March 8, 2014
Girls on Film

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Melissa:

Hermione has been assassinated in these movies, and i mean that genuinely, by giving her every single positive character trait that Ron has - they have assassinated her character. In the movies she’s been harmed by being made to be less human - because everything good Ron has she’s been given. 

So for instance:

'If you want to kill Harry, you're going to have to kill me too.'
Ron - Leg is broken, he’s in pain, gets up and stands in front of harry and says this. Who gets this line in the movie? Hermione.

'Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself'
Hermione doesn’t say Voldemort’s name until well into the books - that’s Dumbledore’s line. When does hermione say that in the movies? Beginning of movie 2. 

When the devil’s snare is curling itself around everybody Hermione panics and Ron is the one who keeps his head and says ‘are you a witch or not? use fire’. In the movie everybody else panics and Hermione keeps her head and does the biggest brightest sunlight spell or whatever..

So you know, Hermione - all her flaws were shaved away in the films. And that sounds like you are making a kick ass, amazing character and what you’re doing is dehumanising her and it pisses me off! it really does. In the books they balance each other out because where Hermione gets frazzled and maybe her rationality overtakes some of her instinct , Ron has that to back it up. Ron has a kind of emotional grounding that can keep hermione’s hyper-rationalness in check.

——

Sound clip from film plays:

Harry: You are brilliant Hermione, truly

Hermione: Actually, i’m highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook

Harry: ..Yeah..

—-

Melissa: Sometimes Hermione’s super-logical nature grates Harry and bothers him and isn’t the thing he needs even if it’s the right thing. Like when she says ‘you have a saving people thing’. That is the thing that Harry needed to hear, she’s a 100% right but the way she does it is wrong. That’s the classic .. she’s super logical, she’s super brilliant but she doesn’t know how to handle people emotionally, at least harry. So in the books they are this balanced group and in the movie - yeah in the movie? Hermione? Hell, not even harry is good enough for Hermione in the movies.

No one’s good enough for Hermione in the movies! God isn’t good enough for hermione in the movies! Hermione is everybody’s everything in the movies.

Harry’s idea to jump on the dragon in the books - who gets it in the movies? Hermione who hates to fly. Hermione overcomes her withering fear of flying to take over harry’s big idea. Why does Hermione get all these moments?

John: [sotto] It’s because we need to market the movie to girls..

Melissa: I think girl’s like the books, period. And like the Hermione in the books just fine before hollywood made her idealised and perfect and if they would have trusted that it would have been just fine.

John: What percentage of people that watched the Harry Potter movies do you think had read the books first?

Melissa: i don’t know, in the beginning a lot of them.. in the beginning most of them. Now, who knows..

But what’s wrong? Would the movies have been bad if hermione was as awesome as she is in the books and as human as she is in the books? Would the movies get worse?

John: i’m sure there was a conversation that said something like ‘we need to have a strong girl character in there… [cut off] 

Melissa: SHE IS A STRONG GIRL CHARACTER!

John: Like, have you read articles about why they added all these female characters to the Hobbit movie that were never in the hobbit specifically so girls watching would feel like they.. [cut off again]

Melissa: See, but this is the thing that pisses me off  and I’m not saying that you are doing it, (to John) I’m saying that they are doing it - they are equating strong with superhuman. To me, the hermione in the book is 12 times stronger than the completely unreachable ideal of hermione in the movies. Give me the hermione in the book who’s human and has flaws any single day of the week.

John: I think it’s just it’s easier for that to play well in a book format than it is to watch it on screen..

Melissa: BS! Make it work.

John: [laughs]

Melissa: You’re the people who get millions to write scripts and get paid millions to direct.. figure it out! Earn your money!

[..]

John: Well, it helps them sell their merchandise..

Frankie: I mean it didn’t hurt at all that Emma Watson happened to grow up to be a beautiful woman..

Melissa: And here’s the thing! Right, it doesn’t hurt at all… So great! She ended up being beautiful. They didn’t need to also make her perfect.

 ——-> From Pottercast 253 ‘Pottercast Filch’ 

This, all of this.

November 29, 2013
Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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I absolutely loved the Hunger Games books when I read them (you can see my review of the series here if you like) but never quite mustered myself to watch the first film. The trailers left me a little cold - or to be more accurate not cold enough - and having already been through the initially torturous process of learning to love the Potter movies I didn’t feel quite ready to sacrifice another fandom at the alter of the adaptation. However I had heard nothing but good about the sequel Catching Fire over the last week or two so I decided to man up and go and see it. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Let’s get my kvetches out of the way first - as predicted all three of the main protagonists are far to pretty and healthy looking. You’ve been down the mines all year have you Gale? That’s funny because you look like you’ve been modelling Levis in a 50s garage. And speaking of Gale - actually why bother? A combination of a chronically underwritten character and an actor who might has well have been a piece of handsomely carved oak meant I really couldn’t care less about him. In fact I generally just forgot he existed. I realise he had a smaller part in the second book too but still, a bit of a waste.

On the other hand I thought Josh Hutcherson was really well cast as Peeta and once I got over her too-pretty face Jennifer Lawrence was actually far steelier and closer to ‘my’ Katniss than I had expected. Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair and Jena Malone as Johanna Mason were a treat too.

The biggest surprise for me was that even at a 12A it manages to quite effectively capture the brutality of the books. And although I felt it didn’t always fully realise the larger feeling of desperation out-with the tributes themselves they have more time to expand on that in the next film. Oh, and It made me cry once, but unusually for a movie not at the end.

A little too much lipgloss in the grime for my taste but on the whole a very good adaptation

8/10

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March 6, 2013
Review: Stoker

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There are films which are, as the reviewer’s favorite phrase goes, style over substance and there are films where the style *is* the substance.

Stoker is an almost entirely visual film - it could quite easily have no dialogue and be not much worse for it, although when there is dialogue it mostly lyrical, witty and worth the wait. Even the score punctuates the film sparsely but effectively.

This is a film that’s all about watching.

It is dovetailed by India’s monologue about how she sees things no-one else does. It’s voyeuristic in almost every possible sense. The characters watching each other through doors, windows, stolen glances and those long, stalkerish tracking shots at the wake. In Charlie’s case even watching India through the years themselves. 

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The symbolism of sneaking a peak at something through locked drawers, photographs and letters is everywhere. 

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And of course the way the viewer’s gaze is firmly positioned as the voyeur during both erotic and violent moments, the two blurring into each other on more than one occasion.

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Like a lot of my favorite books and films Stoker is pregnant with unsaid things, sexual tensions, violent secrets - the truths (if there are any) are in the gaps between what happens rather than the plot itself. Like the empty seat at the piano it could all just be a mirage, or a specter - like the vampiric connotation of the family name. Everything is submerged between a somnambulistic, dreamy funk - personified in the moments Nicole Kidman’s character half-knows what lies beneath her family, both literally and metaphorically.

I can understand why this film is dividing critics and viewers alike because it’s a strange combination of over-the-top pot boiler and microscopic emotional minutiae at the same time. The performances are all a restrained kind of camp found almost exclusively in old noir thrillers and whilst the cinematography, set and costumes are lush and seductive it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. It has one foot in ‘pretty’, one foot in ‘difficult’ and a more than slightly dubious moral compass - It’s a lovingly filmed  spider on young girl’s inner thigh. Needles to say it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m happy to say I loved it.

Overall: 9/10

8:46am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z3PBTyfecW47
  
Filed under: review reviews film tv stoker 
March 6, 2013
The Future Is Now (Review: Black Mirror & Utopia)

I had planned on writing reviews of both Black Mirror and Utopia separately but I can’t help thinking about one when I think of the other. Two British, dark, dystopian series running concurrently with surely a very similar audience.

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On paper Black Mirror covers areas that appeal to me more than Utopia - pop culture, media hysteria, and in particular, Brooker’s obsession with the frisson point between technology and human emotion. Utopia on the other hand sounds at it’s base level like a classic paranoid conspiracy theory. Even the titles would have me gravitating towards Black Mirror first - suggesting it’s as much about who we *are* as who we might become.

And yet Utopia succeeded in almost every way that Black Mirror has near-consistently failed me.

I’m not sure that the issue with Black Mirror lies entirely in the writing - the thing it is sold on - as the uneven execution. The drastic difference in stylistic tempos from episode to episode (and director to director) really is it biggest weakness for me. While ‘The Entire History of You’ (the absolute standout episode of the series for me, and in fairness probably good enough to justify the rest of the episodes on it own), ‘National Anthem’ and ‘Be Right Back’ were all directed with a sure, mature hand ‘White Bear’ and ‘15 Million Merits’ were both so cheap looking and broadly directed that they felt more like slightly off cbeebies shows than anything being broadcast on late night Channel 4. 

That said some of the ideas felt so slight and barely fleshed out (National Anthem surely was not much more than a good Brass Eye sketch?) that they buckled under the weight of the 45 minutes running time.

None of this would bother me if I didn’t think there was something there. Black Mirror is, or at least should be,  exactly the kind of show we need to be producing more of in the UK and it’s frustrating to see it fall short of the mark.

Thankfully this frustration has been greatly salved by Utopia dropping it’s grinning yellow bag of death next to our feet.

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What can I say without sounding like a fawning idiot?

Brutal, beautifully filmed and perfectly cast it’s everything I could have hoped for from it, and a little bit more. If I have any criticism it’s that I had hoped for a clean one series and out ending (it was obviously well plotted through a proper story arc so it was definitely possible) and instead it left me feeling a little cheated in the final moments. However, that’s a small price to pay for the series that preceded it.

I won’t say much more in this review because it’s exactly the kind of show that will be spoiled by knowing too much about it so I’l just round off by urging you to catch up with it on 4OD if you haven’t seen it yet.

Black Mirror:

The National Anthem - 6/10

15 Million Merits - 2/10

The Entire History of You - 10/10

Be Right Back - 5/10

White Bear - 3/10

The Waldo Moment - 4/10

Overall: 6/10

Utopia:

Overall: 9/10

January 15, 2013
Review: Les Miserables

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Let’s just start off by saying that the ticket price is worth it for the three minutes that the camera is trained on Anne Hathaway’s face as she re-writes the book on how to perform I Dreamed a Dream alone. The word ‘mesmerizing’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

That out of the way I think this stage to screen adaptation is on the whole an absolute triumph. Taking advantage of the opportunities for both large sweeping vistas and claustrophobic close-ups that the stage cannot offer Tom Hooper has directed this in a way that adds to the stage production rather than simply recreates it. It does at points creep into being a little visually overblown for my taste (Lovely Ladies being most notable) but this is offset by the fact that, being pure melodrama at heart, most of the cast spend the film makeup-less and crying!

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I heard some early reports that the soundtrack sounded disappointing and / or bad and having now seen it I can understand why. Much of the score is sung / acted as oposed to belted the way you have to do in the theatre to reach the back. I’m not sure it will be a score I will want to sit and listen to much but performing it this way was so, so much more interesting to watch.

However, as you may have heard, it has to be said that Russel Crowe’s voice is frankly completely honking. It’s such a shame because I was really excited by his casting and while physically he looks the part not only is his singing not up to scratch but he also looks seriously out of his depth much of the time too. This is a *real* shame because not only does he sing two of my favorite songs in the show but , despite Hugh Jackman acting his socks off, it also impacted negatively on the central relationship between Jean Val Jean and Javert for me. (Whilst I’m being critical I also wish they had left the Thénardiers reprise in the sewers while they were looting the dead - it’s such an eerie scene in the stage show and a lovely dark mirror to the earlier number - but that’s a minor grumble.)

Thankfully there was so much else to enjoy (and it’s a credit to how good the rest of the cast were) that this didn’t in any way ruin the film for me. In the past I’ve never been that interested in either the Marius / Cossette plot or Fantine but both of these stories really flourish in the film. Amada Seyfried just gets more adorable by the day and Heart Full Of Love was particularly beautiful despite being a song I’ve never much cared for before. The surprising standout for me though was Aaron Tveit who I literally couldn’t take my eyes off and lit up the scenes centered around the revolution.

So, yes, on the whole an absolute knockout, and as a big fan of the show a huge relief. Do catch it in the cinema if you can. Take a box of tissues and a cold compress when you go though ;)

January 15, 2013
Review: American Mary

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I was lucky enough to see a showing of American Mary on it’s limited release tour at the weekend. Shot in 15 days (!!!) as I found out at the Q&A after this is a very, very strong first time foray into mainstream-release territory for directors the Soska sisters.

Predominantly a (very) black comedy splattered with moments of empathy and pathos. As much as it’s it’s all about blood and horror and ‘horrible’ things it’s not really trying to scare you and it’s surprisingly not that graphic either, well - as these things go. It also has quite a lot to say for itself philosophically which is getting rarer than the dodo in contemporary horror.

Katharine Isabelle (of Ginger Snaps fame) is charismatic and nuanced in the lead role - a role that in less steady hands could have ended up flat out unlike-able. However it was Tristan Risk as Betty Boop obsessive Beatrice that stole the film for me. One of the standout performances of my year I think.

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It’s a crying shame it’s got such a limited release because it feels very mainstream friendly - not in the sense of being  ’safe’ but because it’s beautifully shot and feels very accomplished. It could easily have had a major release with the right publicity. Whilst the the film itself is ‘alternative’ in the sense that it features unconventional body modification and lots of latex it’s put together with a  surprisingly sophisticated and mature touch.

I found it to be charming and funny and beautiful to look at. It does have some flaws and there are a few scenes in it that fell a bit flat for me but on the whole I thought it was fantastic and if you can’t catch it in the cinema please snap up the DVD on the 21st.