About Me

My photo

Blogger, full-time bum and proud owner of a rubber duck named Bert. Come say hi. I don't bite. Unless you're a cheesecake, then I'd recommend backing away slowly.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

American Hustle review

‘American Hustle’ has more stars in it than a map of the galaxy has, which is something that those in charge of the promotion of the film haven’t neglected to remind audiences at every possible turn. What they fail to inform audiences of, however, is the plot. So, allow me to fill you in…

Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) is a ruthless con-man, stealing money from desperate individuals by pretending to get them loans in exchange for a mere $5,000 deposit. When Irving falls for a woman named Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), business really takes off. The pair make unprecedented amounts of money until ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) bursts onto the scene, threatening to bust them unless they help him put others behind bars. Things soon escalate when Mayor of New Jersey Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) enters the scene. Rosenfield quickly bonds with Polito, causing a moral dilemma: should he set him up for arrest, or warn him that the cops are onto his plans and tip him off?

The plot seems heavy-handed when written down, but remarkably vacant upon actual viewing. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because as far as I’m concerned, this is a character piece. The plot plays second fiddle to characterisation, and when you have an ensemble this strong, I don’t think that’s necessarily a weakness.

Christian Bale is unrecognisable as Irving, in both appearance and performance. He somehow manages to exude a level of warmth that makes this character somewhat sympathetic, despite his thieving and adulterous ways. The chemistry between Adams and Cooper was electrifying, and the opening scene between Adams, Cooper and Bale set up the tone for the rest of the film quite nicely. For me, the highlight was Lawrence’s fantastic portrayal of Rosalyn Rosenfield. The character is like a puzzle that you’re dying to piece together and understand, and Jennifer Lawrence completely brought her to life, in her own unique way. From the science oven to the bathroom scene between her and Adams, I don’t think there’s a single scene that Lawrence doesn’t steal by appearing in it. Whether you agree with critics who say that the age difference between Rosalyn and Irving takes away from the magic or not, you’ve got to admit, the majority of the film’s charm and depth comes from Rosalyn.

Speaking of Lawrence, particular praise has to go to the film’s wardrobe department, who had to deal with the actress’ tendency to get dorito dust all over her costumes (they made several duplicates, just incase she had to change due to a food-related mishap). The hair, make-up, set and costume departments all played a major role in the success of this film. They allowed the viewer to become completely absorbed in the world of the late 1970′s. Another thing that contributed to this absorbing atmosphere is the soundtrack, which is not only wonderfully fitting with the movie, but also utterly fantastic as a stand alone piece.

‘American Hustle’ may not be as much of a crowd-pleaser as O’Russell’s previous film ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, but if you prefer fully-formed characters and fun scenes to well-developed plots, then this may just be good watch for you.

Divergent review

Green-lighting projects involving young adult fiction novel adaptations is a no brainer for studios. Look at the 'Harry Potter', 'Twilight' and 'Hunger Games' series for proof that a film version of a successful tween book will cause people to mindlessly flock to the cinema likes moths to a flame. But should they have green-lit this project?

'Divergent' is a terrifying look into a dystopian future society that divides the population into segments depending on their traits. People are either brave, selfless, intellectual, honest or peaceful. The government tests the youth to determine which faction they would be best suited to. Tris (Shailene Woodley) is told that she is divergent after taking this test, a word used to describe someone who doesn't fit neatly into one faction. Tris chooses to live with the dauntless faction, a group of daredevils trusted with defending society, but before she can join them, she must go through a series of extremely demanding mental and physical challenges, with the secret of her divergent nature ever threatening to be exposed. 

Let it be said that the themes in 'Divergent' are more complex than most teen-targeted films dare to deal with. It starts off with a heavy dose of suppression and conformity, before slowly introducing things such as the use of propaganda to brain-wave citizens and the psychology behind genocide. The ambitious nature of the script when it's dealing with these elements is what quickly earned the script my respect. That being said, I felt as though the pacing was off. The viewer's introduction to this world was well dealt with well, presenting the audience with a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time. However, the initiation sequence seemed to last for 70% of the two and a half hour running time. I don't think I cared enough about Tris to actually want to watch her adapting to life in her new faction. The amount of time they spent on this section of the film made the ending feel rushed, which is disappointing, because it was a solid finale. Perhaps it was just my perception of time, but it felt like they went from finding out about the government's plans to kicking their ass in about twenty five minutes flat. 

My friend's one negative comment on the film was a pretty major one. 
"You could see that they were acting."
She definitely had a point. There were a couple of line deliveries that fell completely flat, despite being a powerful statement. Although I thought she did a good job in the leading role, Woodley fits into this category. There weren't many moments of comedy in the film, but when there was, I felt as though her comic timing was completely off. Dramatically speaking however, she did great, particularly in the last half an hour or so. I had to try not laughing at what I call the 'obligatory shirtless scene' that appears to be written into every attractive actor's contract. Theo James is an attractive man, but that scene felt so sexually objectifying, it just hurt. What else hurt was the non-existent moral reasoning behind some of the 'bad guys'.

The fucking zipline, URGH

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The magic that occurs when comedy and drama come together.

If a show is well-written, it will have the ability to take the viewer through a variety of different emotions, without them ever becoming aware of this taking place. It will be able to make you cry tears of laughter one second, before stabbing you in the metaphorical heart the next. It's not easily done. Mainly because the recipe for success relies heavily upon two ingredients that often feel like a rarity in modern television: talented actors playing complex characters and well-written scripts.

When it comes to comedy shows, it's even harder to do this. Not because the format makes it harder to pull off, but rather because some critics and fans of the show will take to the internet to speak out against 'forced' dramatic elements.

Personally, I never understood why some people were so against these sorts of scenes. There are occasionally misconceptions that comedy shows are nothing but joke-making machines, but in reality, they are there purely to tell the stories of the characters within their made-up realm, just like any other show. 'Community' understands this better than most, and has thus presented to us some of the best moments of 'dramedy' since 'Scrubs' was at it's peak.

For those that don't know, 'Community' focuses on the antics that a study-group at a community college get up. The characters each made some bad choices, hence why they are now at a school that teaches classes such as the history of ice-cream and is home to a Dean who has a small fetish for dalmatians. Greendale is a mess, but enrolling there might be the best choice that the characters have made in their lives, because it has given them time to reflect upon who they are and what they want out of life, as well as presenting them with a fiercely loyal support system.

Now, I may have said this before, but I'll happily say this again: 'Community' is a masterclass on characterisation. The characters have come a long way since the pilot, yet they never feel like they've developed past the point of being believable in their progression. This is difficult to pull off, and I like to remind people of the fact that this series managed to do it because, quite simply, their plots are insane. They've explored the possibilities of multiple timelines, dedicated an entire episode to the classic childhood game where you had to pretend the floor is lava and did a Christmas episode where a character was having claymation based fantasies. And do you know why these sort of episodes work?
  1. Because they're absolutely hilarious.
  2. Because the characters are sympathetic and completely believable.
The dramatic moments are fantastic because you can easily draw parallels between what the characters are feeling and what you might have felt in the past. 
  • Pierce is plagued by loneliness.
  • Troy is desperate to be liked.
  • Shirley feels left-out and like an afterthought.
  • Annie feels completely unnoticed by the people that she idiolises.
  • Abed turns to popular culture to distract him from reality.
  • Jeff worries that he hasn't achieved anything.
  • Britta has a tendency to hate herself.
The situations they find themselves in may not be universal, but the demons that haunt them most certainly are.

I've always thought that Britta was a superbly written character. Gillian Jacobs is hilarious, but she can handle serious moments with impeccable grace too. She's misguided, yet endlessly caring. She tries hard, yet always messes up. She accepts love from men that are nowhere near being in her league because there's something inside of her that tells her this is the best she deserves. She tries to cure others of their mental afflictions, but she can't do the same for herself. 
 
Jeff pretends that he's got things all together, but the fact is, he doesn't. After all, in 'G.I. Jeff', he ended up in hospital after taking a combination of hard liquor and pills. Whilst the show made it quite clear that this was not a direct suicide attempt, it's not absurd to treat it as a subconscious one. After all, in the cartoon his brain had created whilst unconscious, he realises that he's in a coma and decides to stay there, content with fighting bad guys and staring at the impressive chest that he had given cartoon Annie. It was a clear decision to trade in reality for cushy escapism, even if that meant leaving the real world once and for all.

And then we have Abed, who is undoubtedly the most complex character on the show.  One of my favourite episodes the show has done is 'Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas', which sees the cast turning into claymation characters for the entire 21 minutes running time. There was some great gags within this episode, but it is the emotionally charged ending that most people will remember it for. It turns out that Abed's claymation fantasy was a way for the character to process the rejection he felt upon reading his mother's Christmas card. She tells him that she has a new family and won't be able to spend this year with him. Heartbroken by the news, he had created this magical animated world to escape the harshness of reality. 

Really, I just have more respect for this show than I know what to do with. Here's hoping that it gets to fulfill it's prophecy of six seasons and a movie. It truly deserves to give its characters the best possible ending.

Friday, 4 April 2014

2014 TV pilots to look forward to

This is the awful time of year where every show that you've grown to love is abandoning you. Regardless of whether it's a temporary departure, like 'Orange is the New Black', or a permanent one, every TV fan can empathise with people who are sitting around aimlessly, lost without the escapades of their favourite characters to get them through the week.

So, how about we take a look at what shows we have to look forward to later this year (and will likely be suffering from separation anxiety because of, during this time next year).

'Tooken'

I think it's safe to say that Tina Fey is the Midas of the creative world. Now that '30 rock' is over, she has had the time to sit back and think of more show ideas to pitch to networks. And pitch she most certainly has. 'Tooken' is without a doubt the show I'm most excited to watch. It follows a woman (played by Ellie Kemper) as she tries to get her life back in order after escaping from a doomsday cult. Oh, and for any '30 Rock' fans out there, the woman's best friend will be played by Tituss Burgess, otherwise known as D'fwan.

'Cabot College'

Not content with just one new show, Fey also created 'Cabot College', which is about a women's college that has newly accepted male students on campus. It's hard not to get your hopes up for this one. The pilot was written by '30 Rock''s Matt Hubbard, directed by 'How I Met Your Mother' force of nature Pamela Fryman and lead by the ever wonderful Margaret Cho. 

'Old Soul'

Where there's Fey, there's Poehler. This rule not only applies to every single article ever written about Hollywood's favourite duo, but also applies to the contest for pilot supremacy, as Amy Poehler also has a new show idea to offer the world. 'Old Soul' features Natasha Lyonne (watch 'Orange is the New Black'? This lovely lady plays Nicky) as a woman working as an aide to the elderly, as she attempts to find herself. I'm expecting to see a lot of fantastic roles for the older generation of actors and actresses (something that is sadly significantly lacking in the media), that paired with Poehler's creative influence makes it sound as though 'Old Soul' has a winning formula.

'How To Get Away With Murder'

TV series revolving around the dark world of crime tend to do very well for themselves, and I expect 'How To Get Away With Murder' to be no exception. The premise is simple: a group of law students get roped into a murder plot after getting close to their fantastic criminal defense professor (played by the formidable Viola Davis).


Mission Control


Fan of 'Anchorman'? This Will Ferrell production might just be up your street. The show will feature a female astronaut (played by 'Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23''s Krysten Ritter) battling against a macho colleague ('Smallville''s Michael Rosenbaum) to become the first person on the moon. Like most of Ferrell's work, it could go either way. Only time will tell, I suppose.


More Time With Family


A man changes his career in order to spend more time with his family. Not a particularly interesting concept, but this show has an ace up it's sleeve, as it has cast Alyson Hannigan as the wife. Both 'Buffy' and 'How I Met Your Mother' were outstanding successes, so here's hoping that 'More Time With Family' makes it Hannigan's hat-trick.

'Selfie'

A break-up video of a young woman quickly goes viral, resulting in her undergoing an online makeover to help improve her image. A relevant concept, paired with a great cast (Karen Gillan, Gillian Vigman and John Cho, to name a few)? Sounds like it has potential, despite the frustrating name.

'American Crime'


John Ridley writes and executive produces this drama about the murder trial of a war veteran. Unsure of who Ridley is? He's the Oscar winner that wrote '12 Years A Slave'. I have high expectations for this one.

'Battle Creek'


What do you get when the creators of two of TV's most iconic shows - 'House' and 'Breaking Bad' - team up together? You get 'Battle Creek', a series that revolves around the lives of two detectives with different views on the world as they try to clean up the streets of Battle Creek. If Vince Gilligan and David Shore didn't get your nerdy heart skipping beats for this show, then I seriously worry for you.

'Dead Boss'


A comedy about a woman who wrongly gets accused of murdering her boss. Something that should get people excited about 'Dead Boss' is that the wonderful Jane Krakowski has been cast as the lead. After playing Jenna in '30 Rock', Krakowski proved to the world that she has impeccable comic timing, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she'll bring to the show.

'Gotham'

Commissioner Gordon's origin story - it's worlds apart from Batman's original TV series... but that is certainly not a bad thing. It's a tie in to the Batman universe. Nothing more need be said.

'How I Met Your Dad'

'How I Met Your Mother' fans are the target audience for this particularly show. It's pretty much the mirror image to the hit series, apart from, as the title suggests, it follows a woman as she goes through life, right up to the point where she meets the future father of her children. Now, I've never seen her performing, but people insist that Greta Gerwig is phenomenal. People will obviously be comparing this to the original, and Gerwig will almost definitely get compared to the universally loved Cristin Milioti... 
All I can say is that I wish the cast and crew the best of luck with this project.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Let's talk

You know what my biggest pet peeve is?

Certain people's inability to understand that they have no right to dictate what others can and cannot do with their lives. 

The population of this world is terrifyingly vast. Despite this fact, no two souls are the same. There are people who may look or act remarkably similar, but even so, they are different.

The saddest thing is, so many choose not to embrace their idiosyncrasies. Your passions, your likes, your dislikes, your quirks... they all make you who you are. And to show shame in that? Well... it's just not fair on yourself.

I'm nineteen. I have a crazy amount to learn about the world, myself and life in general. But what I do know is that we're not all designed the same. And that that's not only acceptable, it's great. Life would be so boring if we all thought and acted in the same way. So long as your behaviour or actions don't harm anyone, then you're okay in my book.

I know who I am. I dislike a lot of things that my friends like. Nothing makes me more miserable than going out to a club. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but there's literally nothing there for me. I loathe the music, the dancing and the general feeling that everyone in that place is merely an animal at a meat market. That is not my idea of a good night, but I respect that many others do enjoy it, and I allow them to do so.

And that's why it annoys me when people try to co-erce me into going out with them, or try to persuade me that there's something wrong with me because I don't enjoy clubbing... I honestly can't stress it enough, allow other people to live life the way they want to. Really, it's not anyone else's business what you do to unwind. Neither is it their business what you want to achieve in life. 

You've gotta do what makes you happy. Sure, help other people find happiness too, but you can't keep putting your own mental well-being on hold to help someone else find theirs. The pursuit of happiness is both an ongoing and personal journey. And it's an important one too. You've got to keep moving down that road.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The World's End review

Wright. Pegg. Frost. The three musketeers of all things geek, coming back for one final battle to conclude their hugely successful 'cornetto' trilogy. It started off with 'Shaun of the Dead', before moving onto 'Hot Fuzz' before ending with the suitably titled 'The World's End'.

'The World's End' follows a group of men, reluctantly led by perpetual adolescent Gary King (Simon Pegg), on a pub crawl in their old town of Newton-Haven, futilely trying to replicate a night that occurred twenty years prior. As the night drags on, the men realise that something is not quite right about their old town. Is it the pubs that have been bought up by chains and stripped of all their charm? (Perhaps.) Or is it the fact that the residents of the town have been replaced by robot like replicas? (More likely.) 

Simon Pegg did an impressive job on this movie. Gary King is a deceivingly complex character. In some respects, his motives are pure (all he wants to do is go back to how things were when he was happiest) but he goes about things in the completely wrong way. Lying about his mother's death, deceiving his friends into going back to Newton-Haven and endangering them all with his need to do the pub crawl in it's entirety. Up until Gary and Andy's touching heart-to-heart in the World's End, he is a very difficult character to sympathise with, and therefore needed to be portrayed in the correct manner to prevent audience's from clawing their eyes out. I believe that Pegg managed to do this with a compelling sense of desperation that few actors could pull off. Nick Frost provided the other stand out performance in this film as Gary's best friend Andy. A life-threatening accident that almost cost Andy his life changed him from a fun-loving Gary devotee to a cautious, non-drinking office worker. Pegg and Frost's chemistry may not have been as strong as in previous films, but it's hard not to feel moved at the pair's scene in the World's End. 

Of course, a film is only as good as it's script, so thankfully, 'The World's End' provides the goods with a hilarious, and at times touching, commentary on the dangers of nostalgia and conformity in the modern world. You can definitely draw parallels from 'Shaun of the Dead' (and not just because of the poorly constructed garden fence gag).

Director Edgar Wright has quickly become one of my favourites. This may sound odd, but if you'd like a masterclass on using transitions, then this guy is seriously the man to go to. He has definitely perfect his skill over the past few years, and I'm looking forward to seeing what more great work will come from Wright in the years to come.
  For me, I think that the film's only downfall is that it is part of the cornetto trilogy. Each film is tied together very loosely plot and genre wise, with the trio, poorly constructed garden fences and ice-cream cones being some of the few things that tie them together. That being said, audience's are constantly comparing 'The World's End' to 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz', and that isn't really fair. As a stand alone film, I think far fewer people would have come out of the cinema complaining, but considering the high standard that the previous two films have set, it goes without saying that expectations for 'The World's End' were ridiculously high.

If you enjoy your comedies, then I definitely recommend that you go to see this film.

Filming withdrawals

You can't take filming away from me.

Taking filming away from me is like taking a child's favourite toy from them and throwing it off of a cliff. Or... you know, a simile that doesn't venture into hyperbole. 

Basically, the point of this post is to tell you that I want to do something. I want to create something... I'm just not sure what that 'something' is.

My problem is that I procrastinate. A lot. I have at least eight scripts that I have attempted to write and forgotten about, their icons sitting on my desktop like orphaned children. There's a partially written novel there too, which I'm desperate to finish because it probably contains some of the best writing that I've done to date. T-shirt ideas? Got 'em. Artwork ideas? Too many to count. It's frustrating because I can't seem to find the will to get them finished, or even started. 

That's why I need college. 

The structure keeps me sane.

Anyway, I've been adding bits and pieces to two scripts recently. They couldn't be more different to one another. One is a drama piece on grief and guilt. The other is a potential comedy web-series pilot.

I just need to stop writing this, and start writing one of those!

Does anyone else have a problem with procrastinating? 

Lauren xxx