting. All you can hear is Rihanna and Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory). Their voices are far too distinctive to sustain main characters through an animated film. It just didn't work. They were well acted, and surprisingly especially Rihanna was believable as teenage Tip. Tip's mum Lucy, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, is much more subtle and believable.

The film was totally nonsensical and followed no rules of physics or logic in order for the plot to keep flowing. Such as when the Boovs see Oh and Tip and instead of immediatley doing something about the one last human they point their weapons at Oh... But they don't even recognise him in the first place. For children this might go unnoticed but for anyone else it's distracting and seems poorly thought out. The final scenes lack the emotional impact and seem bland and obvious. However the soundtrack is great, it's got some really good songs on. The Rihanna tunes are a bit jarring particularly when Tip's character puts one on, it takes you out of the film and reminds you - if you needed reminding - that Tip has Rihanna's voice. A strange choice in my opinion.





Tip is an interesting character, breaking the norm set by the Disney characters of having white, stick-thin, weak, damsel-in-distress, wishy washy girls. Tip is from Barbados (probably in part to explain Rihanna's non-American accent) and is black, curvy, outspoken, quick tempered, strong and brave character Disney should aspire to have more of. I hope this trend only gets more popular and continues to expand to all different races, religions, shapes, sizes, genders, personalities, etc. It's good to show that women can be a wide variety of things and don't have to fit one specific mould. Let's have some more outspoken, independent characters for children to look up to!

All in all it was an entertaining film but not funny or particularly emotional but worth a watch if you've got kids to keep busy and 90 minutes spare.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Germanwings Plane Crash - The Facts and Questions Remaining

I've been reading about this story almost obsessively since the news broke. It's just so tragic and awful, and you can't help but put yourself in the victims' position. What if you were in that plane as it went down with your friends or family? 

Close-ups of debris
Source

On the Sky News site there's pictures and names of some of the victims on board and it's heart breaking to know that they had to go through this through no choice of their own. Just from this sample of the 144 passengers and 6 flight attendants, there were two babies on board, two opera singers (husband and wife) after a performance in Spain, a mother and son celebrating his new job, a young female student, a 50 year old father who is leaving behind two children and a wife, a male English student from Hull, sixteen exchange students from the same school (so friends), a married man...

144 people is just unbelievable. I remember reading about this on Reddit and someone had looked at the flight path and descent and had said it was unnatural - in speed and the time taken - for it to go down the way it had. No distress call was sent from the plane. But it was still assumed at that time to be an accident. 

Now we know the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, a twenty eight year old man who had only come out of training in 2013, intentionally crashed the plane. Recordings from the plane crashing indicate he was breathing and therefore conscious, but not only that but breathing calmly. He waited until the pilot left (presumably for a toilet break) and sent the plane in a downwards trajectory he knew would end in the death of all on board. He had to crash in a certain way to not trigger the plane's automatic systems that would have kicked in if the plane was descending too fast - eg. a hijack attempt. There are regulations in place that state there have to be two people in the cockpit but the pilot did not get a flight attendant to sit in the cockpit while he went. Why? Is it so commonplace for that regulation to be broken that no one bothers with it anymore? Were the flight attendants busy? We probably won't ever know for sure.

Then from the recordings we know the pilot tried to break back into the cockpit after realising he had purposefully been locked out. He would have known the plane was going down, and he would have also known that because of the post-9/11 regulations the door has to be sturdy enough to be grenade proof along with several other security procedures that all work on the basis that the two people in the cockpit are not the ones that are doing the hijacking. There is an outside unlocking system that, for security reasons, not much is known about. It is said to take five minutes for the unlocking system to work so the pilot could have re-entered but one Redditor estimated that in the eight minutes it took to descend - two minutes to go to the toilet and return, one minute for the realisation something wasn't right to set in, five minutes for the door to unlock - it would have already been too late to do anything about the crash. 

Apparently the passengers started screaming only in the last few moments, so they didn't know until then that the plane was crashing, but I don't understand how that is true. I wish it was, but when the pilot has been locked out and is desperately trying to get in the cockpit in front of all the passengers to stop the plane from crashing into to Alps, along with the fact - through the windows and that horrible sea-sickness feeling you get - the passengers can see and feel the plane going down too fast, I think they must have known well before that. 

What confuses and sickens me the most is Lubitz. He sat in the cockpit and locked the pilot out, and carefully drove the plane into the ground so automatic systems wouldn't work and even in the final few moments his breathing was calm. We know that much. But if you think about it, he was sat in a position with front facing windows. He had the prime viewing of the mountains getting closer and closer, and his breathing remained calm. In his last few moments alive, knowing his voice was being recorded, he never apologised, told anyone he loved them, said goodbye, revealed his motivation, anything. He knew that with his death he was leaving behind hundreds of friends and families, and the whole world at large, so many questions to deal with, as well as the implications this crash now has.

All aviation companies now have a dilemma to face. When 9/11 happened new security measures were taken to protect the cockpit and make it impenetrable to outsiders attempting to hijack the plane. Now this has happened, there's going to have to be a choice who is trusted more to not deliberately bring a plane down - the pilots or the passengers. One Redditor stated that, with this incident included, ten planes have been intentionally crashed because of pilots, but just four because of passenger hijackers. This statistic would imply pilots are more likely to be a danger, but there will have to be a balance struck to get the optimum security procedures in place. Regulations will have to stop being ignored through complacency. Psychological checks will have to be regularly taken. There are many ways to prevent something like this happening again, but the main issue standing in the way of that will be money. 

Hopefully when further investigations take place regarding Lubitz's background we will have an idea of his intentions. Was it terrorism? Was it a suicide that also implicated 150 people? Was it a psychotic break? We might never know. But for the families' sakes, I hope we get some clarity soon about why so many people had to die. RIP to all of the victims on board that plane.



The Reddit thread regarding the crash.

The BBC News article regarding the crash.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) Film Review SPOILERS!

I read this book during summer last year and I loved it. I ugly cried when the twist was revealed that actually Hazel wasn't going to die, Augustus was. That John Green made Augustus believable, losing his confidence, happiness and courage near to the end of his death, was all the worse. It felt like someone you knew really dying. 






When I went to see the film in the cinema last August (a week before my friends and I went to Amsterdam, which was a bit surreal) it was different, because instead of being inside of Hazel's mind you're now just a viewer of her life. There's less of a connection to her and sometimes her actions can seem selfish, which is normal for a teenager anyway, but in the book they were explained much better. Plus, everything seems more romantic written down. In film it can sometimes seem a bit cheesy. However I really liked the way the texts were visualised in the film, as hand-drawn bubbles sometimes with fireworks exploding out of them to give a sense of Hazel's excitement.






BEFORE GOOGLING TFIOS:

I rewatched this film last night and it isn't just a one-watch-wonder. It stands the test of repeat viewings. The Fault in Our Stars is amazing. It makes you laugh in parts (egg-throwing scene), smile (when Augustus and Hazel are falling in love and so cute together), cry (just about the whole last third of the film). The director knows exactly how to play the viewer and manipulate their emotions, which is actually a good thing. Most of the dialogue is directly from the novel so it still retains some authenticity of being Green's own words and his expertly crafted teenage first love story is so perfect it doesn't need changing much at all. Augustus' metaphor - the unlit cigarette - is too obvious for me. It's the kind of thing that is normally used in a literary way, but not stated so explicitly. Even in the book it seemed a bit unbelievable for a teenager to bother doing that. And it's weird Hazel is okay (aw) with it, because he's still essentially plowing money into the big corporations giving people cancer. However the film as a whole is whirlwind ride of first love, teenage angst, emotion, all ramped up by the instability of their diseases. The park scenes, from when they are both relatively healthy to when they know he hasn't got much time left, are beautiful. The trip to Amsterdam is picturesque and full of energy and adventure. Though a lot cleaner and less populated with dudes smoking weed while they ride their bikes than I remember. 







The actors give the performances of their lives, Ansel Elgort (Augustus) is spectacular and in particular the petrol station scene. The struggle not to cry in front of my friends watching him cry was real. Shailene Woodley (Hazel) is - as always - amazing and you forget its her, but sometimes her laughter was so forced it was a bit jarring. Nat Wolff (Isaac) is such a natural, hilarious performance and the eulogy scene where he says he doesn't want to see a world without Augustus Waters is the most heart-wrenching in the whole film, for me. Unfortunately it took a while of getting used to the two main characters because in between watches of The Fault in Our Stars I watched Divergent. (See my review here.) Big mistake - it wasn't worth it, and it's really weird seeing Woodley and Engort transition from brother and sister to boyfriend and girlfriend. They were made to play lovers rather than family, though, their chemistry seems so natural.

In the final third where tissues are a must, waiting for Augustus to die is awful. Every scene is tense, wondering if that's going to be the day. The film doesn't romanticise his illness, neither does the book, and they both deserve some credit for that for the viewers who have been effected by a terminal disease of whatever kind. The final scene of Hazel reading Augustus' final letter is so emotional, and the perfect way to end the film. Unlike the book it doesn't leave you wondering what happens to Augustus' family and friends because you know that, eventually, they'll all be alright. 






AFTER GOOGLING TFIS:

Rotten Tomatoes - 8/10 - impressive considering this is made up of critics' opinions. The general consensus is "Wise, funny, and heartbreaking without resorting to exploitation, The Fault In Our Stars does right by its bestselling source material." which I would also agree with.

IMDb: 8/10 - Seems about right. The film has its faults (ha) but overall it's a pretty amazing watch.
- According to this, the film made 10x its budget. 
- The title originates from a Shakespeare quote, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..." and although its a different play, TFIS has a very Romeo and Juliet feel about the story. Just less depressing. And over a longer span than 5 days. And they aren't 13.
- The bench they sit on when Augustus reveals his news was stolen. (By superfans?)



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Internet Trolls

Recently I've noticed trolling on Twitter and various Facebook pages to be getting worse, in my opinion. People are beginning to insult people who have recently died, people of a certain gender, race, religion, class, culture, anything. People who are successful are shot down through jealousy and people who aren't are made to feel even worse through self-centredness. 

It's all just so wrong.




Compassion and empathy seem to be slowly fading. I love Reddit and there's a subreddit supposedly for women to vent/talk freely, but the top comments are increasingly from angry, misogynistic males who try and promote anti-women messages, in a female forum. Some trolling is so stupid it doesn't even make sense. But if there's an audience for it, and some form of recognition, then it will continue to happen. 

To link this a bit to feminism, I recently listened to a podcast called “#545: This American Life” and it said women are statistically more likely to be trolled on the internet, or stalked on it. Does this mean that the internet is seen to be “male territory”? It’s a complicated question because it would seem true. Gaming, online or otherwise, can be seen as male territory with females seen as invasive, alien and largely in the minority with stereotypes regarding female gamers being terrible outdated and wrong. If this stereotype has any kind of basis it can only be from there being such a stigma attached to gaming for women that they either didn’t play, or played genderless as I know a lot of girls/women do. End of random tangent.




Anyway, back to "This American Life", a woman named Wendy West featured to tell her story about being trolled on Twitter. A guy took the time to research all about her life, and found out her father had recently died. He made a fake Twitter account as her dead dad and wrote some really awful things about West. It caused Wendy a lot of emotional pain to see something that awful, and eventually ended up in a phone call with him that starts off awkward and ends up with closure for them both. He admitted he did it because she was a strong, opinionated woman and that threatened him as a man because he felt powerless and wanted her to feel his pain too.

I have a feeling that’s where a lot of trolls are coming from. They aren’t happy with something to do with themselves and take it out on other people who seem to be getting what they wish they had. Whether that’s public attention, success of any kind, popularity, it tends to be through jealousy that hatred really springs to life. It’s hard to be happy for people if you feel your beneath them on some level.

I get it, and I have a feeling it’s something to do with social media. When every day we are bombarded with statuses, tweets, photos, etc. it’s easy to become desensitised to good news. (There are people who post about the bad in their lives, but to generalise, it’s usually for attention, especially when it’s something normally extremely private like a break up or a bad day at work. Stuff you’d normally just share with your best friend or partner.) When someone posts about their promotion, pregnancy, engagement, amazing holiday, happy family get together, it’s easy to get jealous and wish that for yourself. That’s normal. What’s not helpful is when that jealousy develops into hate, of the person or yourself, and a troll feels the need to post it online.




So, like old school bullies back when there wasn't online harassment, we all understand that trolls have deep emotional/psychological/self-esteem issues that they try and push onto someone else happier than them. Social media isn't the reason FOR the bullying, but it's a platform to have it heard. People who have something mean to say are going to find a way to say it, but the anonymity of the internet is perfect for their purposes. It’s sad that not everyone can be as content with their lives as everyone else. But everyone has a choice. We have all experienced jealousy or resentment but how many people have gone on to post online about that? What used to be a private thing has been made publically acceptable because people nowadays are able to hide behind a keyboard. Trolls choose to post things online and that’s something to be pitied on one hand but also it angers me. How bad must your own life be to take the time of day to spout hate to those undeserving of it? Instead of wasting energy trying to bring someone else down to your level, why not direct your energies bettering yourself?



In 2012 some of you might remember the case of Amanda Todd who took her own life because of trolls and it send shockwaves around the internet, especially when the hate campaign against Amanda Todd continued well after her death, however some people seemed to realise what they said online actually effected the victim in real life. Her Youtube video detailing the abuse she'd received such as being beaten up by a girl, used for sex by a boy, moving school several times and having intimate pictures shared online and used as a tool of blackmail. In 2014 a Dutch suspect was named, and paedophilia was yet another thing Amanda, unknowingly, had to endure. Such a sad and avoidable story.



The Truth About Homesickness

Homesickness is something every student at university who has moved away from home for the first time has to deal with it. It's an awful feeling that has no remedy except eating masses of junk food and counting down the days until your next visit home. I'd say phone family or friends for a chat but for me that makes it worse. 




The only problem with homesickness is it's got a stigma attached that only whiny little children at their first sleepover should suffer from it, and that it's embarrassing or something. But I guarantee every single person feels it at one time or another when they move from home.  Even if they've moved from home to escape, there are still certain good memories or things like not having to buy food, experiencing the warmth of a central heated house, the comfort you always have knowing there's good company in the house to chat with or watch TV with, that you just won't get anywhere else. That confident, outgoing, constantly happy and loud person you see around uni all the time? They'll occasionally go home and probably cry because they miss their parents so much and wonder why they moved away in the first place. But you moved to experience new things, meet new people that aren't your usual group of friends, get perspectives you wouldn't have stuck in the same city, learn some things about yourself, push yourself to get some new life skills and explore a completely new place to where you're used to.



It's hard moving from home, but people seem to find it even harder talking about homesickness. It's considered a kind of private thing, like you're completely sure you're the only one who has EVER felt so low or missed their parents/siblings/grandparents/friends as much as you. But it's not true! If you talk to your house mates they'll feel exactly the same. Those nights of staying holed up in your bedroom, watching hours of films alone and having no one to talk to wear you down eventually. It's just natural. This is one of those cases where a problem shared really is a problem halved. If you know you're surrounded by house mates that have the same feeling then you can help each other by doing more things together or trying to recreate home in cheap ways to lift each other's spirits. If being away from home teaches you one thing, it's that you end up really appreciating it. You might have moved away thinking your city was the worst but every time you go back you're glad to see the graffiti-lined walls and chewing gum stained paths. 



So just remember, you're never alone. There are people around you all feeling the same emotions you are. If you don't have house mates then you're not alone in the way of being just one of thousands of people all feeling homesick. 

Divergent (2014) Film Review SPOILERS!

I actually watched this one the other day so I might have forgotten a few minor details but what still remains is the confusion at how a film with seemingly such a good premise could fail quite so badly. Possibly the screenplay writer or the director could have done with making it slightly grittier, a la The Hunger Games. Because this film already borrowed heavily from that film. Aside from the obvious Katniss/Triss comparisons which are stupid anyway because we are allowed to have more than one female protagonist per decade (and because Tris doesn't compare to Katniss - she's a sap) it even opens on a Reaping-style day with all the teenagers about to go through a ritualistic (yearly?) ceremony deciding their fates, and the “strong” female protagonist having her hair done by her mother in preparation. What is it with these YA dystopian films and having their hair done-did? Could you guess, too, that there's even a motif of birds running through the film? Instead of a mockingjay she has tattooed onto her (ooh, edgy) a flock of birds flying, and it also seems to be one of her fears. Original.


So we have Tris (right now still plain ol’ Beatrice) and she’s completely ordinary. She does her chores, keeps her head down, has no arguments, displays no out of the ordinary behaviour that would set her apart from the rest of the girls in her faction. Then they do the test and, ohmygod, she’s different. She’s unique and set apart from the crowd (except she’s not. I’ve seen the trailer for the second film. There’s billions of them! Even, coincidentally, the guy she falls in love with) and she’s dangerous too, because her mind doesn’t work the way the government wants it to. WTF? No further explanation is given on that throughout the film, it’s just kind of rehashed with different words, because it’s a stupid premise.

Then she has to keep this big secret from everyone, even though that oh-so-mysterious brain checker (who also sidelines as a tattoo artist?!) knows fine well she’ll be caught out later anyway with the more intense examinations. That whole thing just seemed really silly to me anyway, like those crappy online personality tests you find online that determines your whole character from like 10 obviously worded questions about your pets. For some reason their results aren’t computerised in this advanced technological society and no one finds out that she hasn’t got a definite faction. But no one investigates her mysterious lack of results. Because it’s Tris, and she’s special.


Obviously she chooses the bad-ass faction that thinks they’re great but they’re more like squealing banshees for the first few scenes. Then Tris must have some calming effect on them because when she’s initiated there’s no more joyful shouting or anything. As soon as she jumps out of the train, Tris has a  personality transplant. She transforms immediately from average, quiet girl to outspoken and confident hero. But there’s no transition, and it just leaves her character feeling inconsistent and unreliable. That tends to be a problem throughout the film. All characters act a certain way until it suits the author that they should now be different and they instantaneously switch without warning. Four turns from miserable, anti-social guy to outgoing and kind, Peter goes from being sarcastic bully to quiet good guy, the maths geek goes from unassuming and weak to a murderer. It just doesn’t make sense.


More about Four. The brooding, handsome, mean guy she falls in love with. I hope they explain his name later on because it’s a bit strange that he chose a number for himself as his permanent name to last forever. Four is awful to them all really, for no reason. Then he takes a special liking to Tris because she speaks back to him at dinner or something even though when Lenny Kravitz’s daughter does it he has a go at her. The writers obviously took tips from Twilight about this romance subplot because their main method of communication is staring at each other an uncomfortable amount, and he unfairly helps her over the other newbies even though she’s the worst and weak as anything. But we get a montage which seems like a night or two where she does a bit of extra practice with a punching bag so then after that she’s ripped and excels at fighting. Obviously. The only good bits in these scenes are the banter between the friends.


After Tris gets kicked out but she decides she’s above the rules and tags along with her faction and no one bats an eyelid there’s a long, pointless scene where they fight and shoot each other for flags but it adds nothing to the film except for Tris and Four to bond and it’s boring and drags. I mean, leadership should have really bothered, knowing they’re just going to be used as pawns in a robot army in the next scene anyway. What were they hoping to teach them?


Four helps Tris disguise her divergent-ness and it’s all very lovely. They stare. She finally gets inside of his head (literally) and finds out why he’s so mean. Then they are the only two divergents and they find each other, then there’s a very, very conveniently timed reappearance from Tris’ mother to save her life at the very last second. We also learn Tris is a heartless bitch when she cries for about a minute when her mum dies then when her dad dies within the same hour she doesn’t shed a tear. WTF? Both your parents just died! Don’t you care? Nope. She only cares when Four has been programmed to kill her (anyone remember when this happened to Peeta in THG?) then she cries because “I love you, it’s okay. I love you.”

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

They’ve kissed once. They’ve known each other about a week. And now she loves him. Please. For just one second of this film could we not be treated to some believability?

Obviously Tris wins over bitchy Kate Winslet with the dodgey accent and boring name (Jeanine is not a villain name, that’s more like a distant aunty who force feeds you biscuits when you visit) and it ends happily with them on the train off into the sunset. So cheesey. And still no one but her brother cares about the parents dying! Within an hour of each other!


I didn’t particularly like Divergent, as you might have been able to guess. The story was a blatant set up for further action and it was just plain boring in most parts. The love story was contrived but I was glad at least we were spared the dreaded love triangle. Compared to its YA dystopian action film predecessor The Hunger Games it really falls short. It seems more like a money-maker than an attempt to make a brilliant film for teenagers. It’s all about making the next big franchise now and they’ve even split the last book in the trilogy into a two-parter. Shock. It steals all the wrong elements from THG so it’s neither original nor impressive. Apparently Insurgent, at least financially, is doing as well as Divergent on its opening weekend. I’m hoping for the film’s sake as well as the fans of the books that their experience won’t be ruined any more by gaping plot holes, inconsistent characters, too conveniently timed deus ex machina, and cheesiness. Hopefully this series gets better, but I’m not holding my breath.


How Online Reactions to Lil' Chris' Death Reveal Deeper Issues



Lil' Chris is a former child celebrity that made it big then faded from showbiz (against his will by the look of his Twitter) and kept trying and trying to make it back in. He tweeted about his struggle with depression and how he would never make it big and how he should just give up. He was only 24. Though the official cause of death hasn't been released yet, there have been rumours of suicide and it seems likely.



His last tweet was this:

Which is a pretty nice final word for the internet.

Obviously the internet went crazy. UNILAD (not known for being the most serious journalism ever) posted:

Former British child star Lil Chris has been found dead at the very young age of 24. The cause of death is currently unknown. RIP.

And their followers' reactions were pretty disgusting to be honest. Such thoughtless and spiteful words from people over the death of a young man working hard to achieve his dreams but ultimately being defeated by depression (maybe). As of right now there are 4,000 comments on their post. Thankfully the top comments are all about others being disrespectful and RIP. But delve a little deeper and the worst side of humanity is out in full force, such as:



Blake Robinson




Jack Matthews I'll take a guess it was probably drug related or he finally got round to listening to his album


Sam Whittle In other news, 150 died in a plane crash today..


Kayleigh Horner Right so over 100 people died in a plane accident today and just because lil Chris was famous you all care more! You all need to get your priorities straight! Many people die from suicide everyday, yous don't care about that!!! Society is f***ed up these days!!!!!!



That's just a few samples of many in the same vein. Apart from the obvious heartlessness of the comments I think they reveal a bit about certain problems within society. There was probably a time before the internet when if someone died there was some kind of respect and reverence around the death to ensure the family weren't expected to deal with the grief and anyone's negativity.

The comments making jokes about his album seem to be trying to degrade any kind of success he may have had - why? It doesn't achieve anything. Surely we should be promoting young people in particular to strive to achieve their dreams? A lesson to be learned here would probably just enforce that listening to keyboard warriors is a waste of time.

The people talking about the plane crash don't seem to realise that it's possible to be aware of two tragic incidents within the same day. Before I heard about Lil' Chris I knew about the plane crash from Reddit. Just because two bad things have happened doesn't mean one has to be ranked as "more tragic" than the other, or people have to choose a side to be sorry for. It's all tragic, it's all sad. We should all take a moment to appreciate everything that has happened today and be a little bit more grateful for the people around us that we love and realise that life is too short. The only thing correct I can see within these comments is "Society is f***ed up these days" but not for the reasons the commenter suggests. I think it's declining because of a general selfishness and a lack of empathy for anyone else. Especially on the internet when it's so easy to spout hate. 

Though Lil' Chris is dead his family are still around and while they're having to process the death of a loved one who passed away well before his time, I saw one commenter say that "Well, Lil' Chris didn't think about his family when he killed himself" and I think this comment sums the complete hypocrisy and ignorance of all the hatred spewed online today. No one thinks of other people when they tap words onto the screen and send it for everyone to see, because they don't care. If everyone started caring a bit more maybe the internet could become a less toxic place. Until then, I hope anyone who knew Lil' Chris retains their dignity and there are no backlashes from these intolerable people without any sympathy or morals to even see how they are in the wrong.

Gravity (2013) Film Review SPOILERS!

I know I'm behind the times with this film but I've just got round to watching it after a script I wrote for uni got called the "anti-Gravity" and it intrigued me enough to watch the real deal.

In the title I've included a warning about spoilers but really, unless you're in the minority (me) it's been two years and you probably should have watched this by now. I'm definitely glad I did. I write notes as I'm watching and I ended up with five full A5 pages from this 90 minute film on various reactions and thoughts as it's playing. This is my general run-down of the whole film and review...


BEFORE GOOGLING GRAVITY: 

I haven't done any research or looked at other people's reviews yet because I don't want it tainting mine - I will when I've finished typing all this down - but I sincerely hope Sandra Bullock won not just an armful but a house full of awards for her performance. I've got to say it's one of the best I've ever, ever seen. It's so subtle and believable and she doesn't overact at any point. George Clooney seems to be playing himself, mostly, so he gets no credit from me. The screenwriters seemed to have put all of their attention on Bullock's lines as Dr Stone (subtle naming here: she’s Stone and she’s hard, unbreakable, determined, strong?!), because Kowalski (Clooney) has the most unrealistically calm and conversational tone even in the most dire of situations that I couldn't connect with the character. He's supposed to be laid back but he's completely horizontal with seemingly no care for himself or much for anyone else, either. Shariff, the third astronaut, was like a small puppy they'd brought along for the ride for entertainment purposes only. They ruined his character. Why on Earth (get it?) would they bring along a supposedly professional astronaut probably with around ten PhD's just for him to start bouncing out of the ISS, dancing and singing like an idiot, just to kill him off minutes later? What the hell? What was the point in him?

Does this picture not just make your skin crawl?

The subtitles that give facts about space was a good way to start, conveying the desolation and emptiness of space and making it an even scarier enemy for the astronauts. The transmissions as we pan over space were highly annoying because they were completely unintelligible and far too quiet. So if I was supposed to pick up on anything during those few minutes, I didn't. When we finally see the three characters it's a bit slow to begin with but the visuals of Earth were spectacular. Seeing Dr Stone float above Earth made me feel a bit funny with a horrible sense of vertigo and danger, as if she could somehow fall. The CGI was obviously necessary but until I got used to it, the whole thing felt a bit like a video game, because even their faces were computer graphics. The casual conversations began to flow a bit better, and when nothing is happening, I'm tense, waiting for something to happen. To keep things interesting for the viewer there's some unusual movement of the camera panning as if it was also in zero gravity with a flow and movement that's innovative and works really well within this pseudo-documentary style film, added to by the almost real-time run of events. The peace is disturbed by the danger and the music really adds to the danger. The debris passing them by is SO tense I was completely hooked. When Stone began spinning wildly off into space, slowly becoming just another speck in the huge mass of outer space, I thought she was done for. When she was compared to Earth in size I felt really emotional (I know...) about how tiny and vulnerable she was. It was dizzying and terrifying and I felt like I was there with her. But strangely, space never ceases in this film to still be awesome and beautiful yet there’s always a sense of foreboding about its sheer magnitude.


:(


The intimate camera angles ramp up even further when we get so close we're actually inside Stone's helmet, and the feeling of claustrophobia is really effective. I don’t know how but Alfonso Cuaron (the director) really manages to suck you in until you forget you’re not an astronaut out there with them and you are, in fact, just watching a film. Kowalski’s return is a slight reprieve from the danger but he is far too calm but I understand they couldn't have just had all the characters losing their minds and going mental.


Then Stone is tethered to Kowalski, rescued by the knight in white armour, and dragged along to the next space station. Every time that damn tether whipped to its full extent I was so sure Stone was going to snap off and float away again, and the tension (somehow) only mounts and mounts from there. First we get Sharrif’s reappearance, sans half his face, and an emotional picture of his family to remind us they’re real people with families on Earth etc. Then there’s a countdown of Stone’s oxygen, then there’s a countdown of the reappearance of the deadly debris... It’s all going on. Kowalski is a requirement at this point just to stop the viewer from cutting off their own oxygen it’s all getting so depressing. To stop you getting complacent after that moment of calm there’s some piercing music while a corpse then floats in Stone’s face (petrifying) and a pan of all the other corpses (mentally scarring).

Never let go, Rose!

When Stone half-heartedly tries to persuade Kowalski to let her go I felt really glad he didn’t. Until this point we don't know much about either character and it was poignant and miserably ironic that Stone was actually less isolated in the wide expanse of space than on Earth with billions of other people. When they’re nearing the ISS and she’s got one percent I was thinking how convenient the timing was – until we then have probably a good ten minutes of Stone trying to get inside and not really worrying about her oxygen until right at the last second. I know she had some left in her space suit but surely not that much?


The real shocker for me was when Kowalski detached himself and floated off to die. Wow. I really expected them both to live in a “teamwork is the best way!” kind of moral message. Kowalski’s detatched voice is still calm but this time it’s really emotional, and slightly creepy. When he repeats, “Ryan, do you copy?” and you know he needs her now as much as she needs him, it killed me a bit inside. I also enjoyed the possible Titanic reference, when Kowalski (this isn’t an exact quote) says “You’re going to need to learn to let go” then “I’m going to need to hear you say you’ll make it.” Does everyone else remember Jack’s immortal words, “Never let go,” and the whole speech about saying she’s going to survive and be an old lady and have lots of babies? I know I’m sad. But the comparison is still there, and it was a bit jarring. Like, why is he trying to steal Jack’s lines? They’re for Rose, not Stone. The love-fest disappears when Stone promises to get him, then wastes a few minutes floating foetal-like in the shuttle. We even get a cable float in just the right place to look like an umbilical cord, in case we hadn’t got the symbolism already. It’s okay. It’s not like Kowalski’s oxygen is running out or anything.


Said umbilical cord.

In this new environment the fact it was filmed to be shown in 3D really becomes obvious. We have random objects flying out at us constantly and it gets a bit irritating, like when you get a single hair in your eye and you can’t find it to remove it for hours. But when she loses contact with Kowalski and we know that’s the end it’s extremely sad. Bullock plays this scene particularly well in conveying her loneliness is back, the one shot at friendship or love she had now gone, and she shuts herself down to tell Houston in scientific terms how everything around her is slowly turning to ruins. Then we have the fire. The well-timed catastrophe after catastrophe is good to keep pacing but predictable and tiresome. Absolutely nothing goes right for her, all problems are explained by the debris, but it gets a bit repetitive. “Let’s do this, oh no it’s broke, let’s do this, oh no it’s broke...” Give the girl a break!


A really effective moment of audio is the shift from when she’s in the shuttle and it’s all chaotic and loud, and then it shifts to a perspective from space and it’s literally silence. My ears didn’t know what to do with themselves. So well thought out to remind us of where she is, as in, not safe within that tiny little spacecraft. In the next scene where she never gives up hope and reads the manual and finds out what to do next, I began to appreciate what a good character Stone is. She’s like a feminist’s dream. She’s strong, capable, adaptable, she needs saving once or twice until she finds her feet and ends up saving him (temporarily), she’s smart and witty, and she’s actually a good role model for girls watching. But anyway, that’s beside the point.

'Murica

When she’s removing the parachute from the shuttle I began to feel a bit bored. This was the first scene that had lagged for me. It could have been cut, really. When the camera moves with the spacecraft, to me it felt like a simulator ride, and a bit gimmicky. Then she gets back in and, obviously, the shuttle won’t start.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Stone laments. We feel your pain, sister. Her frustration mirrors our own at this point. Yet another catastrophe. It begins to lose its impact when it’s blatantly obvious nothing’s going to go without a hitch.

What I didn’t expect was for her to give up. When she starts losing her mind during the transmission with the Asian from Earth (which was a really nice twist) I was captivated. Another brilliantly acted scene from Bullock. When the hatch opened I thought she’d died and gone to heaven and Kowalski was waiting for her, and this was his entry pep talk. But I was proven wrong and he was just unlocking a piece of information vital to her survival that she wouldn't have gotten otherwise. But it was a bit paradoxical. Did she already know the information, deep down? Because she says herself she never did it. Or did he give her the information somehow, though it was just a dream? I don't know. It was nice seeing the two reunited though, and when he disappeared it was like he died all over again.

Is... is that another problem to be solved?
The talk she has with him afterwards, giving him messages to pass on to her daughter, and to give her a hug... Oh my word. Emotional. It cut deep.


“No more just driving. Let’s go home.” I loved this line. It wrapped up her old Earth life, her new space life, and how she had changed for the better. It was empowering and I felt like shouting encouragement at the TV screen.

(Just to sidetrack a moment: those bloody hatches! Why are they designed so poorly? Twice she nearly gets flung off into the depths of space because they open so quickly. Come on, NASA. Sort it out.)

I really enjoyed how when she’s got herself prepared and ready, she starts channelling Kowalski’s laid back attitude. The Stone has been broken, metaphorically speaking. Picking the right button just proves she is THE luckiest person ever, too. “And I have a bad feeling about this mission – ha!” Was really well acted and it felt like though he wasn't there, Kowalski was along for the ride, guiding her to Earth. His character’s left his mark on her.

On the descent I actually got a bit disappointed. Though the cinematography was amazing (as it had been all the way through) the cheesy, Armageddon-style, hero music of trumpets and drums was just way over the top and so stereotypical Hollywood blockbuster that it was cringe worthy. The rest of the film was so innovative and unique and this scene let it down. A total change in tone from the gritty electro music with heavy bass played during the first debris attack. I particularly liked the image of the shuttle pieces looking like shooting stars, though.

Stone in the worrying moments before we determine she ISN'T going to kiss the minging sand.



Then the final scene. She lands in water which was quite an effective comparison to the conditions she’d just escaped in space – isolation, no air, no gravity, no sound – and I was just thinking please don’t let her die now. I was really rooting for Stone. Then when she begins walking really weirdly and I was thinking “WTF? You need to get a move on, Stone.” And then I realised she had jelly legs like when you get off a trampoline after a while of jumping around and you’ve forgotten how to walk on solid ground. When the final title came up and it was the end, the only thought my brain could process was, “WOW.”


"Just, like, try and be less depressing."


AFTER GOOGLING:

Rotten Tomatoes: 97% - This one is made up by critics and they normally like this kind of arty, slow paced film. However I definitely agree with this score and also with the term "visually stunning" - I literally wrote that phrase in my notes for one of the beginning scenes.

IMDb: 7.9/10 - This one's made up of the general public and at a guess I'd say the pacing was probably the issue for non-critics who want a good film to get their teeth stuck into and not so much of a CGI project. 
          In "Awards" the film won 218 awards!!! WOW! I didn't expect it to do so well but I honestly think it's deserved. This is one film that's actually lived up to it's own hype. Also Sandra Bullock didn't win an Oscar for her performance? Who was judging this?!
          In "References" Titanic isn't there? What? But is similar to Barbarella from 1983 because "After boarding the russian station, Ryan starts undressing in zero gravity in a way very similar to Barbarella's opening scene." Who complies this list?
          In "Goofs" a particularly interesting one is: "When Kowalski asks Stone to let go of him because the rope will not them both, that could never happen because they are both in the same orbit around the earth. A short simple tug would have brought him back to her." Goddamnit, Stone, Clooney could have lived!!!!!!!!
          Woo! Some Bullock love from "James Cameron, best friend of CuarĂ³n and a huge fan of the film, said "She's the one that had to take on this unbelievable challenge to perform it. (It was) probably no less demanding than a Cirque du Soleil performer, from what I can see. There's an art to that, to creating moments that seem spontaneous but are very highly rehearsed and choreographed. Not too many people can do it. ... I think it's really important for people in Hollywood to understand what was accomplished here.""
          And finally, this review is actually really well timed because "the space-suit that Dr. Stone puts on in the Russian Soyuz capsule has the number 42 on the patch. This places the film between September 2014 and March 2015 as the Expedition number 42 will be underway on the International Space Station."



What an absolute show-stopper of a film. I absolutely loved it and I’ll definitely be seeing it again in the future. Apart from a few minor flaws I think it was spectacular. If I had to sum it up in two words: engrossing & sublime. Definitely worth a watch. If only for Bullock’s amazing breath-acting all the way through. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Wedding Ringer (2015) Review

(ALSO from my other blog - promise this is the last one! Only original content from now on.)

To give a summary of this film: I have never laughed so hard or so much in the cinema in my whole life. As the film was only released yesterday (I saw this on Saturday 21st February) I was expecting mega packed screens full of annoying teenagers showing off in front of their friends by shouting random shit during the adverts. We prebooked hours before the film was due to start and picked a late showing just in case. 
THE best scene

We needn't have bothered, as the cinema was only half full (and that's probably being generous). However it meant no awkward elbow armrest battles or finding somewhere to shove my coat and bag. I'd seen the advert for the film before Taken 3 and was surprised how much we all laughed at just the preview, and Kevin "you gon' learn TODAY" Hart in a starring role just the week after we binge-watched all of his stand up shows seemed like a pretty good sign to see this film. I am so glad I did.


"The Boys"
I wasn't expecting much; a generic run-of-the-mill type romcom maybe saved by the natural comedic talent of Kevin Hart. What we got in return was a hilariously eccentric dog-with-rabies-crazy film that had the whole screen belly laughing the whole way through. There wasn't a dud joke or a filler scene. Well, maybe except for when there was about ten minutes dedicated to emotional, slushy dialogue about how women are "naturally more nurturing" and how friendships are so amazingawesomeemotionallyfulfilling. Aside from that every scene is surprising and fresh.

The characters are quite stereotypical and they do generalise men and women, black, white and Hispanic, old and young; but in such a short time frame they haven't got time or capabilities within a comedy to make new and fully rounded characters for the audience to bond with. In this film, stock characters still make for cheek-achingly hilarity that doesn't feel old or overdone. However the soundtrack is great, with forgotten tracks like The Big Bang by Rock Mafia ft. Miley Cyrus - which I'm sure was a reference to Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting who plays the blushing bride annoyingly, bitchily well.


The Bachelor Party
The film obviously took some inspiration from films such as The Hangover and Bridesmaids and definitely Hitch and even from Kevin Hart's own stand up material but that made it no less entertaining. My friend and I predicted practically the whole plot from the very beginning scenes with minor details being incorrect but that didn't take away from how much I rooted for the main characters and was excited to see the comeuppance of the bridezilla. But comedies are, by their very nature, formulaic, and this film didn't try and veer away from standard procedures, but the end result is something I'd happily pay to go and see again.

The film hasn't been advertised nearly enough and if you read the ratings on Google there's not a chance this film will do well; but if you take a chance on this risk-avoiding film you will honestly not be disappointed. Kevin Hart and Josh Gad work so well together and on a second viewing I'm sure more subtle jokes will be found. Ten minutes after we left the cinema I understood the joke Hurley from Lost's character cracks just as the film finishes. For what that is... you'll have to watch and see!


9/10