Don't be put off by my title: there is nothing sinister here chaps!! Indeed, with my general 'bloggings' I shall attempt to delight and astound you out of the mundaneness of a middle class suburban life, into the magical world of the Sophster!! Mystical...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Sophie's Film Choice #4: BRAVE

'Fate be changed, look inside. Mend the bond torn by Pride.'

When I first heard about Pixar's latest venture, 'Brave', I was very undecided. My reasons are three fold:

Aww. But your face IS out of proportion.
1. After just recovering from the emotional trauma of  'Toy Story 3' (seriously, take care of your toys Andy!) I could not imagine that a story surrounding actual human beings could connect to me on the same emotional level. As a super- fan of the company, I have always admired the artistry, humour and detail which makes Pixar films so captivating; but the representation of people (not monsters, robots, rats, or bugs) has always seemed problematic. Don't get me wrong, Boo in 'Monsters Inc.' was very cute; but not quite human. Edna Mole in 'The Incredibles' was hilarious; but not quite human.

2. It's about Scotland. And therefore Scottish people. With Scottish accents. And therefore they must be ginger and say 'wee' a lot and  have the token voice acting of Billy Connelly. The American (and particularly the 'Disney') perception of the British Isles has always been, at best, superficial, and the premise of this film seemed to crystallise this stereotypical view of kilt- wearing, dishevelled Scots.

3. The plot was kept extremely elusive and potentially tired. 'If you could change your destiny, would you?' That could probably be the tag line to about 40% of Hollywood films. I'm gonna answer 'no' just to be difficult and original. Anyway, given the image of a princess, riding on a horse, changing her destiny is all very middle- of - the - road 'Disney.'

However, I live by the famous mantra 'Pixar is holy and I will be cursed if I don't enjoy it' and so I found myself still super- excited to see it with my mum at the cinema.

FORGET ALL THAT SHPEEL I JUST SAID AND GO AND SEE IT. It's beautiful and so much more than it appears.

The film should firstly be congratulated on its visual merit. The scenery is so delicately animated and the colours and use of light so perfect that I am sure I would still enjoy 'Brave' in mute. But I suppose that is a given from 'Pixar' nowadays. Secondly the animation of the characters themselves was actually effective. I didn't feel the barrier that I usually would when humans are introduced into the aesthetic, as the main characters (particularly Merida and Queen Elinor) are well- crafted and three dimensional (both in terms of animation and emotional depth hahaha I did a funny.)

The mother- daughter relationship explored in 'Brave' is really what made the film stand out to me as one of my new favourite 'Pixar' films. Queen Elinor, voiced by the always heart warming Emma Thompson, is a woman battling with her responsibilities to maintain her daughter's reputation and keep her respect and love. Merida is a well- observed teenager; frustrated, trapped, and losing sight of the gratitude and affection her mother deserves. The relationship between the two is believable and poignant. Throw a hagged old witch and some terrifying bear chasing into the mix and we are on to a winner.
'Just tell me how you get your hair so curly!'

I don't want to spend hours detailing the pros and cons of the plot, and everything I found charming about this film because I think it should be enjoyed with wonder the first time. However, I will guarantee the wry and subtle humour already displayed by the geniuses at 'Pixar', combined with some slapstick of course (well, it is Scotland after all). There are moments of genuine fear (think barracuda attack at the beginning of 'Finding Nemo' x100), magical visuals and those moments where you get that lump in the back of your throat; well, me and the mother were sobbing uncontrollably, but I would imagine others may have more pride. It was bloody sad though. Bring some tissues.

A surprise 'Pixar' masterpiece, I would recommend 'Brave' to families worldwide, a lovely film which combines 'Disney' magic with very real and resonating human feeling. Och aye, it's a cracker!

PS. Apologies that some of the pictures stick out into the margin. I didn't have the heart to crop them.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sophie's Film Choice #3: THE AMAZING SPIDER- MAN

After the last Spider- Man trilogy ended, we didn't think our spidey senses would ever tingle again. Surely enough webs had been slung, walls climbed, and girls awkwardly chatted up to last us a lifetime. It must have seemed the final nail in the coffin when he wasn't even invited to join The Avengers.  
'I think we finally lost him!'
How shocked we were, then, when after 5 years off the radar, our arachnid friend came forth on to our cinema screens, decidedly cooler and better looking than before! (We can only assume Iron Man gave him some pointers). 

Whilst Sam Raimi's trilogy had its exciting, tense and humorous moments (who can forget Toby Maguire's bizarre emo phase?), the whole aesthetic seems a little cumbersome and cheesy when compared with Marc Webb's refreshingly less obvious approach. 

To begin with, casting Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as the two leads makes the film appeal to both British and American audiences, and gives a sense of youthfulness and credibility. 
'I think my gel is sticking us together. Awk.'
Garfield impresses with his fresh portrayal of Peter Parker; he subtly swaps Maguire's gawky, downright cringeworthy awkwardness with a natural teenage self- consciousness, whilst his reckless and confident attitude allows for his choices to be believable. Whilst maintaining a convincing American accent, his main strength, I think we all agree, is to maintain his voluminous hair whilst rapidly whipping that mask on and off.
Stone complements Garfield's Spider- Man with her characterisation of Gwen Stacey; combining sophistication and naivety, she is an unusually relatable female figure in the Marvel world. And she wears lots of short skirt/ long boot combos so there's something for the LADS.

As for the nemesis, Rhys Ifans gives a sinister and complex performance as Dr. Curt Connors, a character connected to Peter in his involvement in the mystery of his past, as well as undergoing a similar transformation. Except rather than becoming a bit stronger, he becomes more than a bit reptilian. Bad luck!

'I think I took the steroids too far.'
 Marc Webb should be applauded for balancing the larger- than- life aspects of the comic- book genre (a collapsing bridge and a giant talking lizard being necessary elements) with convincing relationships and quirky humour that he has carried forward from his previous films like '(500) Days of Summer'. The story is clearly structured, accessible, and visually appealing, without throwing too much at us at once; one hero and one villain is enough to create empathy in an audience (and a full- on fight in a library is always fun).
'The Amazing Spider- Man is a fast- paced, well crafted and entertaining film; the simplicity of the plot allows for strong characters that we care about, and tense action scenes, which is really what Marvel is all about.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Sophie's Film Choice #2: ROCK OF AGES

Oh god... I've had Guns 'n' Roses songs stuck in my head, and the image of Tom Cruise's aging abdomen scarred on to my retinas for the past 16 hours. What happened last night?? Oh wait...


A case example of the gratuitous tongue exposure which overrides the film. *Sigh.*

The obvious and apparently most logical consequence of dad being out on Fathers Day, it was a female Hart family trip to see the ridiculously... ridiculous 'Rock of Ages' on the cards. 

Well, within the first two minutes of the spontaneous- sing- along- on- a- bus- where- everyone- knows- the- words, our suspicions were confirmed; this would be JOYOUS. And completely void of any real human emotion. (But JOYOUS, remember).

A film which I can best describe as 'Wayne's World' meets 'Glee' (a certain rendition of a certain 'Journey' song is certainly predictable), 'Rock of Ages' was undeniably entertaining, whilst being slightly confused as to its audience. With a soundtrack featuring songs from Bon Jovi, Guns 'n' Roses, Whitesnake, Extreme, and Boston, just to name a few, the film takes a celebratory yet tongue- in- cheek view at the glamour of 1980's power- rock culture; Tom Cruise's character, Stacee Jaxx, epitomizes this parodic trope, creating some genuinely funny moments as he writhes around the stage and generally repulses everyone with his inexplicably indecent effect on the on-screen female ensemble.

'I beat him to death with his own shoes...'
Performances from Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin are similarly hyperbolic and two- dimensional, with Brands (we hope on purpose) cockney/ brummy accent being reminiscent of Del Preston from 'Wayne's World 2'. 

However, the success this film might have had in the 'spoof-rock' genre is severely undermined through its insistence on the cheesy, Ben Elton- esque 'love' story which is supposed to hold the whole thing together. 

The premise of a 'small town girl' and a 'city boy' finding romance in the dream- filled world of LA already makes me want to vom. To find out that the lead female role is played by Julianne Hough, whom, after watching her performance in 'Footloose', I wanted to slap in the face and send to a nunnery, turned my feelings from nausea to fear of harming those around me. 

Thankfully, this panic soon subsided as we were presented with a diluted, unmemorable love story which is easy to ignore. Both Hough and Diego Boneta (formerly starring in 'Mean Girls 2'... enough said) were bland and unlikeable. I mean, who cares if he sells out to a boy band and she has to walk the streets and become a stripper? WE WANT A SONG. At times, I wanted to re- title the film 'Rock that lasts Ages'; long tings indeed. 

However, despite a predictable plot and some unnecessary leg- kicking from Catherine Zeta- Jones, it was an enjoyable experience, and did re- kindle my love for the old classics. Go and see if you love the cheese, stay away if you have an ounce of integrity/ fear indecent exposure. (Why the leather chaps, Tom, WHY?!)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Sophie's Film Choice #1: PROMETHEUS

Imagine the scene. Midnight. The quiet of empty streets, the ghosts of the hustle and bustle of daily life still in the atmosphere.
Unexpected road diversions. The Hatfield Galleria car park being mostly empty, and.... most unusually.... free. Something is amiss.
It can only be the opening night of 'Prometheus: this time with MORE mucous' (tagline optional).

A prequel to Ridley Scott's 'Alien' franchise (of which I have yet to watch any of the others, and now fully intend to) 'Prometheus' stands well on its own as a tension- filled, imaginative and shockingly slimy masterpiece, detailing a group of scientists who travel to an alien universe to discover their 'makers': hilarity ensues. Well, not really hilarity, and much as death, mortal fear and invasive surgery (you might find that funny I suppose, whatever floats yer boat).

'Phew. I will never complain about the bleep test again.'
Noomi Rapace gives an excellent performance as Elizabeth Shaw, an enthusiastic and resilient doctor with EXTREMELY admirable survival instincts. I found myself watching her and thinking 'Wow. You still aren't dying. Surely it's less effort just to die.' (good job she isn't like me, or the theoretical mankind would be screwed).

I was equally impressed with the unsettling and mildly comic portrayal of 'David', played by the beloved Michael Fassbender. 'The Fass' (as I'm sure he would like to be known) really acts as a catalyst for events, a walking disaster zone who invites all kinds of gooey, teethy creatures to get  'stuck in' to his shipmates. It's not his fault though, because there's something about 'David' that isn't all there.  And a LOT that isn't all there at the end. (In joke which you will only understand having watched it: watch it!)

Despite the clearly 'cast for Scottish accent' appearance of Kate Dickie, and some extremely questionable 'old person' prosthetics,  I was impressed and entertained throughout, by strong performances and harrowing visuals. And I resisted ripping off my 3D glasses in panic, of which I am most proud.
Fassbender admires his groomed appearance in a reflective orb. FRESH.

A mesmorisingly apocalyptic landscape, visually inventive futuristic equipment, and truly terrifying predators make this film an exciting experience for fans of the franchise, and any lovers of a good science- fiction, horror, or action film.

WARNING: If you have sensitive gag reflexes, you may want to bring a paper bag. Seriously.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sophie's Choice: Reborn

No, I am not in the middle of creating a new action sci- fi extravaganza detailing my evolution from human to super robot bloginator.

(I did a silly, forgot my login details, and so have sheepishly restarted my blog, replicating it almost exactly in the hope that no- one will notice.)


..... on another note, it's summer time! :D

Inspired by the Fresh Prince, and his 'Jazzy' accomplice, I will endeavor to spend  'every moment' of my summer 'frontin and maxin': Snorby style (much like how they do it in Philly, except replace BBQs with cake- baking, pool parties with playing Scrabble, and cruisin' around with having a cheeky nap).

I may even write my own definition of 'summer madness', in a gangster- rap style. Keep your eyes peeled.

Catch you on the flipside, and keep it real,

S- dawg xxx