FILM REVIEWS |Guardians of the Galaxy, Boyhood & A Bug’s Life (Netflix)

August 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Here’s a quick catch up on some movie reviews from August.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn) – 4 stars

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So I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, the trailers seemed a bit too far-fetched for my taste. Also, I was of the opinion that The Avengers was a bit overrated. Basically I saw all the rave reviews before I got to the movie so my expectations were too high – but Guardians of the Galaxy was a pleasant surprise. I had this idea in my head that Chris Pratt was going to be a lot more cringe then he actually turned out to be, he gave the movie the humour that Marvel is known for. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is also key to the comic elements within the film, his character gives him as much presence as Peter Quill (Pratt).  However, it was Groot that stole the screen for me, I’m not sure how much Vin Diesel was involved in the part – obviously the only lines from the character are “I am Groot”, but whether or not Vin Diesel’s movements were tracked in order to create the animation, I’m not sure. He worked as the glue in the group though, bringing the characters together and on top of that baby Groot was incredibly cute.

The general plot for the movie was pretty predictable, as you would probably expect it to be, but the humour and the world building brought it together so that it was still a really enjoyable watch. The soundtrack also added a huge amount to the movie. With mainly 70s-80s songs, the music was uniquely involved in the story as Peter Quill’s tape – received from his mother before he left Earth – and was what gave the more action packed scenes their momentum.

Overall, really impressed with this one and definitely want to see a sequel – granted it is of the same quality.

2. Boyhood (Richard Linklater) – 5 stars

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This was such a brilliantly put together movie, I really can’t believe that Linklater was able to pull off a movie directed over 13 years. Ellar Coltrane was the star of the movie as Mason, but cast members such as Lorelei Linklater (Samantha), Patricia Arquette (Mum) and Ethan Hawke (Dad) brought the movie together and also gave stellar performances. The picture was made up of the small moments which is what made it what it was. The story just flowed and felt real – like a look into someones real life which made it stand out in the ever growing coming-of-age genre. There’s not a lot more to say about the picture, but basically go and see it, no excuses.

Also, after seeing this interview for Jimmy Fallon, I couldn’t help but be very aware that all his hairstyles were choice throughout the movie… make of that what you will:

3. A Bug’s Life (John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton) – 3.5 stars

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This is just one of those classic Pixar movies that doesn’t get old. Heimlich, voiced by Joe Ranft, is hilariously brilliant. Flik (Dave Foley) is the films protagonist who is the most inventive ant in his colony and has set out to find some other bugs that will stand up to the grass hoppers – who are acting as a kind of bug mafia over the colony of ants. I’ll be honest, it’s no Toy Story, but still worth a watch if you fancy something light-hearted and childish.

FILM REVIEWS | Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, How to Train Your Dragon 2 & Charlie’s Angels (Netflix)

July 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Here are some of the films I got to this week and what I thought of them. Also, some rants about my dislike for trailers, but since I think I’m in the minority the movie’s trailers are down below to watch at your leisure.

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves) – 4.5 stars 

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Planet of the Apes did not disappoint in giving you all of the action you wanted from it. I do think that in some cases the trailer can spoil a movie a little bit by giving too much a way – for this movie I think this was the case. It is typical with an action packed film that once you’ve watched the exceptionally long trailer you feel like you have already gathered the entire plot of the movie. Despite this, I still really enjoyed the film and it did itself justice without a surprising plot. 10 years in and Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still leading the planet of the apes with old friends like Koba (Toby Kebbel) and Maurice (Karin Konoval) as well as the addition of his son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston). While the ape community has a lot of familiar faces from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the humans have come with a whole new cast focusing on survivors from a virus produced in the same laboratory from the first prequel.  Malcolm is the leading human, played by Jason Clarke, whose character is compatible with that of James Franco’s 10 years previous. Dialogue is not immediately introduced into the film, giving the apes the opportunity to display their emotive acting skills impressively before the humans intervene. Throughout the movie a lot of things are shown to us through the actions of the characters, which for me is a lot more enjoyable then using the script to get everything across. Where dialogue was concerned, I had a bit of a problem with the apes, which was mostly told though sign language (and subtitles). I just found their conversation slightly unrealistic and it bothered me, but it wasn’t a huge hindrance on my enjoyment. One of the best things about the movie is the relationship it has to symbolising historical dictators and movements with the huge themes of otherness. My favourite detail is the symbolic use of the window throughout both the Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It isn’t a large component of the movie, but the constant use of having the structure in the set really worked for me and I enjoyed it a lot. Overall the action and cast are impressive and I would say this is definitely one to catch if you haven’t already – especially if you’ve missed the trailers up to now.

2. How to Train Your Dragon (Dean DeBlois) – 4.5 stars

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Yet another movie where the trailer seemed to give too much away, but since it’s a cartoon I’ll try not to take it too personally. If you’ve seen the first How to Train Your Dragon then you will probably know what to expect from this sequel. Dreamworks has some pretty brilliant animations and, for me at least, this is one of them. There are suddenly a lot more species of dragon as well as a new kind of villain. I personally haven’t read the books, but I expect that if you have or did when you were little then they have tried to include more of the species from there. I don’t really have a great deal to say on the subject of HTTYD2 but if you are looking for a family movie this summer or if you are like me and you just enjoy a good animation, the HTTYD movies will not disappoint.

3. Netflix Charlie’s Angels (McG) – 5 stars

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Definitely not the first time I’ve seen this, but I was feeling nostalgic and noticed it on Netflix so why not? I used to watch this all the time when I was younger and truly love it. The chemistry between Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Lui – also Bill Murray (which is surprising since I heard there was some tension between him and Lucy Liu while filming) – is just brilliant and makes the film. The action is impressive as well as the huge amount of satire that moves the movie forward with these ridiculous situations you so often see in the secret agent genre of film. Tim Curry and Sam Rockwell’s performances were also brilliant and make a huge impact on the outcome of the humour. I’m pretty sure most people have seen this by now and made up their mind about it, but if you haven’t then don’t write it off!

BOOK REVIEW |Poems from the First World War picked by Gaby Morgan

July 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

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This is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read from my World War I challenges so far. I think the idea for this book was actually more aimed at children with First World War poetry being so popular in schools, but as it isn’t something I remembered doing in my own curriculum it was nice to get my own insight into it. The idea of the poetry in this selection is that everything is written by someone who was directly involved in the war, but it isn’t just soldiers on the front line – there are father’s, friends, sweets hearts and mother’s also writing poetry as well as the women in Britain at the time who were undergoing their own fight for equality.

I am a big fan of poetry, or was in my younger years, but sort of just stopped picking it up as much, but this book really reminded me of why I had liked it in the first place. Most of the poems are elegant and simple, they tell a short story with a few words and capture peoples emotions. It was also really interesting to get a diversity in the perspectives on the war. While men are facing horrors on the front line, women were frustrated to be stuck on the home front and wanted to claim the same victories as the other sex by fighting for their country. Reading that range close together made the poetry work more in a group and have a greater impact on illustrating the effects of war for me, which I really enjoyed.

There’s quite a few famous poets such as Wilfred Owen in this collection, whom I’m sure a lot of people have heard of and know their poetry. But there are also a few lesser known names and poems worth checking out. They all come in a beautiful hardback edition as well, which is a great way to keep them on your shelf for when you feel like a bit of impromptu poetry reading.

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LONDON | RSC Matilda Review

July 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

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While in London it is always nice to do a show, so since hearing a lot of hype about the RSC’s Matilda The Musical, I eventually got round to going this visit. I’ve always enjoyed the movie and I believe I read the book as a child, I think it was read to me, so I kind of knew what I was in for although felt a little bit apprehensive about how it would turn out using so many child actors.

The show ended up really blowing me away, the cast was brilliant. In school scenes where there was a lot of children some of the older pupils were portrayed by adult actors which gave the play a bit more diversity in these scenes. I believe it was Tasha Chapple who played the role of Matilda the night we saw it, she gave a brilliant performance and her voice was really well projected throughout the songs and just generally. The other children involved also had great abilities when performing, the movement was incredible the way it worked with the surroundings and how agile the dancing was. Miss Trunchable was played by a man dressed up – the role had a David Walliams feel to it for some reason. The character was so entertaining with a slightly more slapstick performance than the Danny Devito Matilda production.

I was least excited for the music in this play to be honest. Not because I thought badly of what I heard, but sometimes when I see something and I don’t know the music that well already it kind of goes over my head. However, the songs were catchy, funny and worked really well in the story rather then getting that feeling of “oh god they are going to sing again.”

Matilda2I think my favourite part of the whole play was just how dynamic and impressive the stage was at adapting to the different scenes and for being used really fluidly. I tried to get a sneaky picture before the show started of how it was built up using children’s building blocks and books, but it really didn’t do justice.

Definitely recommend seeing this one – it is definitely worth all the hype it has gotten so if you’re in the London area. I’m sure kids will love it, but the humour is just enough to give it an edge of nostalgia and risk that will entertain any audience member. I also got myself a little bit of memorabilia at the gift shop because Miss Trunchable is my hero.

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LONDON | East Putney for Pups and Walks

July 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Cities aren’t always the easiest place when you have a dog, but if you are in London with a pet or just fancy a nice walk along the River Thames, then if you get the District Line over to East Putney you can have a nice leisurely stroll from Wandsworth Park to Putney Bridge.

Mum walking ahead with Aslan

Mum walking ahead with Aslan

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Aslan is my sisters Jack Russell-Pug mix who I’m down in London to look after

If you get down the bottom of the park it’s a great place for the dog to run because the trees give it the shade you need – especially in the 28 degree heat. The bottom also keeps you away from most picnickers and BBQ groups in case your dog is a bit friendly, like Aslan.

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Once you’ve walked along the park and let the dog run around you can head along Deodar Road until you come to a little promenade with some restaurants. The Boathouse is dog friendly so mum and I had a look in for a drink and a bit of food while Aslan recovered some strength.

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I wouldn’t really recommend this one for somewhere to eat. The food was pretty horrible – my salad was made up of soggy veg and a thick balsamic sauce, that I personally really dislike. My mum tried the fish cakes, they were dry and tasteless, also the portion of chips we shared tasted like cardboard. The staff during the day seemed a bit bored of their jobs, they weren’t awful, but service was nothing to shout home about. It’s probably a decent place to stop off for a drink and on a night it seems to be quite popular, but if you’re hungry maybe see if one of the other places around won’t mind you sitting outside with a pet.

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Putney High Street has a few nice shops, bars and restaurants worth checking out – more so then The Boathouse – I assume these aren’t dog friendly though. The Swift is a really cosy pub that does amazing food as well as gin and tonics at quite affordable prices. The herring and chicken are lush. We also had a really friendly waitress who looked after us and brought a bottle of water to the table as we sat down – always bonus points for that.

Feminist Advert Campaigns

July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

So there seems to have been a recent surge in ‘feminist adverts’  and after reading an article in The Guardian (click here for said article) I wanted to give some of my initial thoughts to some of the ones I have recently caught sight of.

I enjoy this one – it makes sense that always is campaigning to change the way women or girls are perceived. It is after all a product related to that pinnacle moment of puberty is every girls life. The like a girl hashtag is like what Caitlin Moran describes as the broken window of problems in equality and gender perceptions – there is obviously bigger issues out there, but like in a built-up area if one window is broken people will think less of breaking more windows (explained slightly more coherently and elegantly in How to be a Woman). I at first wanted to say that I like to keep a sense of humour about gender issues, and this isn’t necessarily untrue, but when giving real thought to the implications of ‘like a girl’ it probably undermines the sex and places masculinity in the dominant position.

In terms of selling the product, always isn’t exactly something you would buy because it’s a product you want to enjoy.. you either need it or you don’,t so adverts seem sort of irrelevant to the product. Pretending that is not my opinion, the format of this advert seems to trip the girls up before offering the support in the same way that the Dove advert formula does – exhibited in the Real Beauty parody mentioned by the Guardian. I guess the implication in the advert is that always are comfortable enough to not make it impossible to achieve a positive running result… It is really just the dominant option when you’re shopping in that aisle anyway.

At first the Verizon advert was my favourite, mainly because of an article I read in a recently in Vogue about a lack of females in the engineering career and I definitely think that there is a great need for more female presence in male dominant careers - as a sex, women would have a lot of qualities to add to different areas where they maybe don’t have as much presence at the moment. I also think there is an emphasis in society on female appearances or there is definitely such a huge weight on looking like a girl that it can outweigh other messages. I took a bit of issue with the advert because it seemed to imply a lot of the issue was to do with parenting. Now, parents obviously have a huge influence on their child’s development, but the examples in the advert to me seemed to be acts done out of love and it seems unkind to scold people for caring about their children (okay, well the solar system one wasn’t very encouraging, but apart from that). I also think the issue is too big to pin on parents – a bigger contributor might be peer pressure and a dominance in male teachers and teaching styles. Maybe a new approach to female students or a greater emphasis on learning about females in these industries would make a greater impression.

Right intentions, but pointing the finger too aggressively.

Always a popular topic, the selfie epidemic. If you’re one of those people who hates selfies, I suggest you watch lacigreen’s video The Selfie Revolution, it might make you see them a bit differently. Regardless, selfies have really taken over our culture so it was inevitable that advertising was going to catch on. I do wanna believe that Dove are doing their best to promote women to feel confident, but because they are still in a way promoting their products it just seems weak. I don’t know that girls mothers are the ones who strictly give their children insecurities though, but maybe I just haven’t had much experience with that – I was a little bit in shock that someone’s mother would influence them to wear make up if they didn’t want to. It is probably true that people’s insecurities are usually the things that make them stand out, but the subtle indication that we don’t need make up to look beautiful seems to be where Dove starts promoting themselves, all you need is a bar of soap and you’re sorted. Not that I think we do need make up to look better, I myself don’t wear make up a lot of the time or I use very little because I’m just really lazy, but I think make up is a great way to express yourself and I love that it is something that people can use whether it be to feel more confident or to just try something different (contrary to my comment on the Verizon advert about too much importance on women’s appearance I actually think its okay if you have an interest in beauty products and make up and I love that men are getting involved in these areas too more and more). I don’t think make up is necessarily even a sign of insecurity because the people who I admire wear bolder colours and dramatise their features which takes a certain amount of self confidence to pull off as well.

It’s a pretty subtle advert to subconsciously make you think about about the brand, but I wouldn’t say that it is really working. There’s a lot of emphasis in all Dove adverts about promoting women to feel confident without anything else, but there are never any indications to the actual product which just sort of makes you lose confidence in its ability to do anything. If you don’t need anything to feel beautiful then buy Dove, it won’t help you at all. I dunno, I’m not really a lover of Dove adverts I think their ideas on women and their confidence are slightly differing to mine and as a brand I’m not really a huge fan, having said that it doesn’t put me off the products, they do the job okay.

If you are interested in advert commentaries done with much more skill, Russell Brand did a good analysis of a few different ones recently that I enjoyed on The Trews. But these are just some of my own personally opinions on a few different ones around at the minute.

LONDON | Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK

July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

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On Saturday I headed to the Comics Unmasked Exhibition at the British Library, which covers comic artwork and writing from the 1970s to present day on different themes of importance in society and culture. The exhibition is on 10:00-18:00 Mon-Fri, Sat 10:00-17:00 and Sun 11:00-17:00 until 19th August. There is more information available on the British Library website.

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There is a large V for Vendetta theme running throughout the whole exhibit with statues of the Guy Fawkes villain. As a not too avid comic reader I was worried that the exhibition would be a bit too full on for my tastes, but actually I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting it was even to a newcomer in comic book fandom. Covering issues like politics and sexuality, I’d say the exhibition is aiming itself at an older audience, but U16 access with a parental guardian is allowed. If you’re in the London area you should definitely get down to the exhibition and check out Comics Unmasked - even the British Library itself is a beautiful building worth checking out.

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