Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Host (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Max Irons

Before I begin my review…
I feel like I have come full circle with The Host cycle.

The book will always be plagued by the fact that Stephenie Meyer, creator of the Twilight phenomenon penned it. I was completely sceptical of it and I know many other people who assumed before knowing anything about it that it was just another Twilight.

So I read the book and was pleasantly surprised to find out that there were no sparkling vampires or chiselled werewolves to speak of. For my tastes, I enjoyed The Host far better than I did the Twilight books. I read 63 books last year including The Host (yes, I am a massive book worm as well as being a cinephile!) and it was one of my favourites for the year.

So naturally I was very excited about the upcoming film. Until the first few minutes of it when I discovered that I should have realised that it could never work as a film the same way it did as a book.

That voice inside her head.

As soon as I heard Melanie voice for the first time inside Wanda’s head, it was moment where I felt like smacking my forehead with an open palm. I was so excited about a book I really enjoyed being made into a film that I forgot in my excitement this crucial piece of information that could break it.

Some good books should be left just as that. Good books. We don’t need to make a movie out of it. Just because it is a good book doesn’t scream that the film will work.

Why don’t film producers work more on mediocre books so it’s image can be improved by creating a better film?

I think I just spoilt the ending of my review….


It is said often enough that the book is normally better than the film and the usual reason for that is that some books just don’t transfer to the screen well.

The Host is unfortunately one of those films. Various aspects of Stephenie Meyer’s novel have had some bad treatment and have not been used in a way that makes them effective on the screen and instead makes them quite ridiculous. The story itself isn’t bad and is really quite creative, it’s just a shame that director, Andrew Niccol and Meyer in the producer role made some bad production decisions.

An alien race has taken over the human race in order to eliminate all hatred and violence and bring Earth to peace. They have done this by inserting Souls into human bodies and thus eliminating the human soul. Wanda, or Wanderer as she is known as at the beginning of the film (Saoirse Ronan) has entered the body of Melanie Stryder, who refuses to completely fade from her physical form. Wanda constantly hears Melanie’s voice I her head trying to get her to go to and protect her loved ones from being taken over by this alien race. Seeker (Diane Kruger) is suspicious of Wanda and keeps a close eye on her before Melanie convinces Wanda to seek out her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt), brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her love, Jared (Max Irons). While Melanie is committed to Jared, Wanda is drawn to Ian (Jake Abel), forming a bizarre love triangle which involves three bodies, but four souls.

The Host has all the potential in the world with an intriguing and unique story, but it lets itself down in so many areas. The worst part of the film is the way in which Melanie’s voice inside Wanda’s head is created. It’s understandable that the film makers wanted to show how loud and clear her voice is inside Wanda’s head, but it sounds like nothing more than a dubbed over voice. Of course that is what it is, but that loses all the magic as it brings it seems so constructed. Melanie’s dialogue just sounds ridiculous at times and her constant “No! Please!” just becomes irritating and almost laughable.

There are other ways which this inner voice could have been achieved and heard by the audience, such as a quieter voice or perhaps even with some background noise, so that the audience could focus on the tension forming in Wanda’s mind and the expression on her face displaying this inner turmoil.

The film doesn’t really find momentum until about halfway through it (which is coincidently when Melanie pipes down), but even then doesn’t gain enough to create suspense and tension. The story is very interesting and the concept is intriguing, but the script doesn’t support the plot in the way which it should and doesn’t do it any justice.

The cinematography isn’t bad and some images are quite beautiful. However, the editing is pretty amateur, especially when it is chopping and changing between Wanda’s dream and the image of her in bed.

Honestly, the character of Wanda is not a very interesting or likable character. Obviously Wanda is supposed to be a very placid creature and is not supposed to experience emotion, but you feel no real attachment to the lead character and that is never a good thing. You are indifferent about who ends up with who and what happens to Wanda. This is not Saoirse Ronan’s fault, she was just not given much to work with. It’s a very lack lustre role.

Diane Kruger is not half bad as The Seeker. Even though his role wasn’t really a fantastic one and his performance wasn’t extremely powerful, you can see a glimmer of hope in Jake Abel that he does have big things in store for him. He shows emotion where need be, but again, his role calls for it to be pulled back. The Host doesn’t show what he really is capable of.

So many films have potential to be greater than they are and The Host isn’t one of them. People who haven’t read the book may flock to see it once they hear that just because it is based on a book by Stephenie Meyer, it doesn’t mean it is about vampires, yet that doesn’t mean you will like it any better.


You may have also seen Saoirse Ronan in....
The Lovely Bones

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jack The Giant Slayer (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ian McShane

Before I begin my review…

I know this has got hardly anything to do with the movie, but how good is the name Jack?

Jack will never go out of style. The name suits a little boy, a young man and an older man. It is such a distinguished and strong name. A Jack is not to be taken lightly. A Jack will do many great things. The fairy tale which Jack The Giant Slayer is based on, Jack And The Beanstalk does not have a Jack has the protagonist for no reason.  With a strong name comes a strong will.

I may be of a slightly bias opinion considering I did name my son Jack.

It is unfortunate that one of the most famous Jack’s in history is Jack The Ripper, but I think we can all get past the fact that it is highly unlikely the notorious serial killer’s name was actually Jack. I think it is safe to assume that whoever it was was a strong person, as well as being insane (we hope).

 I can assure you he is not the Jack I named my Jack after.

As he gets older, I am sure my Jack will love the fact that there is a film called Jack The Giant Slayer. I’m sure I will be watching this on DVD in years to come with my budding little film critic.


Why not make a film based on the fairy tale Jack and The Beanstalk? It seems like everything has to be made into a movie, so why not?

It’s not necessarily a bad thing either, especially in the case of Jack The Giant Slayer. This is one fairy tale that could only be made in a time like now with the amazing cinematic techniques we have in recent times. Could you imagine how ridiculous the giants and the beanstalk reaching to the sky would have looked if made any time before the 1990’s? Animation probably would not have made the film too bad, but real life action would have meant complete B grade, and also maybe cult favourite status.

Jack the Giant Slayer is everything you would expect a fairy tale film to be. It is corny in the way that most fairy tales are, but is still entertaining enough and has some incredible special effects and cinematography.
Our hero, Jack (Nicholas Hoult)is a young farmhand who experiences a twist of fate when he visits the town market in order to sell his horse. He sells his horse to a desperate monk in need of transportation out of the city in exchange for a handful of beans. It is only when a terrible rainstorm occurs, that he realises that these beans are what grows beanstalks that reach high up to the land between Heaven and Earth where giants roam. Jack becomes a key part in the rescue of the Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), who has been taken prisoner by the giants and he also must stop Roderick (Stanley Tucci) from achieving his goal which could threaten the kingdom.

The bad things about fairy tales and other well known stories being made into films is that unless the film makers have put their own spin on it, the film is predictable and very rarely has any suspense. This is no surprise and just something we must accept. Sometimes this can be a bore, but Jack The Giant Slayer isn’t that.

As one would expect from director Bryan Singer, the film is very well directed and very entertaining. It is just a fun film and at times, it is more like watching a historical film rather than a fairy tale. The film travels along at a steady pace, but the end seems quite sudden and then almost a little confusing. This in itself is confusing as a story which is quite simple to understand shouldn’t have an ending which confuses people.

Fairy tales are in general entertaining to watch on the big screen, but visually Jack The Giant Slayer is better than most. A great thing about this version of the fairy tale, is that the giants are made to truly look terrifying. They are not just big men, but are all deformed and evil. The beanstalk is also an amazing creation. The CGI of even the tiniest detail of the stalk is incredible. The landscape of each of the two kingdoms are just magnificent.

The time period is very well recreated and quite a pleasure to see. The battle scenes are very well orchestrated and have a slightly Lord of the Rings touch to them.

Nicholas Holt does well as Jack. With his career currently on the up, Hoult shows here that he has no problem being able to carry a film. Ewan McGregor gives a steady performance and his character is extremely likable. Eleanor Tomlinson’s performance is not a huge stand out, but she does do well.

Jack The Giant Slayer is entertaining and well made. It is a visual delight that shows you just how far films have come in regards to special effects and cinematography,

You may have also seen Nicholas Hoult in....
X-Men: First Class as Hank McCoy/ Beast

You may have also seen Ewan McGregor in....
The Men Who Stare At Goats as Bob Wilton
The Impossible as Henry

You may have seen Stanley Tucci in.....
The Lovely Bones as George Harvey
Easy A as Gill
Captain America: The First Avenger as Dr Abraham Erskine

Monday, March 25, 2013

Adventures in Zambezia (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Wayne Thornley
Cast: Jeremy Suarez, Leonard Nimoy, Abigail Breslin, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum

Before I begin my review…
My thoughts on Adventures in Zambezia as I watching it was that maybe, just possibly, I am being harder critically on this film because it isn’t Disney.

 Disney may have just ruined my perception of every other animated film I will ever see. Actually, that isn’t true. Dreamworks have had a part in that as well lately. Disney though, I’ve been watching my whole life and the animation just keeps getting better and better. You think about animated movies chances are you will think of Disney…or a Dreamworks film such as Shrek or Kung Fu Panda.

 I was watching Adventures in Zambezia and thinking “Well, it isn’t up to the same quality of the animated films I usually see”…and then I think “It’s not Disney! That’s not fair! Stop comparing it to Disney!”

Disney is amazing, it rules the child within me and my 10 month old son already recognises the tune that plays at the beginning of Disney films when the castle appears, but that and now Dreamworks have ruined the way I see animation. I have to try and tear myself away from those two production companies when I set expectations about animation. I feel bad being an animation snob.

 Not saying that the movie Adventures in Zambezia and its animation is bad. If it was I doubt they would have made the movie if it looked like a load of scribble. Sorry for comparing you to Disney, Triggerfish Animation.


 Adventures in Zambezia is quite a simple film, which makes it great for younger audiences.

With school holidays just around the corner in Australia, this is one film which families will be heading out to see. It won’t appeal to the older audiences as much as there isn’t much depth to it, but it is a very light and easy watch with some fun moments throughout.

Kai (voiced by Jeremy Suarez) is a young falcon who longs to see the world beyond the boundaries that he and his over-protective father, Tendai (Samuel L. Jackson in his first G rated film!) patrol. After an argument with his father, Kai takes flight to the bird paradise on the edge of Victora Falls, Zambezia. He arrives to find a place that is unlike anything he has ever dreamt about. When he meets Sekhuru (Leonard Nimoy) and his adopted daughter, Zoe (Abigail Breslin), Kai finds out that he has a connection to Zambezia that stems right back to his birth. Zambezia is also under the threat from Budzo (Jim Cummings) and his Marabou stork followers and Kai may just be the help Zambezia needs.

Adventures in Zambezia is very easy to follow with a simple plot and simple script. It is perhaps too simple for a wide audience to enjoy. It’s very predictable and there really is a lack of emotion. For an animation to stretch its audience, there typically needs to be a little depth there and maybe even a little tear shed along the way. However, Adventures in Zambezia is very much a surface film, there isn’t much below it. This is a great film for children, and at 83 minutes it is also the perfect length.

The animation has some great moments which are typically of the African landscape. Victoria Falls are recreated in spectacular fashion and the jungle is pretty impressive. There is also a great use of colour throughout the film.

Zambezia itself is actually quite fun whether you are a child or an adult. Zambezia, which is a bird paradise, is based on what an adult’s perception of paradise is. It is just like a 5 star resort on some tropical island. There is accommodation that is labelled as if it is a hotel room, an international touch down pad made out like an airport, tour guides and those gossipy hairdressers who want to make you beautiful for your stay. The paradise is actually very well constructed and creative.

The characters are fine enough, but again, they aren’t particularly in depth characters or ones that will stay with you for too long. The Marabou storks provide the majority of the comic relief and have some cracker conversations between them.

There is one question. Kai tells his father that he was in the zone, which his father replies “Which zone is that, the twilight zone?”  How does a bird who has probably never seen a human before know what the Twilight zone is? Did they show that TV show in Zambezia? Or is there another twilight zone which isn’t related to pop culture?

A great school holiday film and a very, very easy watch.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Joey King

Before I begin my review....
"It's not as good as The Wizard of Oz"

This is what I got told someone I know said after seeing Oz the Great and Powerful, and the first thing I thought after hearing this "Did you really go in expecting it to be a complete and utter classic that people are going to be in awe of for at least another 70 years and want to share with their children and grandchildren?"

That's called setting yourself up for disappointment.

When it comes to a prequel or a sequel of a film, I believe the best thing to do before you see it is just hope to enjoy it. Very rarely is the follow up as good as the first film, so don't set the bar too high. The good thing about a sequel or prequel to a film you love, is that it adds to your knowledge about the characters you loved and situations you enjoyed watching in the first film. If anything, you get to take this away from the film and you are not let down, because you enjoy seeing these characters again and learning more.

I myself are a bit of a Wizard of Oz fanatic and I know that people, like me, will enjoy Oz the Great and Powerful because it stays true to the 1939 classic. There are very little inconsistencies between the two and you really do believe you have learnt more about the original film by watching it. I was also a fan of 1985's Return To Oz, which is the sequel. However, both the prequel and the sequel are not as good as the original, but no one expects them to be. The Wizard of Oz was completely before it's time and there will never be another film like it.

By the way, if anybody was like me and wondered why there was no mention of the ruby slippers in Oz the Great and Powerful, I did a bit of research and found out why. Warner Bros own the rights to the elements of the original MGM film and as Oz the Great and Powerful is a Disney film, the studio cannot legally include mention of or images of the slippers in the film.

Studio politics.

Oz the Great and Powerful does it's predecessor proud by continuing on The Wizard of Oz tradition with respect and beauty, something Disney have a knack of doing. 

It is hard not to compare and liken Oz the Great and Powerful to the 1939 classic as it is a prequel to it, but it would be unrealistic to expect it to be as good as it. However, all those who are fans of and enjoyed The Wizard of Oz (which would be the large majority of those who have seen it) will enjoy this film as it stays true to the original as well as being accompanied by extraordinarily beautiful visuals and amazing special effects. 

Oscar "Oz" Diggs (James Franco) is a Kansas sideshow magician when we meet him, who has dreams of being a man of greatness, but is struggling just to be a good man for the time being. He escapes the sideshow in a hot air balloon and gets caught in a classic Kansas twister. He lands in a beautiful land and meets the beautiful witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis) who tells him that he is in Oz. The coming of Oz to the land seems to fit the description of the prophecy in which a wizard will land and save the good people of Oz from the evil witch. Oz is not convinced that he is the wizard from the prophecy, but everyone believes otherwise. 

The story of Oz the Great and Powerful is easy to watch. It doesn't evoke too many emotions, but it is a whole lot of fun. The screenplay isn't exceptional and it is a very light film. It is not powerful by any means, except visually. However, it is what it is meant to be and that is a family film. It is just very entertaining and enjoyable.

The film has such a magical feel to it and is very easy on the eye. There are some incredible images and some of breathtaking beauty. Oz's landscapes are beautiful and cityscapes such as the broken China Town and the Emerald City are exquisite. If you have seen Disney's latest version of  Alice in Wonderland may feel there is a Wonderland feeling about Oz. It will probably not surprise you to find out that the producer of Alice in Wonderland , Joe Roth, is also the producer of Oz the Great and Powerful.

Again, it is hard to look at Oz the Great and Powerful as a stand alone film as it does have so many references to The Wizard of Oz. The film starts off in sepia and then turns into colour when Oz arrives in Oz, just like in the original. There is also the appearance of characters in Oz who resemble or mirror those who were in Kansas, again what happened to Dorothy in 1939. Prior knowledge of The Wizard of Oz is almost essential so that you know the meaning of several little things throughout the film, but that isn't a problem as you'd be so hard pressed to find someone you know who hasn't seen the film. It is a joy to see the original being honoured in so many ways in this new film, and director of The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming would have been proud. 

James Franco completely personifies Oz. In the original, you get the feeling that once Dorothy and her friends discover him behind the curtain, he comes across a bit ashamed of himself that he isn't all that he pretends to be. Franco plays on this and shows how the wizard over does certain things he does to try and convince others how wonderful he is. Franco is perfectly cast and wonderful to watch. 

The three witches are all very well cast and are played by three of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Michelle Williams is just gorgeous on screen as Glinda and is so likable, just as her character is supposed to be. Strong, but so very sweet. Rachel Weisz plays subtle evil very well and Mila Kunis becomes terrifying through the film and watching her change is excellent.

Joey King, who plays the little girl in the side show and the China Girl in Oz is wonderful. King, at 14, is one to watch. She has been in various films and glows in each of her roles and outshines many of her older co-stars. She is definitely a star to watch as she progresses.

Oz the Great and Powerful does The Wizard of Oz proud. It is a film lover's eye candy and is sure to become a guilty pleasure to many. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams

Before I begin my review…..
  “THIS SEASON’S THE KING’S SPEECH” Hyde Park on Hudson’s promotional poster declares.

 Honestly, this is probably the worst quote they could have chosen to put on their poster. Of course it is a compliment of the greatest kind because The King’s Speech is one of the best films of recent times so there is no better way to promote your film. Yet what it means is that once you get your people into the film, they are just going to be comparing it to The King’s Speech. And that’s a problem when your film clearly isn’t this season’s The King’s Speech.

The obvious similarity between the two is that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth are in both of the films so some of the topics addressed are in both films. This is the third film in as many years to feature these two historical figures. The second film being Madonna’s W.E., which was again by some camps likened to The King’s Speech as it was about King Edward VIII’s abdication to be with Wallis Simpson and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were featured in it.

 Neither of the latter films contains the power which The King’s Speech had. Not many do considering the film won Best Picture at the Oscars. None of the performances are bad by any of the actors who played Bertie (King George’s nickname to his family) and Elizabeth, but Colin Forth set the bar for future performances of the character.

What a performance to try and live up to. It is quite like thinking about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Lincoln in the film of the same name and imagining someone trying to give the same sort of performance. It’s a hard task as it’s a historical figure they are playing so they can’t put their own spin on what the character is like as there is factual information about how they are. All three actors are striving to be the same person.

 So I do feel sorry in a way for Samuel West. He does give a good performance, but it is hard to look at him and believe he is Bertie as you know that is who Colin Firth perfected. It’s a tough gig.

Hyde Park on Hudson is a good little historical recreation of a weekend which meant so much to both England and the Unites States.

It serves its purpose of informing as well as entertaining, but it is only light entertainment. Hyde Park on Hudson is not a powerful film in any way, shape or form. It would seem there would have been some strange decisions made in the writing of the screenplay and in pre-production that have resulted in this film falling short of its potential.

Daisy (Laura Linney) is a fifth cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and although she lives not far from his family home of Hyde Park on Hudson, her life is far from the privileged life of the Roosevelts. Her life is turned upside down when FDR’s mother (Elizabeth Wilson) calls upon Daisy to visit her cousin to relax him and two become close friends and then lovers. Daisy is in attendance at Hyde Park on Hudson when King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) come to stay for the weekend, which is a historical occasion as a British king had never before visited the United States. It is also a very important visit for the British royals as Europe was on the verge of war and they wanted the United States as their allies. The visit provides a Saturday night in which nobody gets any sleep and nobody involved will ever forget.

 This film is a treat for anybody who loves their modern history films. It contains four of the most prolific historical figures of the twentieth century as seen from a personal point of view rather than a political point of view. The film makers wanted to show who these characters were as people and show that they are still just like us when they are out of the spotlight.

Director Roger Michell definitely does this, but it is actually quite discouraging in part as by the end of the film, all the characters flaws have been bought to the forefront of the film so much that it is what you most take away from the film. With historical figures such as these who people have and still do love and admire, it’s not really a bad perception of them that you want to walk away with. For example, Queen Elizabeth just comes away looking like a bully to her husband and that notion isn’t really made up for at the end of the film. History tells us that she was a strong willed woman, but also extremely supportive of her husband. It is understood that Michell wanted his characters to be seen as real people with flaws just like the rest of us, but surely he didn’t want to actually put them in a bad light to be remembered.

The films really is very light, there is not a great deal of emotion to be felt about anything in it really. You don’t feel particularly drawn to any of the characters or feel any type of severity for their situations. The way screenwriter, Richard Nelson chose to write the relationship between Daisy and FDR and the way Michell chose to film it is so ridiculously lack lustre. Daisy talks about how much she cares for and misses FDR, but you can’t understand why. Besides being summoned whenever he is in town, their time together doesn’t really seem all that sentimental and there just seems like there is not chemistry between the two at all.

However, the acting is still very good. Bill Murray completely personifies FDR and Samuel West and Olivia Colman are both also very good. Laura Linney hasn’t been given much to work with and she does well from what she is given, but Daisy is not a very interesting character and Linney has certainly had better roles.

Visually, Hyde Park on Hudson is quite impressive with some beautiful location shots and wonderful cinematography. The musical score is also very good and very appropriate to the 1930’s.

This film had so much potential and would have benefitted from changes in the screenplay and production that would have allowed it to have more of an impact on an emotional level. It is an easy watch and a good little historical lesson, but not much more than that.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Life Of Pi (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu

Before I begin my review….
                I didn’t get to review Life Of Pi as part of my Oscars lead up, but better late than never!

                I read the novel, Life Of Pi by Yenn Martel at the beginning of 2012. I thought it was a brilliant book with absolutely beautiful use of language. However, I knew this film was in production and was to be released later in the year. This troubled me because the whole way through the book I was thinking to myself  ”How are they going to be able to make this in a movie?”

                It looked like it was going to be one of those films when it was released, people would say “They should have just left the book as it was and never made a movie out of it”.

                That is, until I heard Ang Lee would be the director.

                There is no denying that Lee is an amazing director. He was the perfect person for the job. Did he deserve his Oscar for direction for Life of Pi? I believe so. You know why? Because he took a novel that many people including myself thought could never be made into a film because of the reason that it was the language used that made the book so amazing and also because there are large periods of the book where not much happens, and made it into a well above average film. Granted, yes there are still parts in the film that not much happens, but these moments give you the most amazing visual moments of the year in film. Lee made some amazing choices for his film. Choices which won him the Oscar.

                Well done Ang Lee!

                There is no denying it, Life of Pi was the most visually beautiful film of 2012.

                Ang Lee’s latest achievement shows us how far film has come in regards to cinematography and visual effects. When you think of incredible visual effects, an action film of sorts is normally the genre you think of. However, Life of Pi is far from that and uses what is available to us in the film these days to its utmost potential. It’s beauty is awe inspiring.

                Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) grew up in a zoo in India with his parents and older brother. His parents make the decision to Canada in order to start a new life and set off for their new life on a Japanese cargo ship with all their animals. However, the boat hits a violent storm and the boat sinks leaving only Pi and an orang-utan, zebra, hyena and Richard Parker, the zoo’s Bengal tiger alive. As Richard Parker uses the animals as food, Pi learns survival techniques like no other to stay alive stranded in the middle of the ocean with a hungry Bengal tiger.

                It was always going to be a hard task to adapt Life of Pi from book to screen. Large parts of the novel by Yenn Martel involved Pi’s thoughts as he sat on the boat, which were always going to be hard to bring to the screen. The length in which Pi was on the boat was also going to be hard to bring to the screen without it becoming overly boring for members of the audience. The screenplay does lack in parts due to these potential problems, as Pi’s time on the boat does feel a tad tedious. However, the whole point of the film is about a man on a boat so it is important that you feel the stretch of time which Pi is on the boat.

                It is the visuals that make this film so incredible. There are so many moments which make the film an absolute visual delight. The visuals chosen for the scenes in which Pi is telling an important piece of the story are tinged with magic. The opening of the film in the zoo with all the animals going about their daily business is a light and fluffy moment and the swimming pool scene is almost comical in the graphics.

                The whale and island scenes are also two of the most visually stunning pieces in the film.

                The CGI of the animals, particularly of Richard Parker is incredible. It will probably come as a surprise to some that the tiger is a CGI creation and that the only scene in which a real tiger was used was when he is swimming in the ocean. The images are so life like that you truly believe that it is a tiger, orang-utan, zebra and hyena being filmed. It is also incredible that Life of Pi was largely filmed on green screen and not on the ocean.

                The musical score is beautiful and provides the perfect background to such amazing images. It also gives the film emotion where words are not used.

                Suraj Sharma is very good in this film, particularly considering this is his acting debut. He carries much of the film by himself and does the perfect job doing so. In the scene where he realises how much he has lost he is really very good, but he doesn’t give as much emotionally as he could throughout the film. He was the best man for the job and Lee got the best he could out of him, but there isn’t a great emotional attachment to the character of Pi.

                Life of Pi is just complete and utter visual bliss from beginning to end. It is so wonderful to see the amazing visual effects available to film today used in such a beautiful and elegant fashion.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Electrick Children (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Rebecca Thomas
Cast: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken, Billy Zane, Cynthia Watros

Before I begin my review…
                I have the very great pleasure of being able to review the enchanting and sweet, with a dash of quirkiness, coming of age film, Electrick Children.

                Electrick Children was the official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2012 and has received wide acclaim since its first screening. Rebecca Thomas’ film has since had screenings at several film festivals including the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, AFI Fest and Sydney’s Cockatoo Island Film Festival. It is just about to have its opening at the IFC Theater in New York City on the 8th of March, which will be followed by a national roll out at a later date.

                This is Rebecca Thomas’ first feature film, after directing the short, Ivan Sings and writing the screenplay for and starring in the Sundance short, Nobody Knows You, Nobody Gives A Damn. She has been named by Variety as one of the 10 directors to watch in 2013. We are very excited to see what Thomas has in store for us in the future, because Electrick Children is an absolute treat.

Electrick Children is an absolute indie gem.

Director Rebecca Thomas’ feature film debut is orchestrated perfectly with beautiful cinematography and perfect casting choices, particularly that of Julia Garner. Electrick Children seems almost magical, but has the uncanny ability to take a situation some may see as completely bizarre and make it flow so smoothly that it seems like it is completely natural.

Fifteen year old Rachel (Julia Garner) lives and was raised in a fundamentalist Mormon community completely sheltered by the outside world, but utterly enthralled by anything to do with it. She becomes captivated by a cassette player, as she has never seen one before and finds a song on it, which she has never heard before and seems to be forbidden. It is a few months after this she finds out she is pregnant and is convinced that it was the song that impregnated her. Her parents (Cynthia Watros and Billy Zane) decide that she must marry, causing Rachel to flee to Las Vegas in order to find out where the song came from. It is here that she and her brother, Mr Will (Liam Aiken) meet a group of young adults, including Clyde (Rory Culkin), who change the way they see and understand the world.

The concept of immaculate conception by cassette player sounds completely strange and unusual when written down, but when it is played out on screen and paired with the innocence of Garner’s Rachel, it feels like it may just be natural. It is an absolute talent that Thomas has taken a concept like this and made it feel believable.

One of the best things about Electrick Children is that it is captivating from the very first scene and does not waste time in getting into the story. At no time during the film do you foresee where it is going and you crave knowledge of how it is going to end. It isn’t really an intense film, but it is intriguing and enthralling enough to get you captivated to the very end.

The film is shot beautifully, and every shot could be paused and looked at as fine photography. The beauty in the Mormon community and its surroundings are captured well on screen. It is very well contrasted to the bright lights of Vegas, but the film’s magical quality makes all locations seem just so pretty.

Julia Garner is absolutely perfect as Rachel. Her innocence and naivety is just so believable. It is portrayed perfectly particularly in the scene where she finds out for sure that she is pregnant and is in absolute wonder, while her mother is terrified. It is a beautiful moment as it shows pure innocence about what has happened and what is to come. Another beautiful moment is when she discovers what the world of rock n’ roll really is, and she is shocked by it. Garner carries the film like she was born to do it, when this is actually her first leading role.

Rory Culkin is very good in the film, although it is a role which we feel like we have seen him in before. His character shows growth and development right throughout his time on screen. Billy Zane is also very good as Rachel’s father, as he doesn’t do anything threatening, yet remains very intimidating. Cynthia Watros is perfect as Rachel’s mother. She’s a nurturing mother, but struggles to hold herself together in the circumstances.

Electrick Children is a beautiful coming of age film, which intrigues as well as entertains. The type of film you think about later and smile.


For show times at the IFC, please see here. Otherwise, please see the Electrick Children Official     Website for more release dates.