Film Review: Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier

The few times I’ve attempted street photography have gone okay. Not spectacular failures, but I always miss that something that makes street photography what it is – capturing real emotion and seeing what the every day passerby doesn’t see. That takes some amount of time, patience and an intuition about people.

Vivian Maier was one of the most prolific street photographers, ever. She took thousands of photos. Thousands. But she wasn’t a photographer or a journalist. She was a nanny. Who apparently enjoyed photography very much. Continue reading →

Life on the big screen

Watching life

November was a GOOD film month for me. Best for a very long time. 14 films in one little month! Well, normal sized month. Dropping TV shows left, right and centre, has definitely helped me up my film viewing numbers.

Funny thing. Exactly half of the films I saw, were documentaries. I was on a massive docu-film kick. And still am.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a new thing. I’ve always enjoyed watching documentaries. Here and there. But this was the first time I was actually searching out more to watch. Also, Sky are doing a documentary film per week on Sky Atlantic, which is proving helpful in this new thing of mine.

So, what was it that I saw? Continue reading →

The 100 movie catch-up post

I have seen a grand total of seven films since I last did a post for my 100 movies challenge for the year. SEVEN. That was back in February, when I saw Young Adult. It’s now April, going on May. Woops is probably not a strong enough word for this.

See, lots of things have gotten in the way. TV. Proximity to a decent cinema. (Compared to when was literally around the corner from my office.) And, well, spending time with the new man in my life. All could be seen as excuses. As in, they are excuses.

BUT I’m here to do an update! Just a small one. I honestly can’t remember the details of most of these few films I have seen. Again, no fault but my own.

Wreck-It Ralph
Enjoyed it. Fun, colourful with a little bit of heart. HOWEVER from last year’s crop of animated films, Brave still stands out more for me. Shut your slack jaw right now. Don’t get my wrong, thoroughly enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph but it just didn’t have the depth of characters that I enjoyed from other animated films. Shoot me!
Rating: 4/5

The Sandlot
Apparently it was shocking that I hadn’t seen this ‘classic’ film. The same sort of film as, say, The Goonies and Mighty Ducks, it’s all about growing up, friendships and a little bit of fun. Very fun film to watch. Some claimed it beats The Goonies, but it really doesn’t. What it does do is bring up my tally of baseball themed films up to three. (Moneyball and A League of Their Own.)
Rating: 4/5

John Carter
What on Earth (Mars?) was this film trying to be? A semi-serious sci-fi actioner? A jolly Disney jaunt a la Pirates of the Caribbean? Was it me or did John Carter have a bit of an identity crisis? Wasn’t all that entertaining. Perfectly fine to watch while I was coming out of a major bout of flu. Didn’t need my brain to watch it! But eh.
Rating: 2/5

We Bought a Zoo
Think the one word I can think of for We Bought a Zoo is cute. It is. It’s not the most original of films (Yes, I know it’s based on a true story.) but it kept me amused. Hard not to with Matt Damon in the lead role – always love watching films with him in it. The soundtrack gave it one more star for me – awesome work from Jonsi.
Rating: 3/5

Blazing Saddles
Slowly making my way through Mel Brooks’ films. Have to say, didn’t love this one as much as Young Frankenstein but it was pretty damn funny. Found some of the gags went on for a little bit too long. The obvious gags always got a chuckle out of me.
Rating: 4/5

Project Nim
Excellent documentary from the same people who brought us Man on Wire, which I loved. Don’t think this one is quite as strong, though the story of Nim and the moral ramifications of what they were trying to do was something I’d honestly never thought about. It’s a solid documentary.
Rating: 3/5

Oblivion
Tom Cruise can hold a film together. This isn’t a new fact. Just re-stating it. Had it not been for the Cruise, think this film would have landed flat on its face. It’s a fine enough sci-fi film, but it doesn’t give us anything new in the genre. It looks good, but not as stunning as I’d hoped. The soundtrack from M83 is good, but again, not as good as I’d hoped. Think Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy mixed with Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Rises. Perfect film for having on in the background while you’re playing a game of cards.
Rating: 3/5

So let’s add this lot to the running tally. Continue reading →

100 movies: Britain in a Day

[yellow_box]Every year I set myself a target, usually of about 100, of films to watch. These are new films. Not new, new films. But films that are new to me. Any time I’ve seen a new one, I post a bit of a brain dump of my thoughts on the film here. Enjoy![/yellow_box]

Britain in a DayBritain in a Day (11/06/12)

On Saturday 12 November 2011 an eclectic range of British people turned the camera on themselves, capturing the entertaining and mundane, the exciting and unusual, the poignant and the everyday. The result, Britain in a Day tells the fascinating story of the British public in their own words.

I didn’t have much of an intention of watching this. But my Monday evening was left empty with no new Game of Thrones and this just happened to be on. Something to fill the time, is how I looked at it.

Britain in a Day is the, I guess, spin-off from Ridley and Tony Scott’s Life in a Day. This time it’s all filmed by Brits here on our sunny isles on Saturday 12th November 2011.

I was expecting, mostly, a bunch of incoherent clips put together in a haphazard puzzle. Expectations quashed. Instead, we’ve got some really touching moments, hilariously funny clips, just plain bizarre and some amazingly honest videos from all sorts of people.

Yes, I cried. I know why I cried. I was relieved that there were other people out there who had the same worries and concerns about life as I did as well as being genuinely moved by some of the videos that were put into the film.

It’s extraordinarily well put together with the themes of clips gradually transitioning from one to the next. A story, of sorts, is told. Mostly what I took away from it is that life is best enjoyed together. Together with someone. That made me equally quite happy and quite sad!

The last piece of music played on the piano was a lovely way to end the film. A remarkable little documentary.
Rating: 5/5

Read on to see all the films watched this year… Continue reading →

120+ Movies: Update!

This post has taken me over a week to finally finish writing. Must not leave it this long in between updates!

I dread to think how much money I’ve spent going to the cinema this year….

X-Men: First ClassX-Men: First Class (01/06/11)

In 1962, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend… and future archenemy.

X-Men 1 and 2 are among my favourite comic book films. You’ve got to hand it to the first X-Men film, that effectively kicked off all of the current comic book movie adaptations we’ve got now. Well, you might or might not be grateful for that.

Last Stand had some good bits, but on the whole it was a mess. The less said about Wolverine, the better. So First Class had a lot of work to do. The terrible film posters before release didn’t help it.

Though am happy to say that it surpassed my expectations! Okay, so said expectations were probably quite low, but they were still surpassed.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender held the film together brilliantly. I loved James’ portrayal of a young Xavier. Michael’s Erik was excellent too. Even if his accent slipped all over the place a little bit.

Some of my favourite bits were the training montage of the new mutants. Love me a bit of split screen. The closing credits were beautiful! I just blocked out the song they were playing over it. Oh and the score has been one of my favourites of the summer blockbuster season.

The not so good were probably the villains. Not Kevin Bacon (who was rather good!), but the other villainous mutants. January Jones sucked the life right out of Emma Frost. Azazel and Riptide weren’t given the courtesy of actually having a character past their mutant abilities.

The cameos were brilliant and I may have snorted a little bit when I saw Michael Ironside appear in the film. He has that reaction for me when I see him in any film these days!

While Thor remains my favourite comic book movie adaptation of the summer so far, this is a close second. Glad to say the X-Men movie franchise has found it’s feet again.
Rating: 4/5

Electra LuxxElectra Luxx (04/06/11)

Life for porn actress Elektra Luxx gets turned upside down when she finds out she’s pregnant.

For the love of JGL. That’s the reason I watched this. It’s turning into a habit. First GI Joe and now Electra Luxx. However, unlike GI Joe, this was more of a better film! With the added bonus of Timothy Olyphant. I’m not a totally fickle film viewer, honest.

It’s a funny little film. Funny ha-ha, not funny odd. Well, maybe a little odd, but the good kind of odd.

Sadly, it’s been so long since I saw this film I can’t remember all too much about it save that I enjoyed it, laughed a little and at the end was rather happy that I decided to watch it.

Oh and the opening credits are among the best I have ever seen. Reminded me heavily of the Queens of the Stone Age music video for Go With the Flow. Just gorgeous to watch!
Rating: 3/5

The Usual SuspectsThe Usual Suspects (05/06/11)

A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.

Yes, it has taken ME this many years to see this film. Woops! Was the whole ending ruined for me? Not really. Somehow I’ve shielded myself from seeing the twist here from the never-ending lists on film sites about the ‘best film twist ending’. Probably my own subconscious knowing that some day I would finally see The Usual Suspects.

Loved it. From start to end. Very tense. Very cool. Questions at every turn, up until the ending. Not much more that needs to be said! I understand why this film is a modern classic. Though I think I need to see it again.
Rating: 5/5

SennaSenna (10/06/11)

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34.

In 1994 I was 10 years old and I remember watching the Formula 1 race at Imola that Ayrton Senna had an un-spectacular crash that ultimately killed him. I also remember playing my F1 game on my Amiga and the only driver I wanted to play was Ayrton.

I’ve been looking forward to the release of this film since Jeremy Clarkson mentioned it way back on Top Gear. Though, this was not the documentary I was expecting.

What I got was an impressive documentary magically stitched together using footage from races and the behind-the-scenes of Ayrton’s life as a racer and a very proud Brazilian. No talking heads. Instead we’ve got Ayrton narrating his own life along with the people he worked with and his family.

The film charts his life from his go-karting career into F1 where he his the spotlight being a bit of a risk taking driver. No doubt about it, when he got into the cockpit and out onto the track, all he wanted to do was win. And why not? He was known for doing some insane things on the track and you get to see a few of them.

The portrayal of the ongoing battle between him and Alain Prost was amazing to see. I’m not sure how much of it was over-hyped for the documentary’s purpose. Or how the saga had been manipulated for the film’s purpose. It made for some good drama.

There were lots of emotional moments in the film. Seeing the aftermath of Martin Donnelly’s crash was tough to see. Equally emotional was watching Ayrton Senna’s career unfold.

But the bit that hit me hard was moments before Senna’s own crash. I knew it was coming. I remember, vaguely, watching that race. I think my heart was beating in my throat, then it happened. My memory made it look a lot more violent than it actually was! Strange to think that that was the accident that killed Senna. After that, my emotions were all over the place. Which made Senna’s funeral all the harder to watch with tears streaming down my face!

Right, this is a bit long already. I should end it now. Go watch Senna. Even if you’re not a driving/racing fan. I’m not an F1 fan. I was back then. I went with a non-petrol head person and he seemed to enjoy it! Senna is a brilliantly put together documentary with a very moving soundtrack about one of the best sportsmen of our time.
Rating: 5/5

The Human CentipedeThe Human Centipede (10/06/11)

A mad scientist kidnaps and mutilates a trio of tourists in order to reassemble them into a new pet – a human centipede.

From Senna to this. And the less said about this the better. It’s a very bad film. Sure the subject matter is horrific, but in the execution of it, they’ve skipped the majority of the gross-ness.

Bad acting, bad dialogue, bad everything. Why did I watch this? Like a lot of people – I was curious!
Rating: 1/5

Green LanternGreen Lantern (17/06/11)

A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.

Considering how many comic book films there are already out, getting released and have all ready come and gone, there’s a bar up there which they all need to hit. Green Lantern just didn’t cut it.

As origin stories go, this was your average story. Childhood trauma leads to unstable adult who eventually overcomes his own shortcomings to become the hero he’s known to be. There was nothing along the way to attempt to change things in any way. Just to shake it up a little bit at least.

Ryan Reynolds made the film watchable and amusing at times. The rest of the cast weren’t all that engaging. The CG wasn’t all that fantastic. There just seemed to be so much of it. I understand the need for it, but if you’re going to throw that much CG at a film, at least make it good. Most of the time it looked like I was watching a digitally animated film. Yes, those moments on the Green Lanterns home planet.

The underlying notion of will vs. fear was an interesting one, though I don’t think they made full advantage of it. It was just used in passing to explain a few little things. Which is a shame – could have been what was needed to give the film some added depth.

Had I seen the film in 3D, I might have called it a waste of money. I was grateful that there was a 2D showing that I could see. Which might have given me the inclination to give this film one more point that maybe it’s worth. It’s light entertainment. Not a great comic book film. Not a terribly bad one either. Definitely not as bad as Wolverine. Just doesn’t match up to what has already come this summer with Thor and X-Men: First Class.

(I think I’ve been a tad harsh giving this film a 2/5, but I couldn’t justify a 3! Even though I did partly enjoy it.)
Rating: 2/5

PaulPaul (18/06/11)

Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.

I think Paul lived up to expectations. Funny, silly and full of Simon Pegg/Nick Frost bromance. With an added alien. Lots of fun cameos. Jason Bateman being pretty damn awesome. Tonnes of other sci-fi movie references. Made for a very entertaining film.

I didn’t find it hilariously funny. Just had a bit of a smile on my face throughout the film. The film rattled through to the end pretty swiftly. With one little surprise.

Paul himself I loved. I wouldn’t mind my own little Paul. He made me laugh! And surprisingly good CG on him.

Fantastic score too – thanks to David Arnold. Really made a big impact during the more action packed scenes. It’s not the kind of film I’d pair up with having a score on par with Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. Wouldn’t have been possible without David Arnold.

A very silly but fun little film.
Rating: 3/5

Read on to see the entire list of movies seen this year so far: Continue reading →