31 May 2013

Spanish Horror

The film The Orphanage (2007), or El Orfanato, is a well made horror film. Some would categorize it as a thriller and a drama rather than a horror movie but that only depends on if you see it as a ghost film or as a mystery film and I will call it a horror film because, in my own personal opinion, it's way too scary to just be a mystery or thriller!

The Orphanage is directed by Juan Antoino Bayona and the screenplay is written by Sergio G. Sánchez (who both went onto making The Impossible (2012) - a film about the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004) and though they mainly have made shorts prior to this film it's well within the league of similar pictures such as, for example, The Others (2001). And while mentioning The Others specifically it can be said that The Orphanage works on a similar idea. Personally, however, I actually prefer Bayona and Sánchez's execution and story when comparing the two films.

In short the film revolves around a woman named Laura (Belén Rudea) who buys the orphanage she was raised in and fixes it up. She then proceeds to have it be a palce for disabled children. She has one adoptive son of her own, however, named Símon (Roger Príncep) but before long he goes missing. And after that strange and frightening events begin to take place all the while she tries to figure out where her little boy is.

It's a very well made film and, depending on how easily you get scared, on that can be at least somewhat scary. It's also somewhat odd and strange and can possibly be a little bit confusing. All in all, however, I would defenitely say I reccommend this one!

12 May 2013

Josh Radnor's Second Film

Most probably know Josh Radnor best as Ted Mosby from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The question is how many knows he has made two films? The first one was Happy Thank You More Please (2010) which he directed, stared in an wrote the screenplay for. Now Josh is back with a new film which he has both written and directed called Liberal Arts (2012). He also stars as one of the two main characters; thirty-five year old Jesse who returns to the town of his old University to attend a retirement party for his "second favourite Ohio University professor".

If you enjoy a more quiet type of film about life this one is actually a very good one. Josh seems to have a knack for creating something that actually avoids most traps and doesn't quite fall into clichés - even though it's a few close calls - and actually gives you something to reflect upon. He does well  given the fact that it's entirely his own production. This can be less than ideal and can often go terribly wrong since it carries only one individual's perspective. And if this one has a flaw it is that it takes a while for the film to actually become interesting and to make sense. But give it 20 or so minutes and it actually comes around and is worth watching.

This is not an overly dramatic, sad or funny film. It's rather mellow. But by no means at all does that mean that it is boring and not worth watching. It's actually very thought provoking and you do get attached to the characters. Of course, it all, as always, depends on what you enjoy watching but unless you get bored stiff from the more unobtrusive drama comedy films this one is recommendable for sure.

9 May 2013

Iron Man 3 Revisited

I did say I would go see Iron Man 3 (2013) one more time and that is exactly what I did. So what is the final verdict? (If you've missed the first part here it is)

I have decided that in spite of everything, I like it. Perhaps because I want to - that is entirely possible - but when disregarding the trailer and also accepting that the film is not exactly like the comic books I did see a film I enjoyed.

This time around the one-liners did not seem as many as they appeared to be the first time around and the dialogue between Tony and the kid didn't seem as hopelessly badly scripted. That part is still not great by any stretch of the imagination but it is bearable; even bordering on amusing at times. It does have it's few golden moments too. (And at least I can personally overlook the few but right down terrible ones.)

The comedy did not go as much overboard as it first seemed, you just have to bee willing to not compare it to The Avengers.

When it comes to the weak parts in the plot that I mentioned I decided this time that some work and it really just comes down to perhaps two or three parts which are still annoyingly badly written. It's just the use of plot devices in a fashion for the sake of carrying the plot forward in a way that is just too convenient to let slide. It's something that catches you attention because it's too obvious that it's nothing but a device. It makes no real sense. Those moments are still too annoying to ignore and I just don't have it in me to let them slide. And there's still the deus ex machina. But if we - in spite of everything - decide to overlook these parts then the film is honestly pretty damn good.

If you look close enough it does follows the theme of the previous films and it has an underlying point. If you overlook a few minor details about the villain I must say I, in some aspects, prefer this one to the ones in the second Iron Man film. I do like the grand scale of this film. Especially in combination with the personal and intimate portrait of Tony Stark with the armour peeled off.

So my final verdict is; give it a chance. Or, even better, why not give it two? Or, indeed, three? And maybe you will find that the third time really is the charm!

29 April 2013

Is the Third Iron Man Really the Charm?

I must confess that I was conflicted to whether I should actually go and recommend this one or not.

It is not how you might think it would be given the trailer, I will say as much. Also it should definitely be noted that if you are a fan of the Iron Man comic book I should warn you that there is a risk you might be disappointed with certain developments in this story. Last but not least keep in mind that this is not The Avengers (2012) and that Shane Black and is not Joss Whedon.

I am going to be honest; I am very partial to, what I think is, Whedon's ability to maintain depth while still having his characters deliver funny one-liners. I love his wit and his kind of humour. I did expect something similar from Shane because of the good work he did on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) but just as that film falters slightly story-wise and struggles with character depth at times so does Iron Man 3. The one-liners are, in my own honest opinion, too many, not always spot-on placed and tended to feel piled up. There is an honest attempt at development and depth but it does struggle a bit. What I personally would have liked, though, would have been if they had explored certain character elements and put emphasis on that more than they did.

As far as the plot goes I will say it's not as much about plot holes, as some might have said, as weak plot points. There are some genuinely amazing scenes though and a bunch of the comedy is actually entertaining. The problem is that the story feels jumbled, that a few things are just too convenient for the story to the point where it's almost deus ex machina devises and that reactions and motivation in all characters seems shaky and off at times.

On the plus side this film did have me on the edge of my seat a bunch of times. And it did make me laugh at a few points. Also all the actors did brilliantly and I personally enjoyed that Pepper Pots was not the damsel in distress in this film because that is just one of the most tiring and overused themes out there. I also enjoyed, even though it had its weaker moments, the closer portrayal of Tony Stark and I am very biased here, I must confess, because I think Robert Downey Jr is an amazing actor and he is perfect in his role as Tony Stark. Even in the moments where I felt like the jokes Tony delivered were a bit too scripted, as opposed to the effortlessness it had in The Avengers, Downey Jr still delivered quality acting.

All in all I am still not sure how to feel. I am conflicted. Though whilst some say they regret ever going and that it's not worth your money I am, for one, going to go see this again. I feel like I need to in order to fully form an opinion and decide if I do really like it for the good acting, nice special effects and clever underlying story (not mentioned here since I don't want to spoil) and the edge-of-the-seat moments or if I don't like it because of the deus ex machina and faltering character development and the characters' strange actions/reactions/motivations as well as the comedy that went overboard.

To the important part then; do  I recommend it? Well, I do not do typical reviews so I would not write this if I had no intent in recommending it. I do recommend it. But I also recommend that you keep in mind that it is not like what you have seen in the trailer, it does not stick to the story arc in the comic books and that it is not like Jon Faveru's Iron Man films. What it is on the other hand is Ben Kingsely, Guy Pearce, Paul Bettany as the sassy voice of Jarvis, Gwyneth Paltrow as the lovely and fantastic Pepper Pots and, of course, the one and only Robert Downey Jr being undeniably awesome as Tony Stark and Iron Man and, on my part, they (along with the other great actors) absolutely make this film worth a recommendation!

21 April 2013

A Spielberg Classic

One of my personal favourites is Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001). It's a heartbreaking film about a robot boy named David (Haley Joel Osment) who is "adopted" by Monica (Frances O'Connor) and Henry Swinton (Sam Robards) since their child Martin (Jake Thomas) is very ill, seemingly in some sort of coma, and hospitalized.

David is a highly advanced robot that can be "imprinted" to be like an actual child to the one who activates that function. The problem, however, is that once activated David is just like a real boy. Which means that the company who manufactures them has a rule; should a family no longer want their imprinted robot child it must be handed back to be destroyed as it is not programmed to be put up for adoption once imprinted.

It might seem weird but the story is also partially about a robot called Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) that gets framed and in trouble with the law and thus he is on the run when he and David cross pats. Out of context like this it might seem very strange but trust me when I say that this film is absolutely brilliant and equally sad and beautiful. It also enraging because you see so much injustice and unnecessary suffering. Yet I cannot recommend this enough because it has amazing acting, a fantastic story and is overly so well made.

So if there's one film out there you haven't seen this one is the one film you really need to give a chance!

6 April 2013


Don Bluth and Gary Goldman is a duo that has created a number of wonderful animated cartoons and one of my childhood favourites is Rock-A-Doodle from 1991.

It has Elvis-style singing, lovely colour-scheme and magic. What's not to love, right?

The story can be summarised by saying that the human child Edmund loves the story of a rooster named Chanticleer who, in the bedtime story Edmund reads, wakes the sun every morning. Since to this little boy the rooster is fantastic Edmund calls for him with a child's desperation when his home threatens to flood due to heavy rain. Unfortunately for Edmund it's not Chanticleer who hears him but an evil owl who transforms the boy into a kitten and tries to eat him. He is saved in the nick of time though by friends of Chanticleer and they all set out on an adventure to find Chanticleer and bring him home before the dreadful owls, who love for it to be night always, take over.

All in all it's a film for children, ultimately. But I think that if you enjoy colourful animated cartoons which actually do have a quite good storyline and characters it could very well be a film for you. And if you have seen it as a kid, why not revisit it? I can't promise anything but I know I found it to be as wonderful still as it was when I was a child!

4 April 2013

The Superb Combo of Scorsese and DiCaprio

If you are a fan of Martin Scorsese's films and if you like a good mystery/thriller Shutter Island (2010) could be something for you. It is based on Dennis Lehane's novel from 2003 and then taken to the big screen by Scorsese with screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis. Starring in Shutter Island are Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsely, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson.

It is not a film for those who enjoy a straightforward, easy-to-follow plot since this is a film that has you question most everything. It is not overly complicated, however, and it  is simply the somewhat classical dilemma of what is and isn't true - or real, if you will.

To give a little summer for those interested it is set in 1954 and centres around the character Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) who, together with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), is to investigate the disappearance of one of the inmates of Ashecliffe Hospital; a hospital for the criminal insane. The mental hospital is located on Shutter Island and the missing patient, a murderess named Rachel (Emiliy Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson), is expected to be somewhere nearby. It therefore seems uncomplicated at first - the escapee cannot get off the island - but the deeper Teddy digs into the case the stranger everything becomes.

Scorsese has directed many great films and this is no exception. Shutter Island is a dark and intriguing story and it is definitely worth the while.