FILM DISCUSSION | The Wolf of Wall Street

February 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorcese and Jonah Hill for The Hollywood Reporter

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorcese and Jonah Hill for The Hollywood Reporter

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoirs by Jordan Belfort and is directed by Martin Scorsese. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort and his right hand man – Donnie Azoff –  is played by Jonah Hill. Jordan Belfort is a penny stockbrocker who served time in prison for defrauding investors in a 1990′s Wall Street scam, but this movie focuses his time on Wall Street and how he got there.

It’s not easy writing a review of this movie without just gushing about how much I love it. Scorsese’s movies could be criticised for the similarities they have to each other, but his formula just works so well – for me at least. The Wolf of Wall Street has everything – drama, comedy, tragedy plus plenty of sex and drugs.

Instead of talking about the way different people fit into their roles and brought out the characters in this movie (which they did, perfectly), what is more interesting about The Wolf of Wall Street is the backlash received over glorifying Jordan Belfort. This isn’t something to accuse Scorsese of, society in general makes celebrities out of criminals, but The Wolf of Wall Street is just another component bringing up the age old argument that inspired Morgan Freeman’s statement to make its way around the internet.

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Apologies, it was actually this one:

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Morgan Freeman may not have said this (he just has the perfect voice to back any argument), but what is important is that it was said and that is the way people have responded to how criminals are presented in the media. Richard Stellar is another person who recently reported this phenomenon, for The Wrap Online (click here to read article), in relation to John Lennon’s killer.

This has escalated quickly from Wall Street scandals to murders, but the link between celebrity and “monster” is there in both cases. Sadly, most people may have heard of ‘Harold Shipman’, but fewer could tell you his victims, so why has Scorsese chose to focus his movie on Jordan Belfort? Just another criminal who does not deserve celebrity.

I bet now that the subject of murder has been raised everyone is feeling a bit more sympathetic about Jordan Belfort’s misdeeds, but if you steer away from that and look at them as isolated incidents he was in the wrong. Despite Jordan Belfort being a Wall Street “monster”, I do not condemn the fact that a movie is made about him.

George Santayana said “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This quote doesn’t exactly cover this situation, but it does lend itself to it a little bit. When discussing the movie with The Hollywood Reporter, writer Terence Winter discussed how this was still a reoccurring problem in the stock market and that the movie “holds up a mirror” to the present. If you have the time, it is a pretty good interview:

As well as reflecting the present day problems in the stock market, Jordan Belfort is a classical example of the capability in everyone for destruction. My opinion is largely influenced by reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, but I genuinely believe that everyone is capable of committing the worst imaginable crimes, especially for a lust for profit.  I think a lot of people are angry that Jordan Belfort might profit in some way from this movie, or become an icon, but – as DiCaprio discusses with The Hollywood Reporter - the greed that Belfort was capable of is a component of everyone’s DNA because of a need to survive.

Jordan Belfort was responsible, or played a part in (details on the scam are not hugely relevant in the movie), a huge Wall Street scandal, but he has served a sentence and, in my opinion, can no longer be viewed as a criminal. Why not make a movie celebrating sin. You can possibly learn from it or just engage with it on a basic level – for entertainment. Let us all not pretend we would not be inclined to do the same for such an enormous sum of money. I don’t pretend to be an expert on human behaviour and criminality – if such an expert does really exist – and my opinions are still forming, but I do highly recommend this movie.

Thanks for getting to the end of my ramble. Here’s a brilliant clip from Saturday Night Live for your hardship:

BOOK REVIEW | 1913: The Year Before The Storm by Florian Illies

January 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

As 2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of World War I, it is my aim to read at least one book a month this year that is in some way related to, or about, the war. Here is my review of my first World War I read, 1913: The Year Before The Storm by Florian Illies.

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1913 was originally written by Florian Illies in German, the English edition was translated by Shaun Whiteside and Jamie Lee Searle. In this book, Florian Illies gives a factual month by month (or a panorama) account of influential people and what they were doing in 1913 (obviously).

From what I gathered from reviews on Goodreads etc, the general feeling was disappointment with the content of this book because of the people Illies mainly focuses on. The title does suggest that the book will be about rising tension throughout Europe, however; the narrative takes a strong interest in the modernist movement and the influential people involved, such as Kafka, Freud and Picasso. That being said, there are still mentions of some key figures in the First World War, for instance we hear a lot about Franz Ferdinand. Adolf Hitler is also frequently mentioned throughout to tie in an anticipation of the Second World War. Even though the exclusion of World War I’s catalysts was a downfall for a lot of readers, I personally enjoyed the characters Illies explored. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone – if you have no interest in these kinds of people then you might find this to be a huge disappointment and quite boring.

The main strength for me was probably the writers ability to juxtapose exciting developments with the more uneventful details of characters. Each of these different characters, who had big roles to play in the early 20th century, were separated into small sections that loosely linked together to form a smooth narrative. This book was perfect to pick up and read in small chunks. I found that even though it wasn’t terrible long it was slow to read because of the density of the information. Even though I found it quite slow to read I was not bored, Illies uses a humorous tone in appropriate places to reflect on the egos of the characters and goes into just enough detail to give you an idea of the cultural attitude of the time.

While I enjoyed reading about people like Kafka and Picasso, there were a lot of points in the book where I had not heard of the historical figure mentioned and I felt a bit lost and my mind sort of drifted. I did have to do a fair bit of googling – possibly because the people mentioned were aimed at a German audience – and reaching for my laptop mid-sentence was slightly jilting, maybe a short biography of characters would have been useful. Although 1913 does not directly address the causes of the First World War it does give a clear depiction of the attitudes at the time and the rapid progress of the early twentieth century. The language is not very hard so it is an nice enjoyable read and it could give you a good few facts for the next time you’re playing along with University Challenge.

I am currently reading Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, and then I might indulge in the BBC mini series, so expect a review of that at some point. Do comment and let me know if you’ve read/want to read 1913 plus if you enjoyed it. Also if you have any recommendations for my 12 WWI books “challenge” they would be appreciated.

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FILM REVIEW | 12 Years A Slave

January 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

12 Years A Slave was directed by British director Steve McQueen and is based on the true story written by Soloman Northup. Chitwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender as slave owners.

Plot: Solomon Northup is a free-born American living in New York. He is a distinguished violinist and is enticed to Washington with a job offer. In Washington he is kidnapped by slave-traders and taken to be sold in New Orleans.

Review: I don’t relish the thought of going to see hyped movies because they generally feel like a disappointment however; 12 Years a Slave lived up to all of my expectations and if anything, I thought it deserved even more Oscar nominations than it has received. The movie’s biggest strength, which shows in its nominations, was the choice of characters in certain roles. Chitwetel played the part of Solomon amazingly and showed such intense emotion throughout the film really successfully. Lupita Nyong’o in the role of Patsey, a fellow slave to Solomon, was also recognised for her performance in the film and although she does not have a huge role she convincingly portrays a certain desperation and hopelessness that Solomon doesn’t have.

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The movie trailer very much screams “come see this movie, it’s clearly going to be historically important and look at all the famous people we convinced to star in it”, which doesn’t always have the most spectacular outcome. Michael Fassbender was one of these names and played Edwin Epps, slave owner. His performance was spot on, rather than just playing to the script as a ‘nigger breaker’ (not my words – that is why I employed the trusty old ‘), his character has a really interesting edge to it that seemed to unravel as you got deeper into the story. His performance, although brilliant, probably wouldn’t have been as successful had he not had the company of Mistress Ebbs (Sarah Paulson). The Ebbs family broke down the sort of stereotypical American slave owner and revealed the characters complexities and weaknesses that I haven’t seen a lot of before. Whether this was influenced by Solomon Northup’s writing or a Steve McQueen influence I don’t know, but it was really successful.

Paul Dano actually plays a similar role as the overseer for Ford (Cumberbatch). Dano is probably one of the lesser known names boasted, but his movie roles generally seem really diverse (based on the few roles I’ve seen him in). His did not appear as frequently as Fassbender throughout the film, but he managed to make an impact as memorable with terrifying hatred.

Benedict Cumberbatch was another name thrown up in the trailer that promised it would be a hit, as was Brad Pitt. Despite both actors reputable names in film, they were probably my two least favourite roles in the movie – not in terms of the characters themselves, but how they were portrayed. Cumberbatch is presented as a slave owner who is sensitive to his slaves and cares for their well being whereas Brad Pitt, who also assisted in producing the movie, was presented as a forward thinking hero in the story. Neither actor did anything that deserved massive slating (actually, maybe Cumberbatch’s poor attempt at a deep South accent), but they didn’t really bring anything spectacular to the roles, in my opinion.

One element of the film that I was blown away by, but did not get much recognition was the soundtrack, which was obviously done by the hands of Hans Zimmer. The music throughout is really bluesy and works emotively in the story, violin is a big part of Solomon’s character so the importance of the music in the film comes through with strength. My favourite scene was actually watching Solomon join in with a rendition of ‘Roll Jordan Roll’, which was pulled off with Chitwetel’s concentration and force.

Verdict: Expect tears and possible Oscars.

OUT AND ABOUT IN EDINBURGH | Rosslyn Chapel

January 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

A while a go I had a friend up who is a bit of a Dan Brown fan, so it seemed like a good idea while she was up to take the opportunity to visit the Rosslyn Chapel which is featured in Da Vinci Code. The Chapel was founded in 1446 and took 40 years to build.

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This sight is a little bit out of the way, but worth a look around for any history buffs or Dan Brown fans. Getting in is a little bit on the pricey side: £10 for an adult (I think), £7 for students and children are a bit less. The money goes towards care for the Chapel.

It isn’t huge so an hour is enough really, you enter by the big visitors center where you pay in and then you are left to wander around alone and check out all the different areas of the Chapel (or prowl the spots where you’ve seen Tom Hanks standing).

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The building is really nice and it is looking out onto amazing landscapes of the Scottish countryside. It’s only open until 5:00PM Monday-Saturday or 04:45PM on a Sunday, but because we turned up at 4 in winter it was already getting dark. This gave the chapel a nice creepy air to it, but it would probably be better to go when there is some daylight to actually make out all the intricate stone work around the building.

As well as wandering round for yourself, there are organised talks lasting around 20 minutes that are free of charge. If however you want to be left alone, the exterior of the chapel has some interesting ways of learning about its structure, like stone carvings presented in stages: the idea is that you touch them to find out how they were made.

When you’re done wandering you can come back through to the visitors center, which has a section including boards containing a timeline of the Chapel’s life and history that surrounds it. It also contains models of the building as intended and if you want to nip back to have a look because of something you just read that is okay too.

Rosslyn Chapel is a quaint little attraction, it’s something different for those who have been to Edinburgh before and ticked off sights like the castle. The website for the Chapel is really helpful for any information if you’re planning a visit or want to see if there are any events: www.rosslynchapel.org.uk.

FILM REVIEW | American Hustle (and ridiculous Sunday queing)

January 18, 2014 § 1 Comment

After hibernating for the festive season the plan was to go and catch up on all of the great films missed. Top of that list was American Hustle, but the que took so long that by the time we got to the front we would have probably missed all the movie trailers as well as the beginning of the film.  Instead we decided on the mediocre looking The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and came back the same week for American Hustle. Here is my review of each of them:

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Mitty is the central character, portrayed by Ben Stiller, and the object of his affection, Cheryl Melhoff, is played by none other than Kristen Wiig. There isn’t really a straight forward description of the genre of this movie, but adventure/comedy/romance come closest. As well as taking on the central role, Ben Stiller directed the film that is based on a short story by James Thurber. I haven’t read the story myself, but as a 1939 short story I imagine that the 2013 film is significantly different to fit in with the modern world.

Plot (movie plot, not short story): Walter Mitty works as a negative assets manager in the dark basement of the ‘Life” magazine building. Due to his dead end job, Walter tends to zone out and escape into a fantasy world. Life magazine is downsizing and Walter is faced with losing his job. In a bid to save himself (and his love interest Cheryl Melhoff) he must realise his fantasies in order to hunt down a negative photograph from photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).

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Review: Describing the Secret Life of Walter Mitty as the next Forrest Gump was a bold move, it isn’t even in the same league. With that being said, it was better than anticipated. Walter is a guy in a dead end job that a lot of people can probably relate to. His fantasies are where the movie gets most of its comedy from because Walter is saying what we all want to say and the somewhat elaborate scenes that come out of them are those the average daydreamer makes up in their own minds – it’s what makes him a really likable character.

As well as fantasising at work, Walters home life is portrayed as dull. He is a figure of responsibility, caring for his mother (Shirley MacLaine) and his sister (Kathryn Hahn) after the death of his dad. Walter’s time with his family is spent reminiscing about a time when his dad was alive and he had the world at his feet (and a mohawk). Basically, life is something of a disappointment to Walter. Sympathising with the character is one of the strongest assets of the movie, however the plot proves to be pretty thin.

Walter begins his journey out of the blue and his task is to hunt down Sean O’Connell for the negative he needs to survive Life’s cutbacks. All the way through his adventure I was sat there thinking: ‘okay he’s going to snap out of his daydream now’. It was difficult to differentiate what was real from what was imagined – the idea that he stalks out of his office and to Greenland is slightly far fetched. That being said, the characters Walter meets along the way are warm and funny and he is never short of care from a concerned stranger. The plot was always going to go in the direction of an uplifting message to a aspiring adventurer, which is all it is. It isn’t really even that great a one, it’s just sort of predictable and alright. What makes his story of adventure are the epic scenic shots and the characters he meets along the way. I understood what they were trying to do with the message, but maybe it was trying a little too hard?

It also should be added to the credit of 20th Century Fox that they took the money intended for the films trailer and insteadspent it on disaster relief (really hope this isn’t the internet lying to me):

Verdict: Pleasant, a slight improvement on expectation. 2.5 stars.

American Hustle

Set in the 70′s and directed by David O’Russell, American Hustle is sitting pretty on 10 Oscar Nominations and is the crime drama to beat in 2014. The movie’s main stars are: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradely Cooper working as a mismatched trio. However, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner also make a huge impressions on the film.

Plot: Conman Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) falls in love with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Acting as a due Irving and Sydney, using English alias Edith Greensly, con the financially desperate until Richie DiMaso (Cooper), working for the FBI, catches them out and employs them for his schemes to get up in his career and out-con the con-men inflicting society. The groups main victim throughout the film is Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner.

Review: The crew for this movie were just amazing – Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence especially, but everyone played their part brilliantly.

The story-telling mode used Bales’ voice as a sort of narrative that put the movie movie in the past. You weren’t sure where he was going with the story (if it was just reminiscing about a time or if it all came to a point), but that wasn’t a bad thing because you enjoy the ride. On the surface Irving is your standard conman, but because he leads the narrative you see a lot more compassion coming through in his character. All the roles were pretty three-dimensional, but you see only snippets into most character’s private lives whereas Irving is the pivotal character, so his private life and his “business life” have become mixed up in one another.  It is the chemistry and tension between the characters that makes the movie though.

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 Jennifer Lawrence plays the role of Rosalyn Rosenfeld, Irving’s wife. The role isn’t huge, it isn’t small either, but Lawrence nails the character and with a naive boldness, she antagonises Irving and inflicts a dark humour on dramatic plot points.

As the other woman in Irving’s life, Sydney’s role is to play Irving’s and Richie DiMaso’s egos and to keep the audience guessing as to where her loyalty lies. Amy Adams assists Bale’s voice in the intro to the film in places, so she feels like another character we can see into, but her character isn’t quite as transparent as Bale’s. While she plays her games with DiMaso, we aren’t sure who she will choose in the end and it leaves the outcome of the movie difficult to determine.

Like Lawrence’s role of the unrelenting wife, Richie’s determination and bullish behavior towards Stoddard (Louis C.K.), his respectable boss, inflict the plot with elements of comedy. Richie is hell-bent on success in the FBI and although Stoddard is uncorrupted, he is slightly more reasonable and damning of Richie’s requests than those higher up the food chain. Richie’s lavish schemes and toughened manner contrast with Stoddard’s practicality and soft upbringing to bring comedy to the picture.

On top of a well rounded cast, American Hustle is successful in using the character’s finery and elaborate hairstyles to convince you of the 70′s setting. From Lawrence’s up-do to Cooper’s curls, the style of the movie pulls you in right at the beginning and carries you through.

Despite all the praise, it’s also worth saying that this one could be spoilt by the rave reviews. Lawrence and Bale make the movie worth seeing, but there is a slight feeling of disappointment at the end. Nothing huge, just after everyone has raved all holiday you feeling yourself thinking “is that it”. There was nothing I can pick at that I thought was terrible, but it just doesn’t blow you away. Maybe it’s because throughout all I couldn’t think was that Muslims aren’t allowed to gamble so why would a Sheikh be investing in Atlantic City, bu I’ve never looked deep enough into it to know if investing is okay. Also, I think Robert De Niro was the only actor pronouncing Sheikh right (shake), while I’m being picky. It could get better or worse with multiple viewings, I’ll have to see.

Verdict: Partially overrated hustle. 4 stars.

BOOK REVIEWS AND RESOLUTIONS | 2013 in Books

January 16, 2014 § 4 Comments

2013 was the first year I have ever kept a New Year’s Resolution (unfortunately only the one out of the ridiculous amount of them that I made) and that resolution was to read 75 books. Of course the 75th book meant me spending December racing through as many thin books as was possible, but still counts. Because of this resolution success I would like to share with you some of the best books I read in 2013. These books most likely did not come out in 2013, it just so happens that is when I picked them up. In no particular order:

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita is a pretty disturbing read about Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged pedophile. Lolita is the girl who sends him over the edge. Humbert Humbert marries the girls mother to get closer… and I’ll leave it there as I don’t wanna give too much away.

This wasn’t a book I’d ever have picked myself, I actually had to read it for a class. What made Lolita such a gripping read was the carefully calculated language that beautifully describes moments in the book. You later realise that all the delicate imagery is the incredibly perverted and disturbing fantasies in Humbert’s mind. Lolita is not for those who are easily upset, nor is it an enjoyable read really, but Nabokov has an attentive writing style that pulls you into the story and makes you want to see more.

2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

This book is best known for its film adaptation: Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. In a kind of post-apocalyptic future Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, is aiming to take down, or retire, a group of escaped robots with incredibly advanced brain systems (Nexus-6).

I won’t say “read the book it’s so much better than the film” because a lot of fans of Harrison Ford may disagree, but the film has made the story so much its own that the book is like an entirely different thing. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi – again this one was for a class – but this was the perfect introduction to the genre for me. Do Androids Dream takes on so many themes reflecting political movements and predictions and makes you ask yourself questions about humanity. The writing is fluid and the plot is never slow – the story is completely addictive.

I also watched the movie in 2013 for the first time ever and it is a pretty good adaptation, but there are so many more elements to the book, for example the title of the book which does not relate at all to the movie is a fundamental element of the society which Philip K Dick creates. One thing I did really dislike in the movie was the name change of Isidore, who is called Sebastien in the film… there was just no point in that change. Also, for huge fans of Blade Runner who desperately want to interpret what the unicorn is all about for sure – you might be disappointed because as far as I know that was invented only for the movie.

3. Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone and illustrated by Adam Hughes

This Batgirl is part of “the new 52″ where DC comics are doing a sort of revamp of all their beloved characters. I was pretty late to catch onto that so if you’re a comic fan you probably already knew, but just in case. So after the joker came along in The Killing Joke by Alan Lee to paralyze Barbara Gordon, instead of sitting in her wheelchair and being the Oracle she has decided to get back on two feet and defend Gotham City with Batman.

I really loved Gail Simone’s take on the character, and that they brought her back out of the wheelchair and onto the streets of Gotham. I love Batman and his world, but it’s nice to see someone who can rock a bra defending the city too. That being said, this is still Gotham City and Batman makes an appearance, but it is Batgirl who hold the limelight. Simone gives the character an attitude and a personal identity that makes her an individual despite all her associations, which is really exciting. One of the things I heard getting criticized a lot was the villains of the story, but they worked really well alongside the characters psyche and helped her develop herself for this new storyline that I hope to continue in 2014. Also, have to mention the art work, Alan Hughes bold lines and colours bursting out of the dark streets of Gotham made the work stand out. One point that did confuse me a little bit was a scene in the bat-cave where there was a t-Rex in the background… don’t quite know what to make of that, but hey ho illustrator’s choice.

4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

This is known as the grand-daddy of the true crime genre. It tells the story of a brutal murder that happened in Kansas in 1959. Truman Capote went over to follow the murder and wrote his literary account of the events that took place after that murder.

It was written in sections that split up the crime from the investigation and then after the investigation how events came to a close. I’ve got such a thing for Capote’s writing so this could be biased, but everything is just so wonderfully described. I read a lot of true crime and I find it fascinating, but it isn’t really for everyone. What makes this book stand out as the one book that made true crime is the detail and the sort of unexpected connection you get to the killers. Capote writes this novel completely unbiased, and you do want the killers to be caught and justice for the Clutter family. On the other hand, you’re so interested in the murderers and what they’re doing, then when it all comes to a head you feel so compassionate. What’s interesting as well in this is that the death sentence is an element of the story and as a citizen of the UK it is interesting to try and understand the death sentence in the US. This book completely changed the way I think and it’ll stay with me for a long time, but I am fascinated by morbid details where as others are just not.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I really didn’t think I was going to like this one, maybe didn’t even want to so the fact that I really did probably made me like it even more? My enjoyment took me by surprise. In the story Hazel is a teenager suffering from cancer, but really she just wants to live her life. Then there is Augustus who she meets at a support group and he’s in remission, but they form a great bond.

I’m not a massive fan of young adult and I’m definitely not a fan of the romances in young adult. It isn’t that I feel I’m too old for it and it’s “immature”, I love reading children books, but I kind of hate teenagers, or I hate reading someone pretending to be a teenager by whining. For example, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Hermione is annoying, Ron is annoying and Harry is definitely annoying because all they do is moan about how all the hormones that have just hit them, but onto this review now. I basically set myself up to hate this because I was expecting to just read a lot of whining for however many pages, but John Green makes the teenage voice less irritating. There are elements of “god my parents don’t get me”, but the kids in this are dealing with some hard stuff and it is understandable and there is also a respect for their parents. This sounds like a depressing read, and it isn’t happy-go-lucky, but there is a really light-hearted tone to the story as well.

So after writing those reviews I shall resolve to read some less depressing/disturbing stuff – I just can’t help myself. I also read a few other good reads in 2013, but I felt like I was saying similar things about each of them and I didn’t wanna go on and on.

This year I want to do the same 75 reads, however in honour of the 100 year anniversary of World War I (as well as my lack of history knowledge) I will aim to read a novel each month that is in some way connected to the war. This month I am reading 1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies (should have read it last year, not 100% sure if that counts, but if there is time I’ll throw in Birdsong by Sebastien Faulks). I will also aim to do a review of those books on here.

I hope your resolutions are going strong, although I’m not getting bowled off the path by joggers as much as I am in the average January. It still counts if you start in March when it warms up.

FILM REVIEW | Saving Mr Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug & Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

January 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

I did intend to write these up, especially since I saw the latter two on opening night, but Christmas got in the way of things so here are the belated reviews of a few movies in order of when watched.

Saving Mr. Banks

ImageI felt I had to go and see this because I am such Tom-Hanks-phile. Saving Mr Banks is the “true story” behind Mary Poppins (according to Disney). Alongside Tom Hanks, who plays Walt Disney, is Emma Thompson in the role of P.L. Travers. It was directed John Lee Hancock, who is responsible for other heart wrenchers, like The Blind Side.

Plot: Walt Disney desperately wants to turn P.L. Travers children’s book, Mary Poppins, into a film. While working with Disney, Travers starts to reminisce about her childhood and what Mary Poppins was to her.

Review: Disney in the movie was slightly more boring, or soft, than the anti-Semitic character you read or hear so much about. You don’t have to see the iconic castle in the opening to know that this is a Disney movie. That being said, Tom Hanks plays the part great and Disney is a warm and slightly eccentric character who rules from the Disney throne.

If you’re a Mary Poppins fan then the movie will have plenty of input from the actual movie (including songs and dancing penguins) to entertain, but it is actually a lot more detracted from Mary Poppins than I expected. Travers’ experiences are scattered through the film and are really a lot more depressing than the whimsical tale of Mary Poppins, but it is a touching story about family troubles and “keeping your chin up”.

Verdict: Nostalgic and touching, I cried a little bit. 4 stars.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Another installment of the cash cow that is the Peter Jackson Hobbit trilogy. Martin Freeman reappears as Bilbo Baggins and of course Ian McKellen is there too with his big bushy beard and pointy hat, also there are a lot of other cast members who have differing importance or involvement in the story.

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Plot: After crossing the Misty Mountains, the Dwarves make their way closer to the Lonely Mountain, where they encounter Benedict Cumberbatch impersonating a dragon.

Review: I’m mocking the trilogy as a money making ploy, but Peter Jackson took all my money and I saw the first showing of the movie, in IMAX (not high frame rate) and I enjoyed every single minute of it. The story seems to be taking more and more liberties in differing from the plot, but the high action chases (especially the barrel chase) are what makes the movie so much fun.

Fans of The Lord of the Rings movies shouldn’t be disappointed with all the added tension building around the return of Sauron, but The Hobbit still falls a bit short of the heroism in Jackson’s original Tolkien trilogy. That being said it is what it is, a lot of fun and a new fandom to compete with the Twilight and Hunger Games kids. The second movie is slightly darker than An Unexpected Journey, scrotum beard was extracting more laughter than fear out of fans and wolves that can be outrun by hares are slightly ridiculous. In The Desolation of Smaug stuff is getting real and The Lord of the Rings themes are coming through a lot thicker. Bolg also rocks up as the son of Azog. The movie’s title villain, Smaug, is not a disappointment either; the dragon can only be described as sly and Cumberbatchesque in its manner, although maybe not as witty as you would hope (to be fair, he has just woken up from a proper long nap).

There are a lot of throwaway characters in the movie, then again there are in the book also. Some of the dwarves’ personalities come through a lot stronger – Bombur is an absolute legend – but there are still a lot of pointless dwarves present. Also, the addition of Legolas and Tauriel is quite controversial, however the duo are fun to have around, especially Legolas who reminds us of his stair skateboarding from the Battle of Helm’s Deep. What is slightly annoying is the added “inter-special” love triangle and the pointless changes from the book, like Gandalf’s introduction of the dwarves to Beorn. Not too sure about the Ed Sheeran ending either.

Verdict: A lot of fun and reason to keep loving The Lord of the Rings. 4 stars.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

ImageThe Channel 4 news team is back: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and weak link David Koechner showcase more ridiculous comedy from Ron Burgundy. As with all movies of hilarity starring Will Ferrel, Anchorman 2 was directed by Adam McKay and co-written by Will Ferrell himself.

Plot: Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is as unstoppable as ever, but Ron Burgundy is becoming something of a has-been, until he is given a once in a lifetime offer to have a slot on a new 24 hour news show. Burgundy gathers the team together and then a lot of random stuff happens, but somehow ends up relating to the plot.

Review: Realistically, this was never going to be as good as the original film, but it does offer a lot of laughs (as well as some light-hearted racism). Anchorman 2, like its predecessor, is never going to be a critically acclaimed piece of filming, but if you forget that and just enjoy the film you will enjoy yourself.

Some of the humour was quite forced throughout. Brick Tamland, as the audience favourite, is given a lot more screen time and a lot of this time was funny, but the character definitely works best little and often. In Anchorman 2 Brick even finds love with Chani, a girl in the office played by Kristen Wilg (because she is just in everything now). However the romance goes a bit too far and the humour dies to leave you cringing a bit. That being said, Brick has some wonderful moments throughout, as does Ron Burgundy. Unfortunately, Champ Kind seems to have a lot more time on screen too, as the weak link in the comedy group I wasn’t much a fan of his parts, but that’s down to personal preference.

It was clear before you booked your tickets that the plot was going to be thin, which is fine because the comedy works in that way. They also made a lot of nods to the first Anchorman, like Brian Fantana’s mysterious case shelves and the fight scene on the way to buy suits. Some of these worked and they were a nice addition for fans of movie one, but the fight scene was a weak point that just slapped as many cameos into the film as possible to get bums on seats.

Verdict: All in all, predictably good but no better. 3 stars (just).

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