Thursday 30 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 14 - The Simpsons Movie

#87 - The Simpsons Movie

Okay, well obviously I’m not a snob who has particular taste judging from this being on my list but really, how could I leave it out? The Simpsons has been one of the longest running shows ever – I wasn’t even alive when it first started airing (my brother was but he’s withering before our eyes now). The movie was a long time coming and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The plot follows the Simpsons as Grandpa has a weird vision of something terrible happening while Lisa urges the people of Springfield to stop polluting in the lake. That’s all very well until Homer needs to dump a silo of pig...excrement and the lake is the closest thing. President Schwarzenegger then makes a decision that traps the entire city of Springfield inside a huge glass dome. Once the people find out Homer is responsible, him and the rest of the family are run out of town...but quickly rush back to save everyone when it turns out EPA are going to detonate the entire city.

Really, once you put the Simpsons in a movie, your job is done and the whole thing pretty much just writes itself. This is one of those things where if you don’t get it, then you won’t enjoy it. It’s not a big blockbuster epic or an Oscar-bait drama with either a hot woman getting ugly or a manly man playing a gay guy, it’s the Simpsons in their big adventure. This provides a lot more gags and excitement than your standard 22-minute Simpsons episode and almost everyone from the show makes an appearance; even characters that disappeared from the show years ago. Hell, even Itchy & Scratchy have a cameo.

The animation is pretty different from the show and plays out a lot like a CGI cartoon, and was the codifier for the new method of animation that the show’s using now. It works in the movie but it doesn’t add much to the show. I can’t remember if it was released in 3-D but it certainly feels like a 3-D movie. They even manage to squeeze in one of those trippy Disney-like acid sequences when Homer is having an epiphany, helped by an Inuit lady with massive knockers. Some of the cooler animated sequences are the angry mob storming the house as well as the climactic motorcycle ride around the dome surface.

Really the film offers everything you’d want from a Simpsons movie with a ton of great gags. They also give a little shout out to Disney with the animals from Snow White helping Marge and Homer undress – and get completely terrified when they stick around to watch what happens next. Then there’s Bart’s naked skateboarding trip to Krusty Burger, recreating the typical skateboard chase we see in the show’s opening. And who could forget President Schwarzenegger? His alter ego, Ranier Wolfcastle doesn’t appear but he wasn’t too sorely missed. And even Green Day make a cameo but the poor things get offed in the first few minutes as they drown in Lake Springfield, giving us a nice bit of “Nearer My God To Thee” from Titanic. Tom Hanks makes a cameo as well – and it’s actually him, believe it or not.

The film also manages to squeeze in some of those nice little aw-worthy moments that The Simpsons are known for. We even get a tear jerker where Marge leaves Homer a video tape leaving him and then reveals she taped over their wedding video. And we see a few nice scenes between Bart and Ned Flanders where Bart realises what it would be like if he had a good father. Then Lisa even gets herself a boyfriend, and it’s not Millhouse.

My favourite scene has got to be when all of the town finds out Homer is responsible for polluting the lake and forms an angry mob to storm the house, complete with pitchforks and torches. Maggie shows just how much of a badass she is by fending off Mr Teeney with a broken bottle, and getting the family to jump through a sink hole to safety. And Marge has to clean a dirty dish in the sink while her house is on fire.

If there’s anything to criticise about the film, it’s almost too short. In some places it does feel like a couple of episodes unabridged and, as a hardcore Simpsons fan, I felt I could have watched it go on for a whole half hour longer. But what we got was pretty good and that was the Simpsons having a fun adventure, following the typical format of big TV shows turning into movies where the heroes have to save something. 

So, there’s not much else to write about the film. If you’re a Simpsons fan and if you’re not, you’re probably a hermit too, then you’ll enjoy it. It offers great gags and your favourite character is sure to make an appearance. It’s a fun adventure and doesn’t try to be anything else. Until next time, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 13 - Bram Stoker's Dracula

#88 - Bram Stoker's Dracula

Naturally as an old school horror fan, I’m also a fan of Dracula because well who isn’t? If you just said “me, that’s who” then you’re just weird. As a proper Dracula fan, who’s actually familiar with the original story, it’s a bit annoying to see that so many Dracula films have been made but so little of them have actually been faithful to the original book. Now that seems like a pretty weird thing to write when it’s this film I’m writing about but keep reading.

The film opens way back in 1462 where Prince Dracula, a soldier defending Christianity discovers his bride Elisabeta has killed herself believing him dead. In a rage, he renounces God and becomes the vampire Dracula. Four centuries later, a young business man Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania to sort out an estate in London for a mysterious Count Dracula (yep, same guy). Dracula catches a glimpse of a picture of Jonathan’s fiancĂ©e Mina whom he suspects must be his beloved Elisabeta reincarnated. Dracula quickly goes to London to find Mina and reeks a bit of havoc along the way, turning her friend Lucy into a vampire.

Does that story sound a bit inconsistent? It’s okay since the whole love story was completely made up by director Francis Ford Coppola and inserted into the original Dracula story. I guess if you’re a fan of the book then you can take the love story with a grain of salt and appreciate everything else. You should really take into account that without the love story, this is the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel there is. So in a way it’s pretty deserving of having “Bram Stoker’s” tacked onto the title. This film includes many of elements largely left out of most adaptations like Dracula being able to move around during the day (sunlight killing vampires was actually invented by Nosferatu in 1922), as well as the climactic battle at the Borgo Pass. It also adds in a large amount of sex that Stoker certainly didn’t put in.

First of all, the cast is very good for this film. Here we have none other than Gary Oldman playing the dark prince himself and he acts the hell out of it. This Dracula would definitely be a hard character to play especially as he isn’t your average villain. This adaptation gives him a backstory and some really unique motivation. I mean, how many villains can boast they did it all for their reincarnated lover (except Imhotep but this was way before that came out)? I don’t think anyone except Oldman could have played this Dracula. Then there’s Sir Anthony Hopkins playing the famous Van Helsing and having a ball doing so. Our leading lady is Winona Ryder, doing her very best attempt at an English accent. The opinions are pretty divided on the accent but I thought it was alright – it sounded passable and a lot sexier than her regular accent. We also have Cary Elwes, Richard E Grant and Tom Waits in the supporting cast doing a fine job, Waits especially fantastic as the mad mental patient Renfield and the other two as Lucy’s lovers. Speaking of Lucy, Sadie Frost is also brilliant to watch as the biggest contrast to Mina there is. Though fans of the book may be shocked that the pure and lilylike Lucy is actually kinda slutty in this adaptation. And one last honourable mention goes to Monica Bellucci who plays one of Dracula’s brides. She doesn’t even have any lines and she’s breathtaking. She has the distinction of being the first nude woman I saw in a film, and believe me I’ve been judging them against her ever since.
Sadly there is one of the actors that doesn’t deserve a lot of praise. I’ve never been a Keanu Reeves fan and this film is not a good way to change my opinion. In contrast to Ryder and Waits who pull off decent English accents, Reeves just falls flat on his face. He actually manages to put some emotion across in his performance which ain’t nothing to sneer at for him, but his god awful accent really overshadows that.

The big thing to talk about in this film is the visuals. This film took three Academy Awards and two of them were for makeup and costumes. Costume designer Eiko Ishioka was inspired by Japanese Kabuki theatre and incorporated that into the outfits you see in the film. If you have ever heard the term “Costume Porn” then the costumes in this film pretty much define the term. Special honours go to Lucy’s snake dress, Dracula’s lobster armour and Lucy’s night gown. But I do have to draw the line at that monstrosity she was planning to wear as a wedding dress. I’m no girl but even I know when the costume designer goes too far. I’m not crazy about that mad wig the old Dracula wears, resembling a pair of ass cheeks. The sets are pretty impressive too, especially Dracula’s castle and the Westenra manor. It’s also a testament to your art department when I’m appreciating the props such as the big boa knife that has a hand in the climax, not to give anything away.

If we’re talking scenes, this is Francis Ford Coppola and the best done scene in the film happens near the end outside Dracula’s castle where the three brides corner Mina and Van Helsing to try and kidnap Mina. It’s brilliantly shot and of course it gives Monica Bellucci more screen time (even if it is the only scene in the film where she’s wearing clothes). Other impressive scenes include where Lucy sleepwalks in the garden and Dracula hypnotises her. Then of course the confrontation with the vampire Lucy; the makeup for vampire Lucy actually got me a little creeped out. And even though I’m not the biggest fan of the love story, there is a lovely scene where Dracula and Mina dance in a black room filled with candles. Also on my favourites list is the sequence of Dracula’s ship coming to England where he murders the crew spliced in between Mina and Lucy dancing in the garden, then they kiss for some reason.

I’d like to draw attention to the fact that Coppola used effects that didn’t involve computers in the film; he even went so far as to use some old school cinema tricks. For example, the shot in the train where Dracula’s eyes appear in the clouds outside was done by filming two separate shots (of the eyes, then the eyes projected on the clouds) and then projecting that image onto the backdrop. I couldn’t even tell the difference. Also his original plans were to have plain sets and let the costumes be elaborate but the studio insisted he’d have to build proper sets. I can’t imagine what the original idea would look like but the sets we had were pretty damn....well pretty.

So anyway, in spite of the tacked on love story, I find this a very good adaptation of the original Dracula story. It’s got some very innovative film making techniques as well as elaborate costumes and a fun cast (minus Mr Reeves of course). Take the love story with a grain of salt and you’ll enjoy the film a lot more. I guess if later on down the line someone decides to try making a faithful adaptation of Dracula, I’ll probably be judging it against this film. So until next time my friends. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 12 - Poltergeist

#89 - Poltergeist

I believe this is the first Steven Spielberg film to make my list. Well, Spielberg produced, wrote, cast and pretty much did everything except say “action” and “cut”. That honour went to Tobe Hooper. This film is supposedly cursed, what with two of the actresses in the film dying shortly after its release. Dominique Dunne, who plays the teenage Dana, was murdered the same year the film was released. Heather O’Rourke who played the sweet little Carol Anne made two sequels to this film before dying in 1988. Let’s move on.

The film follows the Freeling family, your average suburban American family; there’s mother Dianne, father Steve and children Dana (16), Robbie (8) and Carol Anne (5). One night Carol Anne somehow summons spirits out through the TV set, causing things in the house to move around by themselves. The next night things get even worse when the tree in the back garden comes to life and Carol Anne disappears. The family has to call in experts who theorise that the house has become infested with poltergeists. And in a completely unrelated note, Steve’s boss casually mentions that the housing estate was built on top of an old cemetery.

This is a pretty fun horror film that seems really out place for Spielberg, but you can see some flourishes of Tobe Hooper’s direction in there and it remains one of the better 80s horror films (mainly because it was in the minority that wasn’t ripping off Halloween). For an 80s film, the special effects are pretty good apart from one rather silly scene where the experts have a look inside the children’s bedroom and find the bed and toys flying around by themselves. It just looks out of place in this otherwise great film. Probably the coolest effects come when the closet opens to show the mouth of some....thing inside it trying to swallow the children up. As well as the final climactic moment where the house gets sucked into oblivion.

When picking actors to play the family, Spielberg went for unknowns in order to make them seem like a realistic family. Indeed only Craig T Nelson has had a notable career after the film, so that still helps for me to think of them as the Freelings instead of whatever their real names are. JoBeth Williams who plays Diane is a pleasant surprise and I hope she’s had a lengthy career after this film. Plus she spends the first part of the movie wearing a pair of short-shorts to show off her amazing legs. And she ends the movie wearing nothing but a jersey and panties. The daughter Dana is also a fun character to watch, despite not getting a lot of focus. A funny part comes where the workmen outside the house wolf whistle at her and she does the Macarena for them, only to flip them off instead. And of course the film wouldn’t be complete without the lovable Carol Anne who delivers the movie’s famous line “they’re here!”and was clearly going to be a big star if she had lived longer. And you gotta love Zelda Rubinstein as the eccentric psychic Tangina Barrons, who has the coolest Southern accent ever. The rest of the cast are also solid, which is just a credit to Spielberg who is best at working with child actors. 

The film is full of high octane nightmare fuel that probably would have been even scarier back when it was released; the scene that stands out would be where Dianne falls into the pool being dug in the back garden and discovers the bodies that were left there when the cemetery was moved in construction. And you want to know the kicker? Spielberg used *Real* bodies for the scene. Poor JoBeth Williams didn’t find this out until after the scene was completed. Almost equally chilling is the scene where the tree comes to life and smashes through the children’s bedroom window, grabbing Robbie and pulling him out into the storm. And then we have the goriest scene in the film where one of the paranormal investigators gets tricked into thinking he’s peeling his face off.

The film manages to be both fun and scary at the same time, which is pretty hard to do, but it just has Spielberg written all over it. The haunted house thrills provide proper scares while the small things such as the moving furniture add a bit of humour into the situation. The film also makes great use of long takes, which is pretty innovative filmmaking. For example, the scene where Diane pushes the chairs into the table and looks away only to look back and find them stacked on the table was all one take, with stage hands arranging the chairs quickly while the camera was looking away. An equally long continuous take is where Tangina first arrives and the camera doesn’t cut away until after two minutes. I’ve always been a big fan of long takes and as a wannabe filmmaker, they look good and save a lot of time and hassle.
Another thing I love about the film is how many of the effects were real. By real, I mean physically on set. I’m not a CGI hater but I do love it when the actors have something to physically work with like the flashing lights coming out of the closet and the creature head popping out of the door.

So anyway this film is well worth a viewing if you’re a fan of ghost flicks, and a must-see for a Spielberg fan. It wasn’t really groundbreaking at the time but it still holds up as a true horror classic. But I would stay away if you happen to have a fear of clowns, trees, closets or bodies popping up inexplicably from under the ground. Just saying. Don’t forget to follow me on Twiter.

Monday 27 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 11 - Alien: Resurrection

#90 - Alien: Resurrection

Ah, the beloved Alien series. Over the last 30 something years, it has terrified us, excited us, made us laugh and made us cry (both with sadness and disappointment). As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of the series. In fact, 3 out of the 4 films made it on my list. Yep, you can probably guess which one I’m leaving out. To be honest, Alien 3 could have been something great; as a film on its own, it’s okay (see the Assembly Cut, it’s much better than the theatrical release) but I think it was a real blow to the series. Then this film came along and did a lot of good for the series.

The film is set 200 years after the end of Alien 3 (not to spoil the ending or anything but Ripley dies because she has an Alien Queen inside her) where a group of scientists have been trying to clone Ripley with the Queen’s embryo inside her in hopes of resurrecting the species. Their 8th attempt is indeed successful and the Queen is removed to start producing eggs. But the new Ripley clone shows some new abilities too – heightened senses, reflexes and her blood is slightly acidic as well. Meanwhile a tow ship brings a cargo of people aboard the vessel for the Aliens to breed from. If you can’t guess where the story goes next, you may be too dumb to live.

Believe it or not this film was written by Joss “Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly” Whedon. The last one is interesting, as he drew many ideas for that from his original script for this. He has spoken against the film, saying the filmmakers did everything wrong and the script was the only thing right. He originally wrote it as a camp parody but the director took it in a serious direction. You can get a hint of Whedon-ish dialogue with many of the wise cracks a few of the characters make. I actually see people on message boards complaining that the film is a black comedy. I’ve watched both versions of the film and it is most certainly not a comedy. It’s pretty much in the same genre as Aliens and it’s more about the survivors trying to escape from the ship as opposed to simply the characters vs the aliens. 

Sigourney Weaver brings something new to the table playing the half human-half alien Ripley clone; it’s definitely interesting to watch her play Ripley, as she’s not the same Ripley from the last three films. She’s been written as someone who’s loyalty you really don’t know about. It’s hinted she might be loyal to the aliens (after all she is technically one of them now) but she also tries to get off the ship with the others. This one features a new ensemble cast that definitely does have hints of the Serenity crew in it. There’s even a man with a girl’s name – in this case it’s a badass dude with dreadlocks called Christie, who has guns attached to his arms. None other than Ron “Hellboy” Perlman has a prominent role as Johner who is basically Jayne Cobb only a bit more disturbed. Perlman is pretty entertaining here so if you’re a fan, definitely check this out. Our second action girl (this being written by Whedon you know there’s going to be more than one) is Winona Ryder who plays a “little girl playing pirates” as one of the other characters describes her. She fits in pretty well although her character curses a bit too much and it doesn’t sound natural coming from her. In other stars we might recognise it’s Brad “Chucky” Dourif playing a scientist and is involved in a hilarious scene where he mimics the aliens’ mouth movements. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be funny but that’s how it turned out anyway. Another dark horse in the cast is Raymond Cruz who plays a bit of a weapons nerd. I’m currently working on re-editing the ending so that his character survives.

This film has a nice little eerie feel to it that only the first film in the series also had. Even though it’s an action film, there is still that sense of dread that you got in the first film. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but both films were directed by Europeans. My favourite scene is definitely when the survivors have to cross the kitchen to get to the freight elevator. Only problem is, the kitchen is now completely flooded. The underwater scenes are brilliantly shot and pretty exciting to watch. Not to spoil how things turn out but it appears that the aliens can swim as well. Another excellent scene comes when Ripley discovers the seven failed attempts at cloning her in a lab – the gruesome creatures have to be seen to be believed. Indeed it’s that scene that convinced Sigourney Weaver to come back for this film. Then there are a couple of truly spectacular death scenes – the first comes from a general who gets the back of his head bitten off by an alien and ends up looking at chewed up pieces of his own flesh. The second is the final death of the newborn alien who gets sucked through a hole in one of the ship’s windows. There’s not much else to say about the action scenes except they’re all well done and suitable for the film. Then there’s another badass moment for Ron Perlman where he shoots aliens while hanging upside down from a ladder.

I don’t really have any outright complaints about the film except maybe all the lesbian subtext between Ripley and Call. It is Joss Whedon so that’s to be expected but it’s a little jarring for the Ripley we all know and love to start acting a little too touchy feely with the unfeminine person Winona Ryder is playing in this. But for the record, Weaver has said that she considers the relationship between Ripley and Call to be a mother-daughter one which just opens up a whole other level of weirdness. Then there’s the scene with the newborn alien being...well...born and it’s ruined slightly by Brad Dourif chewing the scenery, delivering the line “you are a beautiful butterfly” in a dramatic voice. And yeah I’m pissed that poor DiStephano got killed off. 

Regarding the theatrical release and the extended edition, director Jean Pierre Jeunet has stated that the “director’s cut” is the original theatrical version and that the extended cut is just a little something extra for some fans. Having seen both of them, I prefer the theatrical release since it has a better ending and most of the scenes in the extended cut aren’t really necessary. Though there are a couple of nice scenes that could have made it to the theatrical cut; when the new Ripley clone is being shown pictures of things that she has to name, one of the scientists holds up a picture of a little girl who looks quite similar to Newt from Aliens and Ripley is noticeably affected. Then there’s a nice extended conversation between Ripley and Call in the chapel. And if you want DiStephano to get more lines, there’s a fun nerdy conversation between him and Christie about their weapons in the flooded kitchen.

So, I’m officially clocking ten days on my challenge and moving into the 80s with my next film. That’s a two-fer actually what with the next film being #89 and actually being made in the 1980s. I only just realised that, seriously. Until tomorrow, my friends, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Sunday 26 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 10 - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

#91 - Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

Yep, that’s right, you caught me. I’m a Potter-maniac, a Pot-head if you will. Anyway I always enjoyed the films (except maybe the third one, shudder) and I am a minority in the rare species of people who don’t care if stuff gets cut out (so I wasn’t in the picket line of people protesting against Hermione’s pink dress). I felt that I had to include one film in here, considering it’s been one of the biggest cultural phenomenon in the last ten years. And out of all the seven films (so far) I feel this was the best of them.

Okay, the plot picks up from the end of Goblet of Fire with Harry stuck at his aunt and uncle’s bored and cut off from the wizarding world. Things pick up when two Dementors suddenly arrive to attack him and his cousin, then the rest of the wizards decide it’s time to whisk him away back into their world. Unfortunately for Harry, the Ministry of Magic has ignored his and Dumbledore’s warnings about Voldemort returning so now the majority of the wizarding world believes him to be a liar. Things don’t get much better when he returns to Hogwarts as the Ministry has appointed a spy as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher – the sadistic and vindictive Dolores Umbridge. Oh and Harry has also been having nightmares about a room in the Ministry, as well as a budding relationship with Cho Chang.

Sounds like a plot overload? Well it was the longest Harry Potter book, ironically condensed into the shortest Potter film. That being said, the earlier scenes in the film are pretty rushed but it does settle down once they get to Hogwarts. Our golden trio are on form – Daniel Radcliffe clearly learned a good lesson about subtlety after millions of viewers had to cringe watching him try to act angry in the third film, and his acting during the death scene at the end is truly heartbreaking. Throughout the whole film, he’s able to convey how cut-off and isolated Harry feels with barely any lines. This film was definitely the best example of his acting across the whole series – Half Blood Prince and Goblet of Fire gave us good specific scenes but here his performance across the whole thing is great to watch. Also in comparison to her chewing the scenery in Goblet of Fire, Emma Watson is much calmer and much more Hermione-ish. She looks pretty hot with the blonde hair too. The big standout from the trio is definitely Rupert Grint. To be honest, I never thought much of this guy in the previous films; he was pretty much just there since he didn’t seem to have a lot to do. Here he got plenty of screen time as well as a chance to show Ron as more than comic relief while also toning down Hermione a bit. Take the scene in Umbridge’s office – Hermione just stands there while Ron tries to escape and similarly in the Death Chamber. 

Of course the biggest star out of the younger actors would be Evanna Lynch who plays the eccentric Luna Lovegood. Ms Lynch joined the cast as a fan of the books and it definitely shows – she is Luna, there is very little else to say about it. Mathew Lewis, Katie Leung and Bonnie Wright do well with the little screen time they get. Out of the older actors, Gary Oldman delivers a better performance than in his previous two Potter films (the fourth one just being a complete waste of his talent), doing a great job as Harry’s only parent figure, making his eventual death scene all the more tragic. Of course Helena Bonham Carter, in her few minutes of screen time, is so badass as Bellatrix Lestrange. The “how’s mum and dad?” line was so cool, and I’m glad she got more screen time in the next two films. And another one scene wonder would be Natalia Tena, playing Tonks. The costume, the mannerisms and the acting just make her just as cool as her book counterpart.

And finally if you are talking about performances in this film, a big pat on the back has to go to Imelda Staunton. I absolutely hated Umbridge in the books (I was supposed to, she’s a villain isn’t she?) but I couldn’t get enough of her in this film. Staunton is just perfect in every sense of the word as the sugary pink overdosed lady who is a deeply sadistic and terrifying tyrant. Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Michael Gambon are also equally solid in their performances. 

Now we get to the scenes; this would of course be the first Potter film to feature some full on fighting scenes. I guess fighting with wands could look a bit hokey and cheesy in a film but they managed to make it work. The battle in the Ministry is really exciting to watch and it’s just a shame it got cut down in the editing. The climactic duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore is just breathtaking. That scene alone qualified this film for an award for SFX.
On the other end of the spectrum, we also get a charming scene where Harry and Cho finally kiss. Sadly for Cho, she’s pretty much forgotten about and only appears in three scenes afterwards (with no lines) – unfortunate implications much? The scene where Umbridge gets carried off by the centaurs is hilarious with poor Dolores screaming “I am senior undersecretary Dolores Jane Umbridge! Let me goooooo!” echoing into the forest. My absolute favourite scene is where Harry teaches the class how to conjure a Patronus – the effects and the music make for a really nice scene. And the possession scene in the book looked almost impossible to translate to a film, but they pulled it off and I think it came together really well.

Okay, I do have a few criticisms although it is really a lot of nitpicking. I have issues with the flying scene at the start – Harry gets expelled for using magic in front of his cousin (these wizards are big on secrecy) but then the Order fly past a cruise ship in full view of the public, not even trying to stay hidden. I guess we can handwave it with the simple Rule of Cool. I also have a bit of an issue with how the scenes at the Ministry went; I feel they could have been a bit longer because they felt really rushed and more time could have made them a bit more exciting. And I didn’t like the design of the centaurs – they just looked like bad CGI. And as a fan of Bonnie Wright, I feel they could have given here more lines considering she was playing the hero’s future wife. I think she has about seven lines in total in the film.

So, in conclusion, I feel this is the best film to represent the Harry Potter franchise on my list. It’s a flawed film, but what film isn’t? It has my favourite cast out of all the films and I can’t find a single person to complain about in terms of acting (even the disappointing Tom Felton wasn’t awful). It isn’t too rushed and it’s filled with some excellent scenes. I’m glad David Yates stayed on to direct the last three films because...well the films speak for themselves. Later, taters and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Saturday 25 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 9 - My Sister's Keeper

#92 - My Sister's Keeper

This film might look out of place to anyone who knows me personally. Believe me, I’m not a tear jerker person. I even laughed during Titanic. But I stumbled upon this film and found myself enjoying it due to the amazing performances and excellent filmmaking. And if you’re in doubt, I have a friend who (in between watching porn) told me he loved The Notebook. Any questions? Nope, let’s go then.

Our main character is Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) who was genetically engineered to act as a perfect donor for her sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) who has leukaemia. Over the years Anna has been forced to donate bone marrow, lymphocites and now at age 11, her parents want her to donate a kidney to her sister. Anna decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation so they can’t force her to donate the kidney.

As I said above, the performances in this film are excellent. Abigail Breslin is just a treat to watch and is truly among the cream of the crop in terms of young actors. Hell, she’s made several amazing films and she’s not even eighteen yet. Other fine young actors in the cast are Sofia Vassilieva (whom you may recognise from Medium) and Evan Ellingson playing Anna’s siblings. Sofia really brings Kate to life and makes her exist as an actual person as opposed to “the kid who has cancer” while Evan is able to convey the proper emotion needed for the forgotten child who is almost always ignored by his parents. Speaking of the parents, all I can say about Cameron Diaz is wow (about the performance I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink). Here she isn’t the same smiley fun loving character she usually is (I wasn’t sure she was aware any other characters existed) but her Sara Fitzgerald is a hardnosed mother fighting for her daughter’s life. That’s an admirable quality except she’s also emotionally abusive to Anna, using emotional blackmail and is more concerned with keeping Kate healthy than actually making sure if the girl’s happy or not. It’s an interesting switch to see the father being the reasonable one. 

Alec Baldwin is also featured as Campbell Alexander, the layer Anna hires. He bounces off Cameron Diaz very well during their conversation scenes, making the court scenes some of the most interesting to watch. A small but significant role, a one-scene-wonder if you will, goes to Joan Cusack who plays the judge presiding over Anna’s case. She really shines in this film and I can’t believe neither she nor Diaz got an Oscar nod.

As I said earlier, the court room scenes are great to watch and Cameron Diaz acts her ass off when she is being interrogated by Campbell, as does Anna when her mother is interrogating her. The film is also full of other nice little scenes like the family’s final day out together where they take Kate to the beach. Sara flatly refuses to allow it to happen and tries to stop them going. Brian hilariously threatens a divorce if she doesn’t come and Sara shows up later. The film also has some nice comedy scenes like where Kate uses apple juice to substitute a urine sample and the banter between her and her boyfriend Taylor (Thomas Dekker, aka John Connor for this generation). The film’s script is really well written and it gives each character their own fully developed personality.

Now for some positive criticisms; the main flaw of the film is that there are way too many musical montages (no this film is not a musical, though that would be interesting to see. Tim Burton, get on that) like the aforementioned beach scene. About two minutes before that, there is a montage of Anna getting taken out of school for the day. It can get a little annoying sometimes. There’s also an annoying case with the character Jesse. He doesn’t really get enough focus and that makes the whole “he turned his life around” line in the end sequence sound a bit odd. All he’s shown doing is hanging out in the city at night.

Now for the big issue for most fans is the ending. Now the way the book ended (spoilers, duh) is with Anna winning her case and then getting hit by a car on the way home. She is declared brain dead and her organs are harvested for Kate, who goes into remission. The film however has Kate dying with dignity and Anna living. If I’m being honest, I think the book’s ending sucks. It’s an awful way to end the story and I feel that the ending in the movie is much more satisfying. Kate got to live for sixteen years and now Anna will be treated better by her mother. Indeed the ending sequence is beautiful to watch and Abigail Breslin makes quite the narrator. Maybe she’ll take over when Morgan Freeman retires?

So that’s it for today and believe it or not, that won’t be the only chick flick on my list. Well, that’s all up to your interpretation as to what qualifies as a chick flick. I’ll let you decide. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.