Contagion - the bug should have won

I caught the fever for this film, went to see it and... it passed in one boring dose of cinema tedium. Call the doctor, I'm in a sweat - not from thrills and tension, but from boredom. Yawn.

Oh dear. Look at this cast. It should have been brilliant. Sadly, the Torygraph summed it up when it said, this is a viral apocalypse where you wish the bug had won.

Steven Soderbergh's Contagion starts on Day 2 with Gwyneth Paltrow looking peeky. She soon deteriorates and pops it in a foaming fit. Herein starts the 'action' as the big government agencies try to trace the origins of this touch-transferring super disease.

Soderbergh, under a pseudonym, is both director and director of photography. His choices mean you're well aware of what people are touching (close ups of hands which have been coughed all over, touching the hand rails on buses, credit cards, drinking glasses, napkins, the faces of children and loved ones....) yes, we get. We touch stuff a lot, and then our faces. Good job Kate Winslet is here to make that implicit knowledge explicit. But she doesn't last and unfortunately the best actress in this star-studded cast is lost too.

Throughout the whole film I had that expectation that something was going to happen. any.minute.now. Soderbergh's clever enough to add in little snippets of thrills so you sit back comfortably back in your seat, and think, 'right, here we go'. For example - the neighbour gets shot during scenes of looting reminiscent of 28 Days later or The Road - and we think the film's going to take off. But no, it then cuts to three days later in a lab with a person in a bio chemical suit looking intently at the bug through a telescope. For ages. For no reason.

This is a slow burn rather than a hot fever of a film. There's many stories. Too many stories. There's too many interwoven tales and none with a satisfying ending or explanation of why they were there in the first place.

The big reveal at the end is a 'blink and you miss it' moment unfortunately. It would have explained Jude Law's character motivations and how that related to the wardrobe choice in his teeth.

A miserable 1 out of 5. Just watch the trailer it's more exciting. Sadly.

Midnight in Paris

I was keen to see this, so much so, that I turned up the cinema wearing a jumper with the word Paris knitted right into it. Clearly, I had left the house that morning with a huge subconscious desire to part with my cash for this cinematic treat.

If you liked Vicky Cristina Barcelona, then you'll enjoy Woody Allen's latest offering. His sparkling wit is littered throughout and he's done away with the narrator, replacing instead with the ramblings of lead man Gil (Owen Wilson).

The plot is very simple, nothing complicated here, but don't let that fool you. Also, don't be put off by the snobbish critics who've been making out you need an English Lit degree to get all the 'in jokes'. You don't. It's obvious who people are, mainly because Gil incredulously keeps repeating their name. We get it. You're Ernest Hemmingway, you're Gertrude Stein, you're Picasso. A flashing red arrow above their head would have been less subtle, so fear not. Also, I have an English Literature degree (which specialised in American Literature) and I haven't read any Hemmingway, but it didn't make the film any less enjoyable.

And it was enjoyable. It's always nice to be reminded that American's aren't idiots, and this time Woody Allen has chosen to help us see that it's not just sophisticated New Yorkers who can turn a good phrase, appreciate a good book, or appreciate good art. Leading the LA blondes in this movie is Rachel McAdams as Gil's fiancĂ©e Inez. She's clever, appreciates intelligence (a little too much), but she's just not quite sophisticated enough. She's a patriot. Gil's a francophile

As the struggling, romantic, bohemian that Gil fancies himself to be, it's a little difficult to marry up why on earth he ever got involved with the forceful, opinionated Inez. Oh, she's beautiful. That's probably why. But for her, I'm not sure I bought the idea that she liked him for his Hollywood potential, not his artistic ambition.

That's neither here nor there. Every scene in this film is beautiful. It's dramatic irony at it's best. Gil is in love with the idea of Paris, and we as the audience, are presented with exactly that. Even the establishing shot sequence at the start of the film is filled with frame after frame of rain-drenched-starlit-cafe-covered Paris we all want to see. It's deliberate that you never see the graffiti in Montmartre, the litter in the streets, or the many, many, less than '5 star' hotels which cover the city. This is Woody Allen's version of Paris, which mirrors (almost frame for frame) his version of New York in 'Manhattan'. Perhaps an indication of his auterial style.

Loved it, will definitely buy it as the script is so rich, I've definitely missed many jokes - 5 out of 5.

Jane Eyre

This week has been pretty fascinating, as I started a PGCE and one of the perks was a day at The Broadway Cinema in Nottingham learning to analyse film. Well, I wish had undertaken that training before I watched the latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece, Jane Eyre.

What do I mean? We studied the importance of various techniques used in cinema to 'construct' the film. For example, the 'establishing' shot - usually a sweeping wide angled image which immediately lets the audience know where we are. Which then continues with use of sound, use of 'gaze' and close ups. So putting my new found skills to use, here's my 'reading' of Jane Eyre.

Unusually, Jane Eyre, starts with and establishing shot of the adult Jane, silhouetted in a dark door way, breathing in panic, before she bursts out into the rough gardens of Thornfield Hall and legs it for freedom across the moody moors. We can't place her location, or at what point in the drama this is. Then suddenly she flees (wide angled shot) and cuts a harrowing figure on the close ups of her 'plain' face as she struggles against the elements before collapsing at the doorway of St John, and his sister's, home.

I liked Cary Fukunaga's adaptation - it's dark, moody, not at all glamorous (like I suspect a Merchant Ivory production would make it) and, for as far as it's possible, he has tried to pick a 'small, plain' Jane from Hollywood in the form of Mia Wasiskowska. Okay, she's hardly plain, but she's not Anne Hathaway. She has something ethereal and non-standard about her. She's interesting to look at, and that's a good thing, as there's not a lot of dialogue or emotional register for a great deal of the film. Again. That's a good thing. Jane isn't hysterical. We need to see a resilient and defensive heart, relent and melt for a temporary high when she finally does succumb to Rochester's wild charms.

Michael Fassbender is an excellent Rochester, but he's far too easy on the eye. In my reading of the book, he was much more cantankerous, unpredictable, moody and offensive - but I guess, without casting someone so odious it's unbelievable, it's a difficult role to cast. As the audience, you do want them to get together, so he needs to be alluring.

Use of 'gaze' is very interesting - almost voyeuristic - as we stare intimately at Jane, or at what Jane is looking at. Her restrained face gives emotion away only in the close ups and the subtle variations in her eyes, or the very corner of her mouth. It's a very interesting technique for a big epic film, to focus on being so intimate.

Also of note was Jamie Bell, who's St John is equally awkward and subordinate as Jane is to Rochester. So you can tell from watching one what the other must feel. We know he loves her (even if you've not read the book) because he's mirroring her restrained, awkward behaviour we've witnessed with Rochester. Bell is proving to be a mighty screen presence - understated and memorable.

My only criticism would be the 'non-digetic sound' (eg the soundtrack) was over bearing in parts. Also, where was the happy ending. It was a interesting and pleasing directorial choice to snip away the 'baby and sight returning' bit, but if it's in the book, there's going to be a significant part of the audience waiting for it to appear in what was, on the whole, a faithful adaptation.

Talking of which, there's no spoilers here. If a book's been in print since 1850 then that story can be considered common knowledge. It reminds me when I went to see Baz Lurhman's Romeo & Juliet and I overheard one girl weeping hysterically, that "no one told me they both die." Honestly.

Anyway, I've waffled on. In summary, Jane Eyre is epic and understated, submersion and intimate, and one which I will happily watch again. And for a costume drama, it lends itself well to the big screen. Don't miss it in the cinema.

5 out of 5 - moody goodness.