Running In Heels

Lucky me, my review for Vicky Cristina Barcelona has been put onto brand new, Pan-European magazine for girls, Running In Heels!

Check out the link here

The Young Victoria Film Review

I'm a bit late with this review, but definitely still worth mentioning. If you’re a fan of The Dutchess then this film won’t disappoint, but it also won’t promise the excitement and fraught drama which the walls of Chatsworth offered Kiera Knightly’s film.

The Young Victoria paints a (albeit overly romantic) portrait of Britain’s Victorian monarch from the age of 17 through to her first years as ruling leader.

The film brilliantly shows how youth can benefit and hinder for those blessed with leadership. Victoria’s youth gives her the confidence and fight to stand up to those wishing to take it from her and also the arrogance and pride to fall blindsided to those who wish to manipulate it through her. Emily Blunt is admirable as Victoria, excellently portraying the balance of emotions the young queen faced - apathy at court rituals, pride and ambition to protect her rightful throne, naivety and inexperience with parliament and playfulness and passion for Albert, played by the endearing Rupert Fiend.

I wasn’t a fan of Fiend in Pride and Prejudice, I felt his portrayal of Wickham wasn’t nearly as nasty as it could have been, in contrast his portrayal of Albert is sweet and understated and perfect for The Young Victoria. Albert understands the Victoria, the rules and politics of court and the inevitable tasks which lie ahead, but without apathy he confidently entrusts her to do the ruling (unlike the other men in her life) and is happy to pursue a more noble task of setting the foundations for a welfare state.

Paul Bettany’s Lord Melbourne, is the Iago in this drama. His villainous behaviour is understated and deliberate – a flickering sneer, a softly spoken controlling voice and yet, unlike Iago, he shows the heart broken resignation that the better man won.

I loved the film, it’s beautiful to watch, the clothes and fashions are exquisite and it’s refreshing to see the playful, mischievous and desperately romantic side of a Queen usually portrayed as a fat, miserable frump. Even though some of the film’s events fall short of reality (Albert never took a bullet for Victoria) it does help cement the idea their love story was genuine and something rare and precious at the time.

Next time I’m visiting London I think the architecturally acclaimed Albert Memorial in Hyde Park and the existence of the V&A will now have a more poignant meaning.

Best scene: Jim Broadbent’s rant at the King’s dinner party, Miranda Richardson’s quick exit and the snide, whispered conversations of the surrounding guests.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Film Review

Woody Allen’s latest offering sees him steer away from the metropolis and the disaffected types who dwell in New York and London. Instead, Allen seeks to explore how the Europeans live and he presents a comic clash between American sensibilities and European liberalism.

The stubborn and sensible Vicky (Rebecca Hall) has come to Spain to research Catalan culture for her thesis, the transient and passionate Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) joins her for the summer. One evening, in a tapas bar, Cristina, love-struck by Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) throws caution to the wind and agrees to a spontaneous weekend away with this passionate painter. The weekend ends, leaving the obstinate Rachel frustrated and questioning her future with her chino-wearing-investment-banking fiancé. Herein starts the love triangle.

The addition of Juan’s ex wife, the explosive, chain-smoking Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) adds a new dynamic to the narrative with the sharp tongued, fast paced conversations she and Juan have, or should I say, shout. Cruz’s character is there to show the despair, passion, freedom and restraints that encircle every relationship. Maria Elena is an exaggeration, but Cruz’s is not – her acting is fantastic in this film and worthy of her awards.

The characters are all likeable, even the smooth talking, womanising Juan. Each one has pre-conceptions of love and each fail to realise it. It’s not sad, it’s more a reflection of the true nature of love – it does change, it doesn’t always meet our expectations, we always search for perfection.

There’s the loveless marriage of companionship living vicariously through their young guests, the artist who seeks to replace and destroy the love he has for his ex-wife, the ex-wife who cannot live with or without love, the idealist who dreams of something intangible, the New Yorker who loves normality and security and the insecure girl who loves the idea that she could be more exciting than her friend.

The setting is a bit kitsch. Having been to Barcelona, I’m pretty sure there’s more to the city than Gaudi, tapas, Picasso and Spanish guitar – but this film would make you think otherwise. The colours are vibrant - reds, oranges and warm hues that saturate each scene signalling the undercurrent of passion seeping out the edges of each scene.

I wouldn’t say this film is a triumph, and will not appeal to fans of classic Allen hits like Manhattan, but the subject matter is interesting and the acting superb; with a special mention to Oscar winning Penelope Cruz.

Best Scene: Marie Elena's acid tongue Spanish comebacks having lunch with Juan and Cristina in the garden of his house. The enraged Javier and the innocent hospitality of Cristina.

Film Review: Watchmen

Leaving the cinema after watching Watchmen was a unique experience. I’ve never felt more void of love for the human race and simultaneous re-awakened to how precious and miraculous earth and mankind is. Strange doesn’t come close to explaining how I felt last night.

Watchmen as a film is beautiful to look at – the opening sequence is original, engaging and draws you into what is a cinematography triumph and a neat way to show 40 years of character back stories.

Set in an alternative 1980s where the Doomsday clock is symbolically indicates the imminent threat of nuclear destruction we watch as a disbanded group of vigilantes, re-unite in a fractured manner to solve the mystery of “The Comedian’s” death and the biggest joke of all – saving the pond scum of mankind from self destruction.

As a fan of graphic novels, Watchmen as a film doesn’t quite work – it felt disjointed. Like the original serialisation of the comic book the story changes to focus on individual characters intermittently during the film, but as a film medium this makes it harder to tie all the characters together. I like the way you can flip back through the pages in a comic to see how symbolism or narrative repeats itself and interlinks, it’s a bit harder to do that at 24 frames a second. However, Zak Synder is clearly a fan of the graphic novel Watchmen and that’s why he stayed (relatively) true to its form.

Sex is a theme which throws some light on the messages of this film. The romantic tryst between the overweight Daniel Dreiberg (Night Owl 2) and awkward Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre 2) is one of humble honesty reflecting awkward realities. Once re-awakened to their superhero duty and casting aside the “fears” they have as good citizens (the war and being stalked by a killer) they celebrate in leather clad, theatrical, confident and passionate form (hilarious symbolism in the climatic gas explosion). I’m not sure Alan Moore was trying to say that if you live your life to fight for what you believe in and not succumb to the propaganda and fear that the institutions of society create then you’ll have better sex, but it was implied!

The backdrop to this metropolis shows a society rife with nude shows, xxx clubs, prostitution, rape and child molestation. Society devoid of hope (no religion, leadership) living with the imminent threat of nuclear war and ruled by a corrupt president has lost all morals. Even the god like Dr Manhattan who cannot bring himself to fully indulge his sexual desire with his lover Laurie claims, in his Mars exile, he no longer cares for the human race.

Man has become a cancer to himself. This is what the beautiful, restrained Ozyimandias see and uses as motivation to set his drastic and ruthless plan of redemption into action. Of course Dr Manhattan is blamed as Ozyimandias has replicated his unique energy to destroy and save the world – a mirror to the real life Manhattan Project – developing the A Bomb to end one war and star another.

I’m naieve. The Watchmen made it clear to me that Chris Nolan is not as clever as I thought he was. The Dark Knight and Watchmen could be mistaken for being a genre of ‘new’ superhero movies, except it’s a concept Moore thought up 20 years ago. By turning the idea of a superhero on its head Moore, and the mixed bag of hero/ villains/ saviours that he created as the Watchmen, simply shows an age-old distrust and apathy for government and ruling institutions.

Moore mocks the concept of the traditional superhero – even though the Watchmen wear the fantastical costumes of traditional DC heroes, their roles are darkly more complicated and disturbing. Both realistic and absurd. The Minute Men who preceded the Watchmen were ex cops and themselves masked vigilanties. The next generation has Dr Manhattan, a supernatural being created by a man made nuclear accident.

Dr Manhattan rejects ‘costumes’ and is nude – his godlike status shows he has no man made constraints. Like a god he has the power to change the outcome of real events (Vietnam War and presidency of Richard Nixon) yet he is the one who needs to be convinced of mankind’s worth. As a godlike character, he ironically needs a miracle to be convinced of mankind’s worth. In recognising the random, chaotic way in which cells merge to make life he realises the value of man. But after 2 hours of watching the violent scum of society I was too depressed to share his enthusiasm.

I’m off for a dose of Disney to cheer myself up.

Best scene
: Ozyimandias set to destroy the world from his polar temple, in full costume, stood atop a fabricated pyramid claiming “I’m not a comic book villain”. The irony was not lost on me.

Watchmen Trailer:

Trailer Week - Terminator Salvation etc

One week off, a trip to the snow covered Alps and I’ve missed the Oscars. Oh well, there’s always Hello magazine to catch up on the fashion and Empire for the reviews.

Whilst in France I was surprised to see how many posters were up for Terminator Salvation (or Renaissance if you’re French) so once off the plane and safely back at the flat I logged onto Yahoo Movies to catch up.

So last night, feeling out of the loop on the film front I logged onto Yahoo Movies and caught on the trailers. Christian Bale’s voice over is sufficiently tough guy ‘gruff’ but a whiff away from ridiculous. I guess we need to see how the years have hardened John Connor from wayward teenager to military master. The trailer gives a glimmer of fantastic action sequences and star performances (Bryce Dallas Howard) and exciting directing (McG) so we know we’re in for a blockbuster treat. The only confusing issue is Connor’s (Bale) response to a ‘human’ Terminator – surely this would be obvious to him (you’d think his experience with Arnie would have made a lasting impact) but all in all Terminator Salvation looks set to quench the thirst of every Terminator fan who wishes to forget the terrible Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Out 5th June. See it here

Next I checked out “The Boat that Rocked”, Richard Curtis’s film about a team of pirate radio stars in the swinging 60s. I’m not a fan of Richard Curtis, for me, the less said about “Love Actually” and “4 Weddings” the better. However, I am glad to see Curtis has ditched his favourite leading man (the gibbering Grant) to take on some great new talent (though Bill Nighy did slip through the net).

I’m excited to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Nick Frost (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Sean of the Dead) appear together as the star DJs of this pirate radio station. I read an interview with Frost who claimed Hoffman had such a presence on set that the other British actors didn’t know how to behave around him, so after a couple of days he just said “Oh, stop going on about your Oscar” and successfully broke the ice.

Based on the trailer it looks dangerously close to becoming a parody and potentially borrowing some ‘shagadelic’ Austin Powers’s style jokes. Let’s hope not. I think Hoffman and Frost could save it so I’ll make the effort to go.

Out 1st April 09. Watch the trailer here