I had a lot of fun staying up and watching the Oscars on Sunday. I really enjoyed the show, even though I didn’t really like Seth MacFarlane as the host. He had some great moments (I loved the dances in his opening), but some of the jokes just weren’t funny.

I actually managed to watch all the movies from the main six categories (so Best Picture, Best Directing and the 4 Best acting categories) before the ceremony and came quite far with all the others. I tend to struggle with “Oscar” movies: some movies are just too depressing and serious, while I just want to relax and be entertained. I do end up watching things though that I most probably wouldn’t have given a chance and end up loving, which is the main reason I do this every year.

Silver-Linings-Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is that type of movie that I think I normally wouldn’t have watched or if I had attempted it, I think I would have switched off twenty minutes in. It’s about Pat (Bradley Cooper), who after a stint in a mental institution moves back into his parents place to try to get his life back on track while dealing with bipolar disorder. In that first half an hour his character is just so unlikable and unrootable for; you just have to cringe at some of the things he does. Once Jennifer Lawrence’s character is introduced though (a recent widow with mental health problems of her own), it becomes a really sweet and interesting movie.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of The Southern Wild

Okay, I did not like this movie. I get what it was going for and I can see what people liked about it, but for me it just didn’t resonate at all. Beasts of The Southern Wild is about six-year-old Hushpuppy, who lives with her father in the Bathtub, a flood threatened bayou community. I think what I didn’t like about this movie is that to me it felt like it was glorifying poverty, turning the avoidance of using common sense into something magical and wise. Quvenzhané Wallis does give a stunning performance as Hushpuppy, but I never felt I cared for her or her father through the entire movie.

Amour

Amour

I loved Amour. It’s a sweet, but also brutal and harrowing tale about the final stages in a couple’s life. Georges and Anne are retired music teachers in their eighties, when Anne suffers a stroke paralysing half of her body. Both Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant give great performances as Georges and Anne, and you really feel for the suffering both of them go through.

As regular readers will know, I’ve been trying my best to watch all the Oscar nominated movies this year. I’m going to fail massively on the Documentary, Foreign and Short categories, but I think I might actually manage watching everything else (which would be a first for me!). Reviewing all of those movies though… I’m not sure how far I’m going to get with those.

I’m going to at least try to review all the Best Picture nominations. I already blogged about Les Miserables, Life of Pi and Argo (read that blog post here), so only six more to go! I’ll do three today, and hopefully the remaining three tomorrow or Sunday.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained

Here’s a confession: I still haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs or Jackie Brown and I didn’t really like Pulp Fiction. But I loved Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, and now also loved Django Unchained. Tarantino’s past three movies have been all over-the-top, odes-to-certain-genres, unique movie experiences, and I can’t help but admire his style.

In Django Unchained, Tarantino manages to blend the elements of a spaghetti western with 70s blaxploitation. And bizarrely that works. Jamie Foxx is excellent as the titular character Django, who turns from slave to bounty hunter. But it’s Christoph Waltz that again shines; there’s just something about the combination of him and Tarantino’s dialogue that makes it all awesome.

I know some people don’t like Tarantino’s movies, cause of the bloodiness and gore, but actually? I think it’s so over-the-top to the point of unrealism that it’s not gory. Blood exploding in a fountain after one shot? It makes me ponder the tech they used to get that effect and once I start thinking of all the gore in terms of special effects it all becomes laughable. Am I the only one that does that?

Lincoln

Lincoln

The West Wing meets American History 101. That’s the way I heard Lincoln described to me. And they weren’t wrong. I have to admit I think I normally would have struggled a bit with the background politics and history, but having just played Assassin’s Creed 3 I actually had recently read up on that bit of history (I know we covered it in high school, but it’s been a while).

Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Lincoln is awesome. It’s impressive how he breathes life into this character, without it turning into a caricature which I think in the hands of a lesser actor would have very easily happened. He fully deserves the Oscar this year, so I’ll be rooting for him on Sunday (although I don’t think my rooting is needed, he seems to be winning every award this year!).

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty was one of the nominated movies I was least looking forward to. The topic just didn’t seem like something I’d be interested in and I wasn’t a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow’s previous movie The Hurt Locker either. I have to admit though I was wrong and was pleasantly surprised by Zero Dark Thirty. Although “pleasantly” might be the wrong word. Zero Dark Thirty is a great movie, but it’s one I wouldn’t say is “enjoyable” or “fun”; it gives a stark, harsh, visceral look at the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks.

Even though you know how it’s going to end (well, I’m assuming most people would know how it ends) it still is exciting to see the entire story unfold. The first half of the film features a brutal and unsettling depiction of torture, making you aware of the disturbing lengths people went to to obtain the truth. Jessica Chastain gives a powerful performance as the CIA operative who is relentless in her search for bin Laden and in her belief of this one flimsy lead. Bigelow has managed to create a movie that is intense and exhilarating to watch, keeping you at the edge of your seat the entire time.

Just like the past few years, I’m trying again to watch all the Oscar nominated movies. I’m pretty sure I’ll get all the Best Picture nominations done, but it’s always quite the challenge to watch as many movies I can from all the other categories. I always end up failing on the Best Foreign and Best Documentary categories, but even if I don’t succeed I like the push it gives me during January and February to watch as many movies as I can.

So far I’ve watched 6 of the 9 Best Picture nominations and today I’ll do short reviews for the first three of those.

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

I’ve been excited for Les Miserables ever since I heard Tom Hooper would be directing and Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway were cast. I loved Jackman’s and Hathaway’s duet during the 2008 Oscars and I’ve been hoping they’d do a musical together ever since. I never got around to watching the actual stage musical of Les Miserables (I still need to go), but I know and love a lot of the songs.

I ended up loving the movie. I liked how the actors were recorded closeup actually singing on set rather than in a studio, allowing for a much more powerful performance. Hugh Jackman is great as Jean Valjean; it’s awesome to finally see him in a musical role, his voice was perfect for Who Am I? and some of the other songs. Anne Hathaway’s rendition of I Dreamed A Dream is amazing. It’s so full of emotion, you can see her going from hope to despair all in one single take.

The rest of the cast is equally awesome. Despite what others have said, I quite liked Russell Crowe as Javert. I wasn’t that familiar with his songs though, but I’m guessing if you do know those songs, his versions won’t match up with them. Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried are sweet as the young lovers Marius and Cosette, while Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are great as the comic relief.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

I wasn’t expecting to like Life of Pi as much as I did. I had seen the trailers and was expecting it to be a pretty movie, but not much more. I loved it though. The gorgeous visuals and cinematography complements the beautiful story and I think it might be my favourite movie of last year.

If you don’t know what it’s about, Life of Pi tells the story of Pi and how after a shipwreck he gets stranded on a life boat with a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. It’s a story of survival, hope and strength.

I loved seeing the relationship between Pi and Richard Parker unfold, and I wonder how much being a cat owner helped with that (I constantly noticed bits in Richard Parker that my own cats will do… although my cats won’t be able to take me out with one swipe). Real tigers and visual effects were combined to create Richard Parker, but you never quite know which of the two you’re looking at; it blends beautifully.

Argo

Argo

Argo is based on the real life story of the 1980 secret operation to extract six U.S. diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis. The film stars Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, a CIA specialist, who comes up with a fake scifi movie to use a cover story for the extraction.

I wasn’t that impressed by Argo. It’s an interesting story, but I was expecting more suspense and more cleverness somehow. I know it’s based on a real story and they couldn’t embellish it too much, but I never got invested in any of the characters allowing me to root fully for them.

I’ve got 3 mini reviews for you today: Skyfall, Frankenweenie and Madagascar 3. All three movies should still be in cinemas at the moment; if you have to pick one, choose Skyfall!

Skyfall

Awesome. I went to see this yesterday at the IMAX and loved (almost) every bit of it. Daniel Craig is again perfect as Bond. Javier Bardem is great as the villain, part crazy, part creepy with a touch of genius. And I loved Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw as M and Q. I think the only thing that bugged me was the London tube stations and interiors; as a Londoner I couldn’t fail to notice how wrong some of the bits were (still it was loads better than Total Recall where it was supposed to be London, but they used New York style trains and stations). Skyfall is a great movie though and I think it may be my favourite Bond movie ever.

Frankenweenie

I think I would have liked this a whole lot more if I a) hadn’t seen the trailer and b) hadn’t seen the short film it was based on. It’s a sweet story about a boy and his dog, but a lot of it is predictable and those parts that weren’t were already in the trailer or in the short movie. I did love how it looked though. The black and white visuals looked a bit meh in 2D, but in 3D it becomes so much more vivid and alive.

Madagascar 3

Circus Afro, Circus Afro, Polka Dot, Polka Dot, Circus Afro. I can’t get that song out of my head (I tried typing out the da da da bits, but I just got crazy counting the da’s and trying to figure out how it phonetically would make sense). I enjoyed the first Madagascar and was pleasantly surprised by its first sequel. So I was quite curious to see how well this third movie would do. This time around our 4 furry friends want to get back home to New York and join a circus in the hope of reaching their destination. The plot is a bit predictable, but it’s fun and enjoyable.

I’ve been struggling lately with my movie reviews. I haven’t written a proper long review since June. Which I think is mainly cause I’m watching more now, wanting to write up each and every movie and then failing to do so for all of them. So I’m going to do things a bit differently from now on: I’ll do short combined 2 or 3 movie reviews. They’ll be shorter, but hopefully at least I’ll now find the time to write about them. Later this week I’ll do one last big mini review post, with all the movies I’ve seen since June. Let’s see if this works…

This week’s movies are Looper and Ruby Sparks. They’re both still currently in cinemas, so catch them if you can!

Looper

I love a good time travel story. In Looper, time travel is invented in 2074, but only criminals use it to send people they want disappeared back into the past, where they get killed and disposed of by “loopers”. Loopers get payed a lot, but eventually have to “close the loop”: kill their future selves. When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) recognizes his future self (Bruce Willis) as his victim, he hesitates and lets him escape.

Looper is one of those sci-fi movies that I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to watch over and over again. It’s got a great story, awesome cast and pretty cinematography visuals. I was expecting it to be a little bit more twisty, even though I’m already struggling with getting the timelines straight in my head. It makes sense… I think… more twistiness would have only complicated it more.

I loved the visual style of Looper. In the first half of the movie, they show a gritty, yet stylish picture of the future. I quite liked that a lot of the future felt grounded in reality; time travel aside, the world of Looper seems plausible. I also like how subtle the use of prosthetics was to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like Bruce Willis; it’s only when they were sitting opposite each other that I noticed it.

I’m very tempted to see Looper again in the cinema, especially cause the director (Rian Johnson) has released a theatrical commentary track that you can download on Soundcloud. Have you seen Looper yet? What did you think of it?

Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks is not your typical movie. It’s also not easy to pinpoint which genre it is. It’s part romantic comedy, part drama, with a pinch of fantasy. If I had to compare it to something, think Stranger Than Fiction meets 500 Days of Summer.

Calvin is a 20-something writer who wrote his first and only successful novel as a teen. For years people have wanted to see his second book, but Calvin has been struggling with writer’s block. Finally he breaks through it by creating a character he can’t stop writing about: Ruby Sparks. One week later Ruby appears in his house; breathing, walking, talking and claiming to be his girlfriend…

I loved Ruby Sparks. It’s a unique combination of romance and weirdness. Calvin creates this girl who should be perfect for him, but then notices all these little flaws and realizes he has the power to change her. Ruby is his creation. It takes the concept of being able to change something about the person you’re dating to a whole other level. What would you do if you had that type of power?

I also liked how it didn’t try to explain how and why everything was happening. I think it would have felt cheesy very quickly if they did, and it didn’t feel as if the movie needed it. I like how it all remained unexplainable and yet acceptable.

Both Looper and Ruby Sparks are currently in cinemas. Will you go see them? Have you seen them yet? Let me know below in the comments what you thought of them!

Wow, I can’t believe we’re already halfway through the year! I haven’t been that great with reviews the past few months though, so I thought I’d catch up at the halfway mark covering all the things I’ve watched/played/read but hadn’t had time to blog about. In the next days I’l be posting the different mini reviews for movies, games and books!

The Cabin in The Woods

If you haven’t seen Cabin In The Woods yet, go and watch it when you can (the DVD is out on September 24th). It’s a horror about a bunch of college students who drive out for a vacation to a remote cabin in the woods (obviously). It’s co-written and produced by Joss Whedon, so it’s not your typical horror movie. It was shot in 2009 and then got stuck in limbo for 2 years, and it’s funny watching some actors we now know before they were popular (Chris Hemsworth from Thor and The Avengers, Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy). I really enjoyed it and it’s definitely in my Top 5 of this year so far.

Men In Black 3

I still can’t quite believe that the first Men In Black came out when I was 13… that’s more than half my lifetime ago. I loved that first movie though and it was great to see the characters return to our screens. This time around K (Will Smith) has to travel back in time to save his partner J (Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin as his younger version) from the evil alien Boris (Jemaine Clemant). Even though the time travel doesn’t completely make sense (but let’s face it: when do movies ever get time travel right?), it’s a fun story with a couple of entertaining actions scenes.

Snow White and The Huntsman

I should have known what I was getting into with this movie, when I found out one of the tag lines for it was “From the producers of Alice In Wonderland”. I feel quite similar to Snow White and The Huntsman as I did with that movie. Visually it’s gorgeous: the set design, the costume design and the awesome special effects, it all creates a magical and slightly creepy world. Plot wise though it’s lacking emotion; you never get to connect and feel for any of the major characters. With the movie being called Snow White and The Huntsman I was expecting for it to, you know, actually be about these two central characters, about their relationship and their journey. Instead their relationship never amounts to anything satisfying or meaningful.

The Avengers

I’ve been waiting for this movie for 4 years and it’s lived up to its high expectations! The Avengers is a great action-filled movie finally uniting the Marvel movie superheroes from the last few years: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and The Hulk. It was great to finally see them working as a team, and the action scenes really highlighted each of their skills and how they could be combined. I wasn’t expecting there to be so much funny dialogue though, but with Joss Whedon writing/directing I should have seen that coming; there are so many great one-liners, I was laughing throughout most of the movie!

Battleship

Ehm, yeah… before you start, let me explain myself: I’ve got a Cineworld pass. I was already at the cinema having watched Cabin In The Woods and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and thought: why not? And it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, the acting sucks. And the story doesn’t make sense at all. And the characters aren’t likeable at all. Hmm, it doesn’t have a lot going for it, I’ll admit. However I really liked most of the action scenes with the battleship sequences and ship maneuvers, and for me that was fun though to sit through the rest of the movie.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

I finally got around to seeing this documentary last week. It’s a look behind the scenes of the Jim Henson studio, specifically about the guy who “created” Elmo, Kevin Clash. I grew up with Sesame Street and all the other Jim Henson TV shows and movies, but I was young enough to never know that Elmo wasn’t originally part of the main puppets. Elmo was never one of my favourite characters; in fact after my ex Spanish housemates decided to get a Tickle-Me-Elmo (and would play with it for HOURS and giggle in the most annoying way) I really started disliking the character. The documentary really shows the story behind Kevin Clash’s journey into puppetry and made me appreciate Elmo in a way I hadn’t before.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

This was a cute little movie about a salmon expert (Ewan McGregor) who gets hired by consultant (Emily Blunt) to help a sheikh fulfill his vision to introduce salmon to the desert country of Yemen. I’d sort of describe it as a romantic comedy-drama; it doesn’t have all the usual cheesy romantic comedy suspects, plus it also has its serious dramatic moments.

The Hunger Games

I read and loved the books (well, I loved the first one, the rest were a bit meh), so I was curious to see what they would do with the movie. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what the movie is about, think Battle Royale meets American Idol: a reality tv show about teenagers fighting to the death. It’s been done before, but the unique thing in The Hunger Games was how you get to see (== read) Katniss’s ideas and thoughts on how to survive and how she needs to manipulate people. I thought it was going to be tricky to express those emotions and motivations on screen, but I think they succeeded quite well in that. Katniss is such a complex character and it was great seeing Jennifer Lawrence in that role.

Fright Night

If it wasn’t for David Tennant, I don’t think I would have given this movie a chance. But he’s in here as the over-the-top stage musician Peter Vincent who helps teenager Charley (Anton Yelchin) deal with his vampire neighbour (Colin Farrell). It’s cheesy as hell, but, hey, it’s got a shirtless David Tennant, what more do you want?

The Muppets

As I said above, I grew up with all the things that came out of the Jim Henson studio. My absolute favourites still remain Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, although The Muppet movies all come a joint third behind those. I was really happy to see them bring back The Muppets this year and I enjoyed most of it. Our protagonist is a new muppet character Walter and he basically represents all the muppet fans: he’s the ultimate muppet fan and wants to see The Muppets all together again, performing as they used to. The Muppets have all gone their separate ways and it’s both funny and depressing to see where some of them end up. I also loved the new and the old songs they performed in here. What I thought didn’t work though were the human characters; I normally love Jason Segal and Amy Adams, but I didn’t like their characters at all and I thought their story didn’t contribute much to the overall movie.

Attack The Block

I finally got to see this movie a few weeks ago and it’s so much fun. Set on a council estate in London, it follows a bunch of kids in a street gang who need to defend their “block” from aliens. I liked the design of the creepy aliens (even though I’m pretty sure they used adapted gorilla suits, which makes them slightly less creepy); they’re not your usual movie aliens. The story is a bit simple, but it’s definitely quite enjoying to watch.

 

The stage musical version of Rock of Ages holds a special place in my heart; I got to see it the day after my final thesis presentation, a day which I had been preparing for and anticipating for months. For me, that day was one day of no stress, no worries and no problems (that all ended again that evening when my cats knocked over a glass of water over my laptop… hello again, stress, worries and problems). Rock of Ages was the prefect musical to go watch; it’s hilarious, sing-a-long-able and so over-the-top silly. Sadly the movie version is lacking a lot of what made the stage version so great.

Rock of Ages is about small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) who moves to L.A. to become a singer. After getting robbed the moment she arrives, she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a fellow wanna-be singer, who works at The Bourbon Room, a popular night club. Drew helps Sherrie to convince his bosses, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand), to give her a job as a waitress. Dennis and Lonny are preparing the club for rockband Arsenal’s last performance, hoping that the popularity of its lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) will help them save the club from unpaid taxes. Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Whitman (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Patricia Whitman (Catherine Zeta-Jones) want to clean up the city and shut the Bourbon Room down.

As you already might suspect, I can’t review this movie without considering and comparing it to the stage musical (just as you would also compare a movie based on a book with its source material). I loved the stage version too much to completely ignore it here, and the movie is quite disappointing when you know what it was based on.

My main disappointment with Rock of Ages is how funny it is. The stage version is so hilariously funny, and almost ALL those jokes have been removed. And replaced with a monkey. I think I laughed maybe once or twice, while with the stage one I was laughing constantly. The stage Rock of Ages was very tongue-in-cheek and made a lot of fun about the fact that it was a musical. The movie version sometimes reaches that tongue-in-cheekness, but still takes itself too seriously, especially with how it deals with the budding romance between Drew and Sherrie.

The movie also replaces the main two villains. In the stage version it’s German father and son architects, Frantz and Hertz, who have to deal with protester, Regina (who has been completely left out of the movie). In the movie version, it’s the mayor and his wife. I can understand why they rewrote this, but for me it just somehow didn’t work. By adding them, they also had to shift around some of their songs, which now completely don’t make sense. Especially Hit Me With Your Best Shot, which normally is sung by Frantz to his father, is now sung by the mayor’s wife to… I’m not really sure, a portrait of Stacee Jaxx?

That’s not the only song that doesn’t work. A lot of the songs are taken out of the context they had in the stage version, making them feel almost randomly chosen. The one I’m most annoyed about is Don’t Stop Believing. In the movie version, it’s the song that Drew is writing about Sherrie and early on in the movie you already hear snippets of it before it’s grand finale (of course). It’s overused and done before. The stage version knows that though and practically makes fun of it. Throughout the musical little hints are given that the song is about to come, and when it finally does you realize they’ve been dropping breadcrumbs the entire time, adapting the characters to the song (for instance, Drew each time mentions he’s from Detroit, Michigan and when that line is finally sung, they also stick “Michigan” behind it). Another good example is the opening song “Sister Christian”: why the hell in the movie is that sung by the entire bus? In the stage musical, it’s sung by Sherrie and her parents, whose last name is btw Christian… then the lyrics make waaaay more sense. I was also disappointed that they cut the longer versions of “We Built This City” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”; those were two of my favourites!

Acting and singing wise I wasn’t disappointed. Even the actors that usually don’t sing, didn’t completely embarrass themselves in that awkward Pierce Brosnan way. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are great as our two leads, and they handle the songs great. I just wish their on-screen romance was a bit more over-the-top like in the stage version. That’s mainly though cause there Lonny is constantly narrating it and telling us about their troubles. Lonny has the most awesome one-liners and I wish they had expanded Russell Brand’s role to give us the Lonny from the stage version. Alec Baldwin is okayish as the ageing club-owner, but I feel as if he wasn’t the best person for the role. I loved Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, and while his singing isn’t the best of the cast, it’s much better than what I expected from him. Stacee Jaxx’s character and storyline is much more likable than in the stage version, but I guess that was to be expected with Tom Cruise producing this.

In short, my review is: if you can see the stage musical, go see it cause it’s so much funnier than the movie (you can find tickets here). The movie is enjoyable, and the songs are great, but they just don’t make as much sense as in the stage version. It’s still a lot of fun though, I just wish it had been better.

It’s been 5 days since I saw Prometheus at the IMAX and a part of me can’t stop thinking about it. Prometheus is one of those movies where the opinions seem to be quite diverse, and I thought I should jump in with my take on the movie. This will be one of my split reviews where I first give a spoiler-free review and after a big enough warning sign go into some more detail.

If you’ve seen my blog posts from the past month, you’ll know that I only saw Alien and Aliens for the first time a couple of weeks ago… They’re just movies I somehow never got around to seeing, and I’m glad I finally did. I loved Aliens, but I’m not as a massive fan as some people I know, mainly cause I haven’t had as much time to invest into it as some.

Prometheus is a sort of prequel to the Alien franchise, set 30 years earlier, but in the same universe. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are archeologists who uncover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, which leads them to the unexplored moon LV-223. Joining them on their mission are David (Michael Fassbender), an android, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a Weyland Corporation employee sent to oversee their mission, and a bunch of scientists (I just *love* writing plot summaries, I’m so good at it).

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing Prometheus is how drop dead gorgeous it is. It’s got some of the most stunning visuals I’ve seen this year, and it looks awesome seeing it on a huge IMAX screen (I had a lot of problems with the 3D though, but I think that was more of a problem with my contact lenses). Everything seems so well designed and looks sleek and suitably sci-fi-y; the interior of the space ships, the space suits, nothing looks out of place (well, almost nothing. The one thing that ruined it a bit for me and jerked me back to reality was seeing my own kitchen tools in the background in one of the scenes.)

I think the weakest part of the movie is its plot. I won’t go into too much detail here (read on after the spoiler warning for more), but it’s not the smart, intelligent sci-fi movie that I was hoping for. Half of the story feels predictable, the other half feels contrived; there are some plot jumps that depend on stupid character decisions that feel forced. Prometheus does raise some interesting, worth-thinking-about issues, but I just wish it dealt with them a bit better.

Noomi Rapace is great as Shaw, bringing the right balance of a strong yet vulnerable woman. There are parts of her character that I didn’t like, but that’s got more to do with the plot than with her acting. I constantly had a feeling there was more depth in her character that we didn’t get to see. I feel pretty similar about Charlize Theron’s character. She’s great as the bitchy ice queen, but I can’t help but think they could have delved much more into her background. The highlight of the movie though is Michael Fassbender. He’s awesome as the android, David, and has some of the best moments in the movie.

Regardless of the weak plot though, I did really enjoy Prometheus. It’s not the sci-fi I was hoping it would be, but it’s still an interesting movie and one that’s worth seeing in the cinema. It’s one of the most gorgeous and well designed movies of recent years. Despite all that’s wrong with Prometheus, it did make me think and I can’t help but like that about this movie.

Scroll down past the photo to hear my spoilery-y thoughts about Prometheus.

Beware! Here Be Spoilers

As I said above I’m not a huge Alien fan, so I’m not as invested in the continuity as some other people might be. In general, I think Prometheus almost did a pretty good job with being a sort of prequel: it’s set in the same universe, on a different planet, with different aliens. And up until that very last scene, it made perfect sense. Showing the Alien in that last scene though kind of ruined it for me. I might be wrong and this might be actually explained in whatever Ridley Scott has planned for a sequel, but how I see it is that they’ve now implied that Aliens are part “weird beige monster”, part Engineer and part human. That would mean that somehow the Alien from Prometheus ends up being on the planet of Alien and Aliens, or there was another combination of monster + Engineer + human. If it wasn’t for that final scene though, I think I would have been perfectly happy with the continuity of Prometheus (I’m open for anyone pointing other stuff out though).

My main gripe with Prometheus is how weak the story is. The more I think about it, the more holes I keep discovering. Not considering the continuity aspect, a lot of the plot seems flimsy and predictable. Shaw’s pregnancy, Weyland being on board the ship, Vickers being Weyland’s daughter; you could see those plot twists coming from a mile away. Which would have been okay if they then had any impact, but each of them get handled in too quick a manner which didn’t feel right.

Besides that the underlying motivations of each character seems off; they all make decisions that don’t follow what we know about them. Why doesn’t Shaw get angry with David about her pregnancy? Some meaningful glances between them show that she clearly knows that he was behind it. Why is Vickers even on the ship? She’s mentions something about not wanting to be stuck in a board room, but wouldn’t it have made more sense if she was forced to be on the ship because of Weyland? And don’t get me started on the so-called “scientists”. They make some of the most idiotic decisions in the movie, jeopardising their own mission. Taking off your helmet in a complete alien environment? Trying to pet a weird worm-like creature? Yes, they’re scientists and they’re supposed to be on a ground-breaking, brave expedition. That doesn’t mean that they should throw caution in the wind and act like complete dumb-asses.

Finally, let’s talk about the “aliens”. I like the whole concept of initially having a virus as the monster, but I never got that claustrophobic, scary feeling that the Alien movies were so good at. It touches on it lightly when Shaw finds out she’s pregnant and tries to operate on herself to remove it, but after that one scene we go back to as it was before (and she seriously recovers that quickly?!? Okay, it’s a super special medical operating device, but that quickly?!?). Viruses are interesting, but that’s mainly when you see how paranoid and scared the characters become when dealing with a virus. In Prometheus it’s mainly the viewer who is aware of the virus and how dangerous it is, but I don’t think that’s enough for it to be truly terrifying.

Then in the last act we also get the Engineer. In theory he sounds scary: here’s one of the creators of mankind and he now wants to destroy us. It’s like finding out your parents want to kill you. And yet… why? It all feels hollow without there being any explanation of why the hell they now want us dead. Also: if this Engineer was “frozen” for the past couple of centuries and this planet was a super secret military base, why didn’t his home planet respond? I understand that this might all be explained in a sequel, but without this explanation the threat of the Engineers feels meaningless.

What did you think of Prometheus? Did you love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments; I’m curious to hear what everyone else thought about it!

It’s Oscar time tonight! If all goes right, I’ll have seen all Best Picture nominees this year; the only one I’m still missing is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the plan is to see that in the cinema this afternoon. Besides the 9 Best Picture nominees I’ve tried to watch as many of the other movies with nominations, but there are still a couple I wish I had the chance to see. I won’t cover all those here though, just the 8 Best Picture noms that I saw.

The Artist

Plot: A silent movie star has to deal with the rise of talkies. Oh, and the movie is actually a silent black-and-white movie too.

I thought this was going to be such a gimmicky movie, and it turned out it was. Only: I don’t care. It’s beautifully shot, has a great (although somewhat predictable) story, and the characters are so likeable. Jean Dujardin is charming as the silent movie star, and Berenice Bejo is so sweet and adorable as the bright young actress. It also made me actually want to watch more old movies!

The Descendants

Plot: Hawaiian guy’s wife is in a coma. Guy finds out about secrets the wife had, while dealing with his kids and his family’s trust of 25,000 acres of land.

I did not like The Descendants. I can sort of see what people like about it, but it just wasn’t a movie for me at all. Yes, George Clooney is great as the troubled guy whose wife is in a coma, but George Clooney is great in almost everything he does. The plot is just slow and boring, and I came out of the movie feeling as if I just wasted two hours of my life.

The Help

Plot: It’s 1960s, Mississippi. A young white woman tries to write a book about the perspective of the black maids working for her friends’ families.

I really like the movies Emma Stone chooses lately. I loved Easy A and Crazy, Stupid, Love, and she’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to The Amazing Spiderman. The trailer makes it seem like she’s the main character (and it makes it look like this is a upbeat cheesy chick flick, which it isn’t) and even though she’s great, this is really Viola Davis’ movie. She’s great as the quiet maid, who decides to share her story with this young optimistic journalist.

Hugo

Plot: The story of an orphaned boy living in a Paris railway station and the mysterious grumpy toy maker who works there.

Hugo is I think one of my favourite movies of last year. It’s so much more than just a kids movie, which I wasn’t expecting. I should have, cause it is Martin Scorsese, but he can be a bit hit-and-miss for me lately (I really didn’t like Shutter Island, and fell asleep during The Departed). The movie is loosely based on some real life events and people, which I didn’t know before going into the movie, but afterwards I spent a couple of hours reading up on the history behind it and it’s a fascinating read.

Midnight In Paris

Plot: During a midnight stroll through Paris, a screenwriter ends up meeting his heroes.

I loved Midnight in Paris! I don’t want to say too much about it and spoil certain stuff (although I’m not sure if it’s really spoiling if it happens that early on in a movie and actually is referred to in most summaries), cause I went into it completely blind and really enjoyed it. It’s just such a quirky and sort of romantic movie.

Moneyball

Plot: Baseball + Maths = Money

This was the movie I was least looking forward to, mainly cause I thought it was just another sports movie. It is, but it’s a sports movie with maths! And it’s very relevant to what I’m working on at the moment: they’re taking large sets of data and discovering useful, valuable patterns.

The Tree of Life

Plot: Let me get back to you on that, I’m still not 100% sure what this was about.

I finished watching this movie last night and I’m still not sure what I thought about it. It’s definitely a gorgeous movie, and for that alone I would recommend seeing it. The first hour though feels like a weird mashup of a nature documentary, a music video without the right music and an artsy stage monologue (“hack-y sack”, bonus points if you get my reference), with lots of “quiet” moments giving you time to reflect on what you just saw. After that first hour it feels a bit more linear, but there’s still that almost pretentious feeling of “this is a deep and profound movie, and you can interpret it however you want”.

War Horse

Plot: Boy meets horsy. WWII. Horsy becomes War Horsy. War Horsy makes friends.

I was really looking forward to this movie; I had heard so many good things about the play it’s based on and was expecting the movie to be great as well. There are apparently some people out there who thought this movie was great (otherwise it wouldn’t have been nominated), but I wasn’t that impressed by it. The entire first act with the boy and horse felt too sentimental, and we’re constantly told how “special” this horse is (without the horse having done anything yet). I did like most of the almost stand-alone type stories in the second act, even though they continue the “he’s a special horse” spiel. I didn’t completely hate the movie, but it just felt too soppy.

As regular readers here will know, I’m a huge Disney fan. I love the “golden era” Disney movies; I’m not sure whether I should admit this, but I can sing along to a scary amount of Disney songs. I’ve been so excited since Disney returned to doing musicals. For me, it hasn’t really mattered whether it’s CGI vs hand-drawn (or even live action, to be honest), or fairytale vs non-fairytale; what I want are sing-alongable songs and pretty scores.

While I loved Enchanted, I wasn’t that impressed with The Princess and The Frog, mainly because I didn’t like the music. So I had been curious to see how that would turn out with Tangled; which way would it go?

Tangled takes the tale of Rapunzel, but adds a whole new extra back story, new characters and magical hair. As a child Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is kidnapped by an old woman (Donna Murphy) who needs Rapunzel’s magical healing hair to keep her young and immortal. Her “mother” keeps her locked away in a tower, telling her it’s for her own good and that the world is too scary and dangerous a place for someone like her. But when a dashing bandit, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), discovers Rapunzel and her tower, she demands to be shown the outside world.

I got to see Tangled two months ago, and ever since seeing it I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack! You’ve got all the usual suspects: the cheerful opening song (When Will My Life Begin), the evil villain song (Mother Knows Best), the side character song (I’ve Got A Dream) and the love song (I See The Light). I was initially a bit underwhelmed by When Will My Life Begin and Mother Knows Best, but after listening to them more, I actually really like them. The other two (I’ve Got A Dream and I See The Light) I loved the moment I heard/saw them in the cinema. Although the scene for I See The Light with its lanterns makes it difficult not to love that song; it’s just so fitting and romantic.

And that brings us to the CGI and the 3D. The lantern scene is gorgeous, and the prettiest use of 3D I’ve seen so far. I was expecting to miss the hand drawn animation, but the CGI in Tangled is great. It somehow was very reminiscent of hand drawn animation, with the characters having the same vibe as hand drawn ones (read Bleeding Cool’s interview with Glen Keane, he’s had a lot to do with that).

I also love the relationship between the two main characters. In most Disney movies you’ll find a strong lead character and a weaker less-prominent love interest. With Tangled, both Rapunzel and Flynn get time to grow and they’re both equally strong characters. Rapunzel is sweet, yet one of the feistiest Disney princesses. I think she’s my second favourite princess so far (with bookworm Belle being still #1). Flynn is great as the swashbuckling rogue, although I can’t really say much more about this character without spoiling the story.

Mother Gothel isn’t the scariest villain, but definitely the most manipulative one (although Jafar comes close behind). Pretending to be Rapunzel’s mother and basically guilt-tripping her into staying in a locked tower, Gothel is a twisted portayal of the over-protective mother. Finally I’ve got to mention the horse Maximus. Maximus has some of the funniest moments in the movie, even though he acts more like a dog than a horse.

Tangled was everything I was hoping it would be. It’s got a sweet story, two strong main characters, adorable and funny sidekicks, catchy songs and gorgeous visuals. I really want Disney to do more musicals, cause they’re just so much fun!

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