Saturday 29 March 2014

Movie Review - Muppets Most Wanted

A long awaited (for some) follow up to 2011's critically acclaimed The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted sees the loveable team undergoing a worldwide tour under the management of Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), having been at a loss for how to continue following their previous film. During the escapade, Kermit the Frog is abducted and replaced by his devious doppelgänger Constantine - whose dastardly plans threaten to destroy the Muppets' reputation once and for all.

The last outing of the Muppets wasn't a personal favourite of mine, although its reception amongst the general audience was rather outstanding. This sequel continues from its predecessor in more of a spiritual fashon, as there's a new cast and a new style. Most Wanted blends the classic caper genre with some standard Muppets charm, featuring an over the top evil plot, comedic police chases and, as expected, an onslaught of celebrity cameos.

At 113 minutes, Muppets Most Wanted isn't a short lived experience and undoubtedly could've been cut down slightly. While it gets off to a solid if abrupt start, Most Wanted quickly loses steam as it treads through a dull middle act, saved only by the ever so delightful musical numbers. The evil plot that Constantine spearheads is lazily written into the background, with the primal focus being Kermit and the other Muppets; this can be seen as a good thing to many viewers, but it doesn't change the fact that there's a lack of inspiration to some parts of the story.

Despite its flaws, Muppets Most Wanted does manage to improve upon its predecessor in some ways. But at the end of the day, there's nothing to make it stand out in a truly memorable fashion and thus it'll come and go fairly quickly for those who aren't diehard fans. It's by no means bad; the songs are awesome, the cameos hilarious, and it has an all round excellent sense of humour. But the plot does drag and is largely uninteresting, which is perhaps down to a concept that's only amusing at best.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Is Frozen overrated?


When the first trailer premiered in June 2013, the reception for Disney's next animated feature Frozen was lukewarm at best; the trailer focused on comedic sidekicks Olaf and Sven and their slapstick antics instead of any of the main characters. People found the Olaf the Snowman rather annoying and feared the film would take a dark fairy tale and turn it into a wacky, zany gagfest.

As the films November release came closer, anticipation grew, and now months later Frozen looks like it may be set to pass Toy Story 3 as the highest grossing animated film of all time. Who'd have thought that such a simple looking film would've broken box office records, earned countless awards and made Let it Go the number once choice when you type L on Youtube?

But does Frozen deserve its fame? Was it really the smart and innovative hit that everyone makes it out to be? Would be as good if Let it Go was never made? In this post I shall explore a few points that people commonly make to praise the film, and ruin them with my own arsey opinions...

The plot twist is the most notable factor of the film. Prince Hans, who initially seems like Ana's love interest, is revealed to be a greedy tyrant who wishes to rule Arendelle for his own selfish needs. He was born into a family of 12, meaning his chances of becoming ruler in his own kingdom were virtually non existent. Ana, whose frozen heart is slowly killing her, is left to die by Hans, who convinces Arendelle that Elsa is the true murderer and must be executed. The twist itself caught me well off guard, but perhaps my only grudge is that following this revelation, Hans completely changes as a character to a point that he's completely uninteresting and unnaturally evil. No signs pointed to him being a villain in any way, which has two opposing effects: on the one hand the twist surprises the audience, but on the other hand it feels terribly unnatural and a little improvised.

Anna and Elsa being strong female leads is a nice element of the film. It's not their portrayal that annoys me - it's the reactions. People seem to act like this is the first time Disney have ever had strong female characters, or that Anna and Elsa are the first strong female heroes to ever appear in a film. What's also amusing is how in order to portray Anna an Elsa as strong female leads, the film creates a very black and white portrayal of men as pigs with poor hygiene and greedy desires. This isn't a problem for me, but people seem to completely overlook this and treat the film as a revelation for females in cinema.

Elsa never really felt like the complex character she was made out to be. They do a good job of making her seem vulnerable and frightened, but unfortunately she never seems to develop beyond her panicky state. When she flees Arendelle and embraces her powers in that song that doesn't even need naming, she seems like she's on her way to becoming a badass villain who will perhaps go down a darker route - all the anxiety has built up inside and is now released as a sadistic confidence. But no. She only seems to create her ice palace to sit in and 'be herself', panicking even more when Anna comes to escort her back home. It was pleasing to see her depicted as frightened of her controversial abilities, but the fact that she never became a villain was a personal disappointment of mine, and made Hans feel even more shoehorned in.

And finally, can some people please stop acting like this is the first good Disney film in a long time? I see all this bullshit like OMG DISNEY IS BACK or THE FIRST GOOD FILM SINCE LION KING. No. This is nonsense. In my personal opinion, Disney returned to success back in 2008 with Bolt, and from there it only got better. I mean, come on, look at Tangled for god sake.

I gave Frozen 3.5 stars back in December - I really enjoyed it and liked what it had to offer. But it just felt to me like something was missing. Too many characters and plot points to cover its 90 minute run time, and as a result the complex relationships didn't quite blossom as much as they could've done.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Movie Review - Following

The debut feature of filmmaking titan Christopher Nolan, Following tells the story of an unnamed young writer (Jeremy Theobald) who, to garner inspiration for his next novel, begins to follow strangers around the streets of London. Though he sets himself strict rules for such a dangerous pastime, he succumbs and breaks them almost immediately, resulting in him getting tangled into the affairs of Cobb (Alex Haw), a man who takes great pleasure in burgling homes to make the shocked owners rethink their lives. Cobb hires the young man as his partner in crime, but their decadent path soon leads to nothing but disaster.

Produced in 1998 on a budget of $6000, almost all of which was used to buy and process the 16mm film stock, Following of course has a number of limitations; Nolan had no access to lighting packages and fancy editing suites, but his unique direction has explored a number of techniques to bypass such setbacks. The film is entirely black and white, disguising its visual and lighting flaws whilst creating a suitably dark and unsettling vibe. Nolan has also done a sound job of editing the audio (sorry) to make it as clean as possible, and a simple yet extremely ambient score by David Julyan helps to establish a mysterious atmosphere.

The story is delivered in a non linear fashion across these 70 minutes - things are kept pretty tight and every scene is as crucial as the last. Of course a short runtime for a rather complex story can make certain sections feel a little rushed or underdeveloped, and it's not too difficult to get lost as the film nears its climax, but those who stay focused will find much to enjoy as the narratives unique twists unfold before them.

The acting is generally top notch, especially as these are all unknown friends of Nolan who nowadays have gone on to different careers. The protagonist played by Theobald can be a little bland with his delivery, but generally provides a nice paranoid opposition to the arrogant and intimidating finnesse of Cobb, played wonderfully by Alex Haw. Supporting actors include Lucy Russell, John Nolan and Dick Bradsell, all of whom play lesser yet crucial roles superbly. Following is an inspirational no budget feature, proving that technical limitations can be overcome with talented direction and a solid script. Visually it hasn't aged well, but its clever storytelling and enticing characters provide enough thrills to distract us from that.