What's Your Number? - Preview Screening

I'm not sure if it's accurate to say, I was 'lucky' enough to get tickets to a pre-screening of the latest rom-com offering from Hollywood - but I'm a student again and the tickets were free, so who am I to complain.

I've got mixed feelings about this one. The opening joke was not just the same, but identical to Bridesmaids, and I kind of feel that Kirsten Wiig did it better than Anna Faris. So that immediately put me on the back foot. But there is good stuff here, with jokes based on (gasp) women and sex. It's about how many conquests you've had ladies. And shock horror, we're in for some gender stereotyping.

Party girl Ally played (albeit well) by Anna Farris is up to a "staggering" 19 and Marie-Claire in it's infinite judging glare has branded anyone racking up more than 20 notches on the bed post a ... well, insert your favrouite derrogatory insult here. Oh, but, not if you're a guy. No that's fine. In fact, it's hillarious. Which is why neighbour Colin] played by XMen's Chris Evans is allowed to casually rack up so many notches his bed has fallen apart. *sigh*  Don't worry, I've climbed down from my feminist high horse now, we can crack on with what happens.

Predicitability factor is sky high on this film, you know exactly what is going to happen (and who the heroine will end up with) within the opening seconds of the film. And the plot mooches on at a predicatable pace too. Not that, that is awful - that's kind of why people like romcoms. BUT, there are some moments of comedy gold here (using the good doctor Kermode's code that more than 6 laughs, then it's a comedy). There's a great gay-joke and a bit with a puppet which might just haunt me. More than a snigger, a genuine LOL.

BUT, the problem is Anna Faris, (and I'm not talking about her botched surgery), it's her character. There was an interesting article on the New Yorker (see http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2011/10/03/111003sh_shouts_kaling?currentPage=all) which talks about the role of women in comedies. And I see Anna's character falling squarely into the 'Klutz' model. She's gorgeous. Killer figure. Nice face. Who wants to see that. OF course the guy will fall in love with her - the audience is not blind. So what's stopping her from finding perfect love? THE number. That haunting figure of 19 which is going to 'ruin' her for marriage. Yawn.

To mirror Mindy's sentiment "I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible. They’re all participating in a similar level of fakey razzle-dazzle, and I enjoy every second of it."

And that's the problem, I felt like Faris and [name] probably sat in seperate trailors bitching about each other when they weren't on screen. Maybe even eating oderous garlic bread moments before the big kiss scene. For a rom com, the casting has to be key.

Still. If you're out on a girls night, this is not a bad choice. It's not as good as Bridesmaids - but it does follow that theme of trying to present women in a 'new' 1990s style ladette light. I guess the US didn't benefit from 'girl power' in the way brit pop did (the Word, Zoe Ball getting fired from Radio 1 for being hammered in Ibiza) so maybe it's a super risky concept?

Overal 3.5 out of 5 - nothing you don't expect, but some funny moments.

50/50 - trailer

500 Days of Summer was brilliant. This looks like it could be even better.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is back in this similar-style drama-comedy. This time the tone is more bro-romance, than romance. Marmite actor, Seth Rogen, looks hillarious as the best bud who helps Gordon-Levitt through the tough times (cancer diagnosis and treatment) but with what looks like a bit more added heart than we're used to seeing.

Chuck in Bryce Dallas Howard and Angelica Houston and you can see this movie has attracted a stellar cast. I just hope Houston will provide some of the quirky goodness she's given to Wes Anderson. Can't wait.

Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMaJET7mD0M

Shakespeare - We've all been played

To watch or not to watch (sorry I couldn't resist).

Fresh from the 'must see' lists being generated after the Toronto Film Festival is 'Anonymous' - a consipiracy theory epic about the bard. Did he write those immortal lines? Dum dum dum....

The trailer suggests the cinematography will match the slighty absurd plot - exciting, artistic and dynamic, if not a bit unrealistic (I suspect the over use of CGI). Still, looks like it will be entertaining film fodder nonetheless.

Stars mother and daughter Vanessa Redgrave and Jolie Richardson as Queen Lizzie 1 (young and old), Rhys Ifan as the Earl of Oxford (who was the real writer) and Rafe Spaul as Shakespeare.

Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PaliLAQT8k

Of Gods and Men

After enjoying ‘Let the Right One In’ so much, I decided I don’t watch enough foreign language films. So to amend this, I added the widely praised and Cannes Grand Prix winner, ‘Of Gods and Men’ directed by Xavier Beauvois.


Naively I hadn’t appreciated this was a true story so it was a sad shock to discover that during the 1996 Algerian Civil War, nine Trappist monks from a monastery in Tibhirine were captured and killed by terrorists.

The monks live peacefully with the local Muslim community, following a routine of prayer, study, gardening and medical assistance. This idyllic life comes under threat from Islamic fundamentalists who abruptly and swiftly begin genocide of local western residents.

Christian, the Abbot, declines the protection of the corrupt civil authority and soon the monks are divided on their future. They wrestle with their human desire to flee Algeria, and their godly duty to stay.

The monks (and audience) experience intense agonies of doubt, where their instinctive fear of death tests their faith to the limit. To signify this ‘full circle’ conclusion, the film is top and tailed with long cinematic scenes showing their silent, reflective struggle. At the start they dutifully garden, cook and study in their mountain-perched monastery while at the end, they trudge along a snowy path towards their fate.

The film is littered with these spacious silences which patch together like a quilt. They’re linked, but not necessarily directly one after the other. There’s a scene half way through the film, after the monks’ first express their desire to flee, where Christian writes a letter. It seems like another innocent day to day task, but at the end of the film, in those grim final moments, a voice over reads from this note, clearly Christian’s final testament.

It shows Christian knew before the others their fate was martyrdom. He is the father figure whose authority they resist (objecting to his refusal for government protection) and who’s love they seek - consoling, teaching and leading throughout the conflict.

The heart of the film is summed up in one spine-tingling ‘last supper’ scene. The monks eat and listen to an old recording of Tchaikovsky's Grand Theme from Swan Lake. The camera does nothing more than pan from face to face around the dinner but their changing reactions – fear, joy, peaceful acceptance - says more than any amount of dialogue could. Their ‘Greek chorus’ style psalms have been replaced, perhaps signifying their eventual acceptance of God’s will.

I’d recommend this film regardless of your religious conviction; it’s a fascinating depiction of the power of faith and the frailty of human emotion, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon (after all, it is the Lord’s day).

Jane Eyre, One Day - femine heroes

Just as I finish reading Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’ prequel to Bronte’s masterpiece, I see a trailer for Cary Fukunaga’s new film adaptation staring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

There is something strangely timeless about a plain Jane catching a big (rich) fish - just see the hype over One Day, released this week starring Anne Hathaway. Of course Hathaway is no plain Jane and neither is Wasikowska. However, the latter does have something less ‘Hollywood’ and polished about her.

I recently read an interview with Wasikowska, which stated, quite plainly, that she was the highest grossing actress in Hollywood last year?!

Exactly.

I had only seen her in Burton’s Alice and Wonderland and Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are Alright. I had no idea she’s been silently racking up a long line of excellent character roles in the previous 12 months. Not bad for someone who’s only 21.

She’s an interesting character also, which is maybe why I’m more interested in this adaptation than any other. In the interview, she revealed that at 14 an injury ended her ambitions to be a professional dancer. Undeterred she decided on acting as a future option, from her own initiative she contacted various agencies in Sydney, pestering until one took her on. It wasn’t until she was 18 that she got her break outside Australia and the rest is history. She doesn’t do LA. She still sleeps on the sofa when she’s back at her parents’ house. What an intriguing character.

Much like Miss Eyre.

Bronte was revolutionary at the time to write about a thinking, moral, individualistic woman who, through her own hard graft, evolves from humble orphan to become a compassionate, mature lady. She’s not a gold digger, but she does end up filthy rich. Something I think Bronte grants the character as a kind of divine blessing – in a ‘good things happen to good people’ way.

I’m yet to see One Day but I have read a fair bit about it. Hathaway said the reason it works out between her character Em, and love interest Dexter, is because of the perfect timing. If they had met one day too soon, she wouldn’t have known her own self-worth and Dexter would have walked all over her. It’s an interesting concept, which makes you reflect on your own relationships and their timing.

Mr Rochester in the closing scenes in Wide Sargasso Sea, and the start of Jane Eyre, would have munched up and spat out Jane with little bother. It’s only once Jane listens to her own instinct, follows her own strict moral code and walks out on him that she understands self-empowerment.

Why it annoys me, is because her ultimate goal, even though she’s achieved so much, is to get a ring on her finger, (something Mad Men quite frequently comments on through the character of Peggy).

Jane is an interesting character, constantly balancing earthly happiness with moral duty, and I think Wasikowska is an sympathetic choice to play her - having been so fiercely determined and independent from a young age – all things combined, this looks promising as a period drama.