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The Untouchables is Brian De Palma's 1987 film set in prohibition-era Chicago. The villain is the legendary Al Capone (Robert De Niro) who ran the city with his bootlegged alcohol and fierce henchmen. The heroes are 'The Untouchables', a group of special agents put together by Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), a federal agent who steps up and vows to take down Capone after a collection went wrong and a 10 year old girl is killed in an explosion. He recruits Jim Malone (Sean Connery) a veteran cop who is happy walking the beat every day just to stay alive, George Stone (Andy Garcia) a rookie from the academy who is yet to be tainted by Chicago and wants nothing more than to be a good honest cop and Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) an accountant from Washington whose idea is to put Capone behind bars by getting him on tax evasion. Together the four of them set out on a mission to take down Capone and his army that run the streets, the police and even the Mayor's office. General consensus is that The Untouchables is a masterpiece in film making. De Palma has often dealt with similar subjects and here he aims to bring together a great group of actors and let them do the talking. He directs the actors well enough. The film is set against a pretty simple and ordain Chicago and so the actors have to bring the setting and atmosphere to life. De Palma's direction allows them to do a pretty good job although it does seem pretty flat at times and their are times when the film loses that precarious atmosphere and their are only a few rare occasions when the dangers 'The Untouchables' face in a city run by criminals is really brought to life. The action sequences are typically good as you would expect but overall there is something lacking in the direction of this particular De Palma film. Sean Connery and Robert De Niro are two of the biggest names is film and two people you instantly link to brilliant on-screen performances. Here De Niro's screen time is limited and his potryal of Capone isn't as strong as you would expect from an actor of his pedigree, Martin Scorsese said that De Niro worked best under his direction and The Untouchables is a film that backs up that statement, his performance seems to lack passion and real enthusiasm, when compared to the roles he played in the likes of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, it is a decent performance but I have come to expect a lot from someone of De Niro's talents. Sean Connery is good, his portrayal of the veteran cop Mahone is pretty good, he does what you'd expect as an old-timer who has had to resort to walking the beat just to keep his head above the ground. Kevin Costner's performance as Eliot Ness is most definitely the stand out performance, he plays the role passionately and is pretty convincing. The support from Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith is also pretty strong and does add invaluable quality to the film. Another element of this film that frustrated me was the soundtrack by Enrico Morricone. It was hit and miss throughout the entire film. At times it built up the sense of oncoming danger or intensity brilliantly, but at others it would tale off and bring the whole atmospheric build up crashing down. I would have to say having gone into this film with massive expectations I have come away disappointed. It is very hit and miss and certainly doesn't live up to it's name as a masterpiece. However, I would still recommend giving it a watch it is after all a pretty entertaining film with an amazing climax.
The Man Who Wasn't there is a 2001 film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It is set in 1949 and was largely inspired by a poster the Coen's saw whilst filming their 1994 film The Hudsucker Proxy, which pictured a number of haircuts popular in the 1940's. The film is largely set in and around Santa Rosa, California and follows Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) a hairdresser, a business which he married into, the hairdresser he works in is owned by his brother-in-law Frank (Michael Badalucco). His wife Doris Crane (Frances McDormand) works as a book keeper for a department store managed by 'Big' Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini). One day at work a businessman, Creighton Tolliver (Jon Polito), tells Ed about a plan he has to launch a business using a new technology known as dry cleaning, he tells him that he needs a $10,000 investment to get the business up and running and that a local business man has decided doesn't want to invest. Ed becomes interested and quickly devises a plan to raise the $10,000 Creighton needs. The characters are magnificent and Ed Crane could quite possibly be my favourite film character of all time. He is a man of few words, a man who seems to have everything you would want from life, except he is bored and doesn't like what he has. His wife Doris hopes she will one day get to run her own department store and is doing all she can to make that dream a reality. 'Big' Dave Brewster is another brilliant character; he is loud, boisterous and is always bragging about his exploits as an infantry trooper in World War II. The plot of the film is superb and the Coen's manage to weave something that you are never sure will hold together. The plot twists and turns and you never really no where it is going next. It is a brilliant script, the plot barely holds together at times and it is this uncertainty that makes for such enjoyable viewing, it seems as if everything is going to fall apart at any given moment. The dialogue is also brilliant; the narration from Ed Crane sets the scene perfectly from beginning to end. It is script filled with traits typical of any Coen film, sharp dialogue along with some irony and an over use of language. This film also contains the Coen's own brand of dark humour it is witty and very clever and it all makes for something pretty special. The direction, as always, is brilliant. The film is in black and white as the Coen's intended, although it was shot in colour to fulfil some contractual obligations and then processed in black and white. The Coen's unique style suits this film perfectly and their collaboration with long time cinematographer Roger Deakins really pays off in, even more so than the likes of O Brother Where Art Thou? in my opinion. It looks magnificent. The film stars a few Coen regulars in Frances McDormand, Jon Polito and Michael Badalucco, and all three give good performances, McDormand as usual is very solid and plays her role pretty confidently. Polito is also good but from the three regulars Badalucco gives a great performance as Frank, the hairdresser who talks too much. Billy Bob Thornton in the lead as Ed Crane is brilliant, he grasps the minimalist nature of the role and runs with it, and he gives an outstanding performance. Finally, Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini is great as 'Big' Dave and gives us another solid performance. This film is great, it looks amazing, the plot is brilliant, the characters are superb and the actors all do an outstanding job. The ending is another particularly pleasing aspect of the film and is, like the rest of the story, very hard to see coming. There are barely any negative aspects to mention. This is without a doubt the best Coen film I have seen up to this point and I would highly recommend it to anybody whether you're a fan of the Coen's work or not.
My second venture into the works of Hiyao Miyazaki comes in the form of Princess Mononoke. After being blown away by Spirited Away my expectations were high. The film is the third highest grossing anime film of all time only behind two other Miyazaki works Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle which is a great testament to the visionary filmmaker. Princess Mononoke follows the story of Ashitaka, the last remaining Emishi prince. When his village comes under attack by the great demon boar, Nago, the demon touches Ashitaka wounding him. Ashitaka is told by the village wise woman that the wound is cursed and will eventually spread to the rest of his body and kill him. Ashitaka then resolves to head to the land in which the beast came from in a bid to find a cure for his curse. So Ashitaka heads for the great land of the west in search of the great Forest Spirit. The story itself has a massive scope, the sheer size of Ashitaka's journey could easily be compared to Sam and Frodo's journey to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, although the film doesn't reach the size and scope of The Lord of the Rings, it can still easily be described as an epic. The characters within the film are all great, and unlike Spirited Away they are all well developed and play a pivotal role in the advancement of the plot. The characters are all well rounded and very interesting. Ashitaka is a very brave person, which becomes obvious right from the start when he battles with the demon boar. Later in the film he meets a variety of other characters the first being Jigo, who advises to him to head to the great forest of the west, but Jigo has plans of his own concerning the great forest. He also meets Lady Eboshi, the leader of Irontown, she is an evil woman who builds fire wielding weapons to battle with the creatures of the forest. Eventually, Ashitaka comes upon San known by the people of Irontown as the wolf girl, she is probably my favourite character, and she is also very brave and will do anything to protect the forest and her wolf family. Among these human characters there is also a variety of animals that play a huge role in the story, from the wolf god Moro to the Boar god Okkoto and you can't forget Ashitaka's valiant red elk Yakul. Some of the forest creatures understand the human language and in turn can speak in the human language; it is a necessary touch and as the creatures are god's you would expect this. However, for me it was the most unconvincing parts of the film. Still it allows the story to flow and is probably the only aspect of the film that I wasn't entirely convinced by. The film itself looks great the animation is a little less than perfect. It is a style of animation I had rarely encountered before Spirited Away but I love it. The creatures all look great and the landscapes look beautiful and breathtaking. Again similarly to Spirited Away, anything involving the smaller creatures looks great, here it is the small forest creatures called Kodama that particularly impressed me. The voice work in the English version is predictably good, with some big names involved as you would expect. Billy Crudup and Claire Danes voice our two main characters Ashitaka and San and they both do a great job at capturing the emotions of the character. Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson and John DiMaggio also star and they all do a great job of portraying their characters. The soundtrack is also amazing; it allows us further to access to the atmosphere that Miyazaki wanted to create, the hostility between the gods and the humans and the growing fondness between Ashitaka and San. It is a mystical and wonderful soundtrack and is definitely one of the biggest highlights throughout the film. Princess Mononoke is a truly great achievement for Hiyao Miyazaki and probably just edges my only other previous experience, Sprited Away, as the better film. I will certainly be venturing further into the works of Miyazaki and indeed Studio Ghibli, and I would highly recommend anyone who has yet to see any of these brilliant creations does so very soon.
Over the last twenty years or so the Coen Brothers have constantly given us quality films, from the Academy Award winning Fargo to the odd-ball comedy Raising Arizona, they have proven that they are among the greatest film-makers of our time and O Brother, Where Art Thou? is no exception. It is another great addition to an already outstanding filmography. Very loosely based on Homer's Odyssey the film is set in a depression hit Mississippi in the 1930's and follows three convicts who have escaped from a chain gang and are going in search of $1.2million that Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) claims to have stolen and buried before his incarceration. Followed by two members of the chain gang he was chained to Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar O'Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) they set out across the state encountering all kinds of different characters along the way. Including Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) who they unwittingly form a band with named the Soggy Bottom Boys. Throughout the film you come to like the three escapees McGill is a quick talking 'Dapper Dan' man, he his blessed with the gift of the gab and is the main protagonist in persuading the other two to escape and go in search of the treasure. Pete is a loyal man who believes that you should be true to your kin although he is a violent criminal, he agreed to break out despite only having 2 weeks left of his sentence. Delmar is a well-meaning but very simple minded character, he believes that you aren't a man until you own some land and so plans to spend his share of the treasure on a farm. The dynamic of the three main characters is great, with McGill taking the lead although Pete, who is obviously smarter than he looks, challenges this on a few occasion because since they have been following McGill they have only run into trouble. The three provide a lot of humour particularly Pete, who brilliant facial expressions and general manner hilarious. The characters rub off each other brilliantly though, as Pete and Delmar constantly turn to McGill for answers who delivers them in a dashing manner. Throughout the film the humour remains very clever and it is very subtle, even the most slapstick like jokes seem to flow right with the story and they don't seem ridiculous at all, in particular the scene when Pete disappears and Delmar believes he has turned into a toad. You laugh but because of the nature of the film you don't know whether to believe it or not. Throughout there journey, the three comrades run into numerous characters who are all excellent, the highlight for me, Big Dan (John Goodman) a bible salesman with some off the wall ideas on how to sell a bible or just make money. Tommy Johnson the guitarist in the Soggy Bottom Boys is a young black man who has a run in with the Ku Klux Clan, but he is the one of the main sources that allow us to realise that our three convicts are good people and allow us to empathise with them and really hope they find what they're looking for. Another highlight is the run-in they have with the famous bank robber George Nelson (Michael Badalucco), which again provides some very funny moments. As with the majority of the Coen's films it is extremely well made, it looks superb the colours used are amazing and add to the rustic feel of the film, giving it a sepia tinted look. The direction is also super as you would expect from the Coens and there are some great scenes scattered everywhere throughout the film. The Ku Klux Klan ritual is a particular highlight but the lighting and almost every shot is perfection and give the film a great look. George Clooney as McGill is good, he isn't an actor I particularly like, but here he plays his character well, his fast-talking is brilliant and he does provide some genuinely funny moments. John Turturro is the highlight as Pete, the crazy brutish criminal, his wide eyed look and facial expressions are great, and you never know if he is going to crack. Tim Nelson Blake is also good Delmar, and again provides some genuinely funny moments. There are more good performances from the supporting cast, John Goodman a particular highlight. The script written by the Coens is also great, the film relies on very witty dialogue for most of its humour and it delivers perfectly, there are some great lines in the film, 'Cows! I hate cows worse than coppers!', 'Oh, George... not the livestock', being a great example. The script is sharp and witty and is all in all brilliant. Another key device in this film is the soundtrack, most of which is period-specific folk music. There is also some a capella music including that of the Fairfield Four an a capella quartet, who actually appear toward the end of the film. The soundtrack is great and it does add to the good natured feel of the whole film. Overall I would have to say there isn't much wrong with this effort from the Coens, I would have liked to see more of John Goodman's character but that just wouldn't have been possible. The ending is great, it leaves a little to the imagination of the viewer, something that is constant throughout Coen films and it is great. At times it can be a little difficult to understand what some of the characters are saying, particularly Clooney's fast talking character, but that is the very rarely. This is a definitely up there with my favourite Coen films alongside the likes of No Country for Old Men and Fargo, it is a film I would recommend to anyone. It is very funny and emotive as you will the characters forward and really hope they aren't caught by the law that chases them. I very highly recommend this film and you should definitely see at some point in the very near future if you haven't already.
Martin Scorcese claims that Robert DeNiro saved his life by persuading him to quit his cocaine habit and make Raging Bull. Widely regarded as American film-making legend Scorcese's finest film, it was his fourth collaboration with DeNiro and is undoubtedly a film-making masterpiece. Scorcese believed he may never make another film again and poured all his energies into making Raging Bull, and the result is superb. The film follows Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro) through his boxing career to the end of his fame, as he struggles to control his inner demons. Aided by his well meaning brother and manager Joey LaMotta (Joe Pesci), he struggles as the mafia keep a title fight just out of reach. He then meets Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) after being introduced by Joey and they eventually marry. LaMotta struggles with sexual jealousy as well as struggling to keep his animalistic nature inside the boxing ring. As the film plays, it quickly becomes obvious that LaMotta, who has little faith in his abilities, is a detestable person, but you stick with him throughout. He struggles with his violent side and even with the help of his brother Joey he can't keep the animal inside him inside the boxing ring. Consequently, Vickie is abused because of LaMotta's sexual jealousy and his belief she is in love with other men beside him. It is harrowing to watch, as LaMotta struggles to contain his urges and we see him beat her and shower her with disgusting verbal abuse. It really is an exhausting experience yet you stick with him, as he seeks redemption that only comes in small bursts, which could be related back to director Scorcese's feelings at the time. However, the themes explored in this film, violence, redemption, male insecurity and guilt were all explored in Scorcese's previous works Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. Scorcese's distinct early style is also very evident here; the expressionism he uses to portray a characters state of mind is taken to extreme new levels as he throws everything he has at the film. Filmed in black and white, which only adds to the unsettling effects of the film, it is a monstrous directorial achievement. The boxing scenes are particularly impressive, as the camera looks over a ring covered by smoke, the close ups of LaMotta fighting are also great and they are very convincing. Everything about the direction is great; the awful, gruelling violent scenes where LaMotta hits his wife whilst hurling abuse at her to the scene when LaMotta is locked up, the lighting means we can barely see him as he beats the wall with his bare hands. This is possibly still Scorcese's greatest work but it wouldn't have been anything without the outstanding Robert DeNiro, he plays the role of Jake LaMotta majestically. He excels in what must have been a hard role to play. He portrays a character that is faced with a constant battle against in his inner demons perfectly as he battles with the guilt of what he has done in the past and seeks redemption for his sins. Joe Pesci plays LaMotta's brother and manager Joey brilliantly. A character who struggles to separate his loyalty to the mafia and his need to try and guide his troubled brother to success, it is another great performance in a film brimming with quality. Cathy Moriarty is also brilliant as LaMotta's abused wife, her husky voice and mature looks fit the role perfectly and she plays the role brilliantly. The script which is credited to Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin was supposedly almost entirely re-worked by Scorcese and DeNiro. It is a super script nevertheless, the dialogue is great and it allows us to really engage with the films characters, paired with Scorcese's expressionist style it makes for a truly remarkable piece of film-making. The script, direction and acting are all superb so add to this a soundtrack that matches the mood of the film brilliantly, you have the perfect mixture. The soundtrack is as harrowing as the scenes of violence it plays over and it is another device that gives the viewer access to LaMotta's state of mind, simply the soundtrack adds the finishing touches to the film, it is subtle and brilliant. Raging Bull is one of the greatest American films of all time, it is disturbing, gritty and harrowing. It is a difficult film to watch but if you can sit through the violence you will reap the rewards. It is a stunning achievement by Scorcese and it is filled with stunning performances from DeNiro, Pesci and Moriarty. I highly recommend this film to anyone, for me it remains Scorcese's best film and is undoubtedly a cinematic masterpiece.
The Shawshank Redemption is a film adapted from the novel by Stephen King, written and directed by Frank Darabont who later adapted two other Stephen King novels, The Green Mile and The Mist. The film is often regarded as the best film ever made and rightly so in my opinion, although it was overshadowed at the Academy Awards by the equally brilliant Forrest Gump. The film begins when Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is wrongly convicted of murder and is given teo life sentences to be served in Shawshank prison. Once there he meets Red (Morgan Freeman) and they quickly become friends. At first Andy has to to juggle his way through prison life but eventually makes connections and becomes well liked within the prison environment, becoming close to both inmates and prison guards. Throughout the film Andy, who was a successful banker on the outside world, has to fight his way through prison as a moral man of integrity, in a prison world where even the guards have no integrity. He constantly struggles and only survives because of the various projects he takes on, carving a set of chess pieces or building a new prison library for example. The characterisation here is brilliant, Andy is a solid man, he has morals and you can see him struggling to adapt to prison life to begin with and a innocent man he clings onto the hop that one day he may be free again depite being warned by Red that hope is a dangerous thing. Red is also brilliant and very likeable, he is a level-headed person and is the only man in Shawshank that admits to his crime, which he truly regrets. The supporting characters are all also brilliant, Brookes the librarian with Andy has his assistant has one of the most heartbreaking side stories in the film, a man who has been in prison for fifty years and can't imagine life on the outside. As well as touching on the morality of prison life, Shawshank touched on many other subjects that all move the viewer and immerse him in the film. As I mentioned above hope is a constant subject throughout, Andy hopes he will someday be a free man again and this is what keeps him going, whereas the other prisoners have simply given and they have no hope that they will ever get out of the prison, it is a moving experience to watch the characters live out lives they have resigned themselves to. There are many other issues including redemption, salvation and faith in the afterlife, it all makes for one sad but uplifting tale. Tim Robbins as Andy, is brilliant, he swaggers around in the prison like he hasn't got a care in the world, it is a magnificent performance from an actor I have rarely seen anything else from. He is assured in his performance and as the film goes on and Andy's confidence grows so does Robbins performance. Morgan Freeman as you would expect, is brilliant, as the wise old convict Red, he portrays Red as the old head of the prison perfectly. His narration is spot on and everything about his performance is superb. The supporting cast are also all brilliant, they provide moments of humour and sadness throughout, and every character has a purpose within the story. The performances from everyone involved here are simply brilliant. The script is also a big highlight, the narration from Freeman just lets the story flow nicely and allows the reader to access the time scales that are used within the film, the film covers twenty years of prison time, and the narration allows it to do this seamlessly. The dialogue is very sharp and the film is full of killer lines and lines that have become a part of popular culture. Darabont's scriptwriting is superb as is his direction. In a film where some director's may have tried to over complicate things, Darabont keeps it very simple, and it works. There are some beautiful scenes and some disturbing scenes. Andy getting beaten by the 'sisters' sticks on your mind as one of the many disturbing images of prison brutality. The scene where Andy manages to play some classical music and broadcast throughout the whole prison is just one of many beautiful scenes that echo the films main theme, hope. The film runs for about two hours and twenty minutes but there is not one dull moment, every minute of the film is worth watching and once it starts you can't take you eyes off the screen, it is magnificent. There is very little, if anything wrong with this film, often seen as the greatest film ever made, it simply must be seen, if you haven't seen it then no matter who you are watch it. It will take you through a whole range of emotions, anger, sadness, joy to name three. A tale of true friendship, it is a masterpiece.
Directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufmann, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind always had a recipe for success. Having previously worked together on Human Nature, Kaufmann had also written the brilliant Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Eternal Sunshine certainly had some pedigree. The film begins when Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), meet seemingly by chance on a beach in Montauk. Despite having completely conflicting personalities they are drawn to each other. As the film progresses we find out that after a fight Clementine hired Lacuna Inc. and asked them to erase all her memories of Joel. When Joel finds out he decides to do the same and then we see his memories of Clementine starting with the most recent. As he sees the better memories of her he decides he wants to call it off and tries to stop it. This plot isn't that simple however, it is very non-linear although like some films with non-linear plots, it isn't that difficult to follow. It is very clear when we are inside Joel's head and when we aren't. As the film progresses you just want to jump into the screen and help Joel, stop the mind-erasers from erasing his memories. You become emotionally involved with the characters and you are left teary eyed by the end. The fact you do become so emotionally involved and you feel the tears welling up in your eyes is purely down to Kauffman's scriptwriting, it is fantastic. It is one of the most romantic stories of the last decade but looking back on the film I don't understand why. The plot is non-linear and all over the place, we are constantly being thrown in one direction and then the other, but the story has a focal point, love will win out. Maybe that is just how the story speaks to me, but I really believe that after the ambiguous ending Joel and Clementine went on to live a happy life together. The ambiguity and the end of the film allows the viewer to decide how their relationship began or ended and I think that the film has the ability to speak to people in many different ways and it will probably depend on the viewers outlook on love. It is an extraordinary emotional device that gives us a unique connection to the film and it's characters. Michel Gondry's direction of the film is also superb and the image of Joel and Clementine lying in the middle of an ice lake looking up at the sky is iconic, it is a beautiful image. The images that Gondry creates are all in there own way beautiful and draw us into the story and without them the brilliant script just wouldn't have worked. It is the partnership of the director and the screenwriter that allows this film to work and without one the other would have fallen. Jim Carrey is brilliant here, in a more serious role that he seems to be doing more of recently. He plays Joel perfectly capturing his emotionally detached personality brilliantly. Although we don't see much of his facial elasticity here, it is still a performance of the highest calibre. This is also Kate Winslet's greatest performance to date in my opinion, as the free spirited Clementine. Her constant mood changes and impulsiveness is captured brilliantly and Winslet obviously enjoyed sinking her teeth into such a part. She is magnificent. The film also has a very strong supporting cast, Kirsten Dunst is the best in my opinion as the receptionist at Lacuna, conflicted over her love of two people, and she plays the role perfectly. Elijah Wood is good, but it isn't his strongest performance and you just can't help picturing him as Frodo. The film could perhaps be accused of being too deep or a little pretentious, but that doesn't matter. It works and it is brilliant, it moulds together perfectly with some brilliantly flawed characters, and it raises some very nice questions, are some memories really best forgotten? For example, it will make you think, it will make you cry and it will make you laugh. This is a film that everyone should watch, it is emotional and touching, you will be left teary eyed and moved. It is a brilliant achievement from director Gondry and writer Kauffman and I believe it is easily one of the best films of the last decade.
True Blood is the latest hit series from American television channel HBO. The same channel that brought us the likes of The Wire, The Sopranos and Deadwood, three of the best TV series ever made and there is no reason why True Blood shouldn't sit right up there with them. Based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris the series is created by Alan Ball who also created the critically acclaimed series Six Feet Under. It all sounds like a recipe for success. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in Merlotte's Bar and Grill but she isn't normal, she can hear people's thoughts. She struggles to block the thoughts out and longs for them to go away, so when Bill Compton walks in to Merlotte's and she can't hear his thoughts she is instantly drawn to him. He isn't normal either, he is a vampire and has been 'mainstreaming' ever since Japanese scientists invented synthetic blood that would satisfy vampires nutritional needs, and they 'came out of the coffin' two years ago. The main plot of the first season follows the developing relationship between Sookie and Bill and a series of murders that all seem link to Sookie's brother Jason Stackhouse. Set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana we meet a variety of intriguing characters. Tara is Sookie's best friend she has self esteem and parental issues, Sam Merlotte, owner of Merlotte's and Sookie's boss, is a mysterious character who seems to be hiding a secret but makes no secret of his love for Sookie, there are other vampires throughout the series, Eric probably being the most entertaining but he becomes more prominent in season 2, there are many other characters throughout the series and they are all wickedly entertaining although a few are quite irritating, luckily the irritating ones only play bit-parts. The main characters here are brilliant, throughout the season they are developed magnificently and by the end you feel like you know them personally. Sookie is great as we see an innocent girl begin to fall in love with a vampire that has been around for over a century. Tara is a very complex character and we see her battling her demons and struggling with her mother throughout and she is one of the characters that you feel real empathy for. Jason is good, he is Bon Temps ladies man and seems to have a new woman every other night, he provides some humour and gets caught up in a very messy situation and although he means well he seems to constantly run into trouble. Lafayette, Tara's cousin is great and provides a lot humour throughout; hopefully he will play a bigger part in the later seasons. Sam is also a pretty decent character, he is very mysterious, he doesn't share anything about his past and just longs to be with Sookie, but is he hiding a secret? The books that the series is based on are also very popular, and although I haven't read them, through watching the very interesting director's commentaries on a few episodes and reading a few articles I know that the series is only loosely based on the books. Tara for example doesn't enter the books until later on in the series but here she is present from the beginning. It doesn't matter though because everything that is different is different to make the television series more entertaining, Tara is brought in early so that we have another strong female character and I do feel that without her the show wouldn't have been as entertaining. Another great thing about the show is that each episode ends where the next one begins which provides great continuity, compared to other programmes where a few days or even weeks can pass from one episode o the next. The plot is great and the writers really have done a super job of adapting the novels for the small screen. The dialogue throughout is also very entertaining, there is some bad language but it isn't on the same level as other shows such as Deadwood. The dialogue is still pretty slick and each character has a unique way of getting there points across it is very, very good. All the actors involved do a great job, Anna Paquin as Sookie is stunning and superb, she plays the role perfectly and this really is a career defining role from the X-Men star. Stephen Moyer who plays Bill Compton is probably just behind Paquin as one of the shows stand out performers, he is very intense and his old-fashioned dialect is executed with perfection. Alexander Skarsgard as Eric, another vampire is also superb he is more intense than Bill and you don't really know what to make of him, he has a sensitive side but then he his demonic vampire side and Skarsgard flits between the two effortlessly. Like most television series like this it is hard to mention everyone involved, but none of the main cast disappoints, Ryan Kwanten as Jason, Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte and Rutina Wesley as Tara all deserve a mention, they are great. The film is shot brilliantly. The colours used are great the dark grim neighbourhood, contrasting the bright and summery look of some of the characters or matching the dark look of the vampires. Every scene looks perfect and it all comes together to make one hell of a good looking show, particularly in high definition. The series at times is extremely graphic and it may be too much for some people, there is a lot of blood, a lot of sex and a lot of nakedness, even the sounds in some scenes are explicit. It all adds to the realism though and helps you buy into the fact that everyone accepts that there are supernatural beings in the world and no one questions it anymore. If you don't like things too graphic though, I'd stay away from this one. The first series consists of 12 episodes each with a running time of 50 minutes to an hour and in some ways every episode is like watching a mini film. It really is great, it isn't quite as edgy as the likes of The Wire or as character driven as The Sopranos and it doesn't quite reach the heights of either. Although in a culture that is currently being saturated by vampire films, television shows and books, True Blood stands head and shoulders above everything else. The show has received wide critical acclaim and received numerous awards including an Emmy and a Gloden Globe as well as being nominated for numerous others and are fully deserved. If you like your TV shows graphic and sexy then I would recommend this to you, if your not keen on graphic and sometimes quite shocking images I would say stay away, but if you think you can watch it then it is not to be missed. I would definitely recommend keeping it away from anyone under 18 and I wouldn't recommend watching it with your Mother.
Before the release of Wall-E, Pixar's previous film Ratatouille had quickly become my favourite Pixar creation, I fell in love with it and when I heard about Wall-E I was sceptical, I didn't think the general storyline would work and I didn't really like the idea of a robot that didn't speak being the film's main protagonist, I really thought it could be the first Pixar film I didn't enjoy and I certainly didn't think it would reach the heights of Ratatouille. The year is 2805 and due to mass consumerism throughout the 21st century, caused by mega-corporation Buy 'n' Large, the planet has become covered in garbage to the point it has become inhospitable. Humankind has left Earth, leaving it in the hands of some trash compacting robots but over the years they have succumbed to the power of time and broken down, rusted and fallen apart, with the earth still in the same dire state only one remains, Wall-E, his only companion a cockroach. As I mentioned I really didn't think the film would work but to my surprise I quickly became hooked. Throughout his 700 years of solitude Wall-E has become a curious being. He collects treasures of old and before compacting any trash he checks there isn't anything interesting buried deep down. Then one day when carrying out his daily tasks he finds a plant much to his amazement, he has never seen one before. Later that day a spaceship arrives dropping off another robot, the futuristic EVE, whose purpose is to scan the earth for signs of life. The first thing that struck me is that for the first 30 minutes of the film there is barely any dialogue from the main characters, Wall-E just makes sounds and although EVE seemingly can talk she only seems to know how to say her name and the word 'directive'. Still somehow the charm of Wall-E just pulls you in. He has emotions, he watches films he has found in the mountains of garbage and fantasizes about these things actually happening. He wants to discover life and fall in love but he has no idea what life was like before the human race departed. Despite the fact that Wall-E doesn't speak you still relate to him and the way the creators allow you to interact with him is superb. It is all down to Pixar's brilliant animation skills and the fact they have a unique ability to bring anything to life. Wall-E's body language is the main way we know how he is feeling, simple things such as the way his eyes move. As well as Wall-E the creators have to bring EVE to life, and I can imagine this was much harder, she has less features but again they succeed and although her body language helps us it is again mainly the movements of her eyes that allow us access to what she feels. With just the body language as a device for the audience to relate to the characters though, I am certain the film wouldn't have worked at all. Music plays an extremely important role in allowing the audience to access their emotions. Through the music we realise exactly what is going and paired with the body language, it is perfect and to my surprise works brilliantly. As the story advances EVE eventually leads Wall-E to the humans, which have become very odd looking, they have become shapeless, they have very short legs and very short arms with seemingly normal length bodies and big bellies. Unfortunately when the humans enter the story for me it loses some of its charm. After the creators had made Wall-E and his relationship with EVE so charming and found a way for us to relate to voiceless characters I would have gladly sat and watched just that for the rest of the film. Like I have said before, I feel that Pixar's strength is in bringing things to life that don't have human emotions and although the humans in this film don't really look like humans do today it just doesn't quite work. This is also the first Pixar film to feature live-action, which can only be described as a brave move. It does work pretty well but like the animated humans in the film it takes something away from the usual charm of Pixar's animations. Other than this however, the characters are perfect. Wall-E is funny, curious and he has real desires. Throughout the film he doesn't really change much but he does initiate change in other characters. EVE begins being very robotic and emotionless, she has a real sense of duty and only cares about her directive. But she can't help but be infected by Wall-E and how funny and charming he is, she soon begins to show emotion and realise that Wall-E is in love with her. Despite not being a fan of the human characters I have to say they are convincing and do provide some funny moments. The animation, as in all Pixar films, is flawless. The dystopia that Wall-E is living in at the beginning of the film is great. It is desolate; skyscrapers have been replaced by huge towers of garbage cubes. The attention to detail here is astonishing; the variety of items you see in the mounds of rubbish is great. Then when we travel to the Axiom we have a completely contrasting image, a utopia. It is bright and colourful, everything is spotless and there is no rubbish to be seen. Again, the detail levels are astonishing from the varieties of futuristic robots to the thousands of adverts displayed in front of the humans. The story is predominantly a sci-fi and it is a great sci-fi film. It easily ranks up at the top with genres best and is definitely one of the best I have seen that was made within the last decade. However, it is also a love story and very moving love story. I really felt something for Wall-E I sympathised with him and his futile life and then rooted for him as he becomes the saviour of mankind, whilst trying to impress EVE and win her over. This film is great and Wall-E is my favourite Pixar character by far, he is just so likeable and you really do end up rooting for him and willing him to succeed. Like the Pixar films I have previously reviewed, this is a film I would recommend to adults and children alike, no matter how old you are you will enjoy this film. BLU RAY DISC For the first time in years I decided I would watch some of the extras on this films disc, mainly because it is the first Pixar film I have bought since I upgraded to high definition. Firstly, I have to say that the picture quality is absolutely stunning, I have seen the film on DVD and this is 10 times sharper, brighter and it just looks great. If you have a blu-ray player and haven't yet bought this film it is worth it just for the picture quality. The first of the extras I watched were the two Pixar shorts featured on this disc the first Presto which is about a hungry rabbit who has to perform tricks for its owner who is a magician. This short animation is very funny and thoroughly enjoyable. The second short is Burn-E a short film about a robot welder that works on the Axiom, this film is very entertaining, it shows how the events through Wall-E disrupt the one simple task that that the robot has to perform. It is very funny anvd almost as enjoyable as Wall-E itself. I have also watched the two commentaries featured on the disc. The first is a commentary by co-writer and director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton, where he reveals the thought process of writing the screenplay for the film and the process of animating it plus how he wanted each character to be interpreted among many other things. Accompanying this throughout the film there are images of how the characters were created displayed, from the first sketches to the first time they were computer generated. This is all very interesting but after about 45 minutes it did become quite boring and I only sat through it for the images of the original sketches etc. The second commentary is by four other people involved with Pixar and the creation of this film. This is just four people talking over the film telling you about anything and everything from star trek to scientists' views on how a fire extinguisher would work in space. This is the more interesting of the two commentaries and through it you find out that within Wall-E there are references to many classic films from Aliens to The Poseidon Adventure. Overall I would say that the blu-ray disc is definitely worth the few pounds extra. The shorts are great and although one of the commentaries does get boring they are both worth watching. There is also a second disc with more extras on that I haven't yet watched so all in all I would recommend paying that little extra for the blu-ray disc.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the first in the series of classic novels written by JRR Tolkien which Peter Jackson took on the massive task of adapting for the big screen. A task I wouldn't begrudge anyone. Having read all three books I just couldn't imagine them ever being brought to life the sheer scale of the adventure just made it seemingly impossible. However, Peter Jackson defied my belief and created one of the greatest trilogies ever made and it began here with The Fellowship of the Ring. The first thing I would like to say is that I have read the books, which are an amazing piece of literature, but I didn't enjoy them. I found most of it quite boring, the use of language throughout is brilliant but they just didn't capture my imagination. However, when the news first hit that the books were going to be adapted for the screen I was excited, the books are epic and it's a fantasy world, a delicious combination for a film. Here in The Fellowship of the Ring the adventure begins. The Dark Lord Sauron forges a ring that gives him the power to control Middle Earth. Darkness spreads through the land and Sauron rules the land until the people of Middle Earth come together for one last stand against the Dark Lord. Sauron is defeated and the ring passes to Isildur who has one chance to destroy it, but the hearts of men are easily corrupted, he keeps the ring until he is killed and the ring is lost in a river bed. Thousands of years later the ring is found by Gollum, who takes the ring deep into the mountains and for 500 years it consumes him. The ring then abandons Gollum and is picked up by the most unlikely of creatures, a Hobbit name Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). 60 years later we're in The Shire for Bilbo's birthday where he is joined by his old friend Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) and Frodo Baggins (Elijah Woods) his young Nephew. At his party Bilbo announces he is leaving and to everyone's surprise disappears, using the ring of course. Bilbo then leaves The Shire, leaving all his possessions to Frodo, including the ring. Bilbo's exploits and reluctance to part with the ring rise suspicion in Gandalf and he leaves to confirm his suspicions are correct. He soon returns to The Shire and tells Frodo what he suspected is true, the ring Frodo possesses is the ring of power, and Sauron is looking for it. Gandalf tells Frodo he has to leave The Shire and sends him to Bree with his gardener Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) and the ring. So, the adventure begins and in the first instalment we visit the first of many strange fantastical locations, Rivendell, The Mines of Moria and Lothlorien and they look perfect, it's like they were created from the images of Tolkien's imagination. Filmed on location in New Zealand the sets were always bound to look amazing but the way everything is put together is amazing. The Mines of Moria was a particular highlight, throughout the impressive scenes here the tension builds nicely and subsequently an eerie ambience is created, and you sense trouble could strike at any time. Lothlorien and Rivendell are both places inhabited by Elves and they both look beautiful. Rivendell is a city on a mountain on the side of river, there are grand buildings mixed with tranquil settings and it is the first time in the film you feel our heroes are safe from the foes that hunt them. Lothlorien is a stark contrast to Rivendell, it is a city built within a forest built using rope bridges. It's not just these locations that impress though, everywhere the characters pass is beautiful and the films settings could easily be used as an advertising campaign for tourism in New Zealand. The landscapes look amazing and it all adds to the unique experience of the film. Rarely, have I been so impressed by the location where a film is shot. In Rivendell a council is called to decide the fate of the ring where it is decided by Elrond, Lord of the Elves, that the ring must be taken to Mount Doom and thrown back into the fires with which it was created to destroy it forever. After an argument between the different races present Frodo elects himself to the task and then some of the others volunteer to help him bare this burden. Here we meet more of the films main characters, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) an Elf Prince from the Woodland Realm, the Dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and The Steward of Gondor, Boromir (Sean Bean). Together with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gandalf, Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Sam they form the Fellowship of the Ring. All these characters are brilliant, they all have their strengths and weaknesses and most have a back story. Aragorn is Isidur's heir, the King of Men, Boromir the Steward of Gondor longs to bring glory back to Gondor. It all adds to the epic story and makes it even more enjoyable as the ring corrupts each character in its own way. The performances of the actors that play these roles are all brilliant. Sir Ian McKellan plays Gandalf superbly, his performance is powerful and he fits the role of the wizard brilliantly. Sean Astin as the stout and brave-hearted hobbit Sam is impressive but he grows into the role as the series moves on, likewise for Elijah Wood as Frodo. Monaghan and Boyd are good as Merry and Pippin and add some much needed humour and light-heartedness to the film. There are so many other characters it is hard to mention every performance but Christopher Lee deserves a mention as the dark wizard Saruman, he is intimidating and quite scary. However, there are two outstanding performances within this first instalment. Firstly, Sean Bean as Boromir, his performance is something to savour, he embraces the role and turns out a powerful and poignant portrayal. Viggo Mortensen provides us with the second outstanding performance, he plays Aragorn superbly, he is entirely convincing as the nobleman who is fighting the demons of his ancestors whilst striving to protect Frodo. The special effects are also brilliant; the variety of different creatures, the action sequences and the way that the hobbits look convincing at half the size of everyone else is great. Firstly, the Orcs, they look superb they are genuinely quite scary and look very real, the make up is great and brings these evil creatures to life perfectly. The highlight in this film however is the Balrog, the ancient demon the fellowship encounter in The Mines of Moria, it looks absolutely staggering it is entirely convincing and is a highlight of the whole trilogy. When I read the books I wondered how they were going to make the hobbits look good, they are after all under 4 feet tall, I though it might look a bit ridiculous but again they look great. The illusion that they are half the size of everyone else works perfectly, I have no idea how it was done but it works. The action sequences also look brilliant, and although not many special effects are needed for a lot of them, it is the fight between Gandalf and Saruman, the battle with the Cave Troll and the fight with the Balrog that are particularly impressive. The films soundtrack, written by Howard Shore, is also great. The tracks really add to the overall atmosphere of the film. They build the tension well as well raising the excitement levels as you know a battle or something is about to happen. Without the soundtrack I really don't think the film would be what it is, it just wouldn't have worked as well without. The soundtrack truly does add to the atmosphere of the film and really adds to the enjoyment of this epic adventure. At just under three hours the film is massively long and normally I would say that it is too long but here it just isn't. I can't see where the length could have been cut down, every scene is pretty much essential to the progression of the story. What's more none of the scenes are boring and the three hour runtime flies by, it is perfect. The film rings true to the book throughout, watching the film it is like the book is being played out word for word in front you, in the scenes they chose to include obviously. It would have been extremely difficult to incorporate everything that happens in the book though, and then the film would have been unbearably long. Still it is a true representation and I feel that the book has been trimmed down perfectly and this allows the story to flow seamlessly. This is a truly epic film, the sheer scale of it is awe inspiring and I would strongly recommend this film to anyone. The film is part of a trilogy and so the ending is quite loose as you would expect but the film does stand well on its own and it is a truly remarkable recreation of a great piece of literature.
Traditionally in Pixar films the main characters aren't actually human, they do have human characters but they are normally part of the sub-plots or simply help the story to progress. This is where The Incredibles, Pixar's sixth feature film, differs; the entire cast of main characters are human. Mr. Incredible or Bob Parr is a superhero with super strength and a high resistance to pain, before his marriage to Elastigirl or Helen Parr he decides he has time to save some lives. As he tries to capture the villain Bomb Voyage, an obsessed fan, Buddy Pine, comes to help, because of this he is almost killed and Mr. Incredible has to let Bomb Voyage escape in order to save Buddy's life. The exploits of Mr. Incredible that night lead to the public filing law suits against him, one man saying that he saved him although he didn't want to be saved. This leads to a public backlash and the 'supers' are forced to go into hiding and live anonymously among ordinary citizens. 15 years later and Bob is stuck working for an insurance company and finds himself bored with his life. He and best friend Frozone still re-live the glory days behind their wives backs but for Mr. Incredible it just isn't enough. Bob doesn't show any interest in his family and this frustrates Helen who is left to deal with their children, who also have super powers, on her own. Then Bob gets a message from an unknown source and he begins living his superhero life again, behind his families back. The main problem with this film is that it just doesn't get going quickly enough. Usually with a Pixar film you are thrust into the action more or less straight away but here we have to watch as Bob and his family live out their mundane life before anything really happens. It is a good story and challenges issues surrounding family life and how hard it is to strike up the perfect balance between work and family, and you will find it on the whole and enjoyable experience. When the film eventually gets going the action doesn't stop until the very end at it is well worth waiting for. The action sequences are awesome and look spectacular, as you would expect from Pixar. The inventions of our foe are truly imaginative and look great, I especially enjoyed the sticky balls that attach themselves to an intruder and then expand to trap them. This film also has a lot of different locations, compared to other Pixar films and each location looks unique and brilliant. Bob's office and home look dull and mundane, matching the way he feels about his life and then when he returns to his superhero duties the sets become exotic and exciting. The island where most of the action takes place looks great, the jungle is very well made and the creators have paid great attention to the smallest details to make the environments look interesting and exciting. The animation doesn't quite reach the levels of the likes of Finding Nemo and Up for sheer colourfulness and imaginativeness, but it is still an excellent achievement. All the characters look great, as you would expect, and because the characters are all human Pixar have had to turn their attentions to the human features rather than bringing something else to life. Most of the characters have at least one stand out feature. Mr. Incredible has a huge upper body and relatively normal sized legs, Frozone has an overly elongated face and Dash, Mr. Incredible's son, is weirdly small. All of the characters features are relative to the characters power, Mr. Incredible is huge and he is has super strength. It's not just the features of the characters that match there powers however, it's there characteristics too, Frozone is a super cool character, enhanced by the fact he is voiced by Samuel L. Jackson , and he has the ability to produce ice from his hands. The characters are also very solid and well rounded. Violet, Incredible's daughter doesn't want her ability and wants nothing more than to fit in and be normal, she is very quiet and shy, she is quite awkward and doesn't do well in social situations. Dash is very competitive and would like nothing more than to do sports and beat all his friends at school and Helen only cares about one thing, her family, and she will do anything to protect them. As I mentioned earlier, The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to feature an entire cast of humans, albeit super humans and I think this lets the film down. It might seem her harsh criticism but for me the magic of Pixar's creations is the fact they manage to bring human emotions to other things, toys, fish, rats and even cars. The film looks brilliant the characters are solid and well round but at the end of the day they're only human. Although this isn't my favourite Pixar animation it is still very entertaining, extremely well-made and a must see film. You will love the characters and perhaps relate to what their feeling. The Incredibles is yet another super creation from animation powerhouse Pixar.
Since the release of Toy Story in 1995 Pixar Animation Studios have continuously released films that have achieved both critical and commercial success. Finding Nemo was Pixar's fifth feature film following on from Monsters Inc. and it remains the studios most commercially successful film grossing over $800,000,000. So, after the release of Pixar's most recent feature, Up I decided to go back to Pixar's relatively early days and watch the hugely successful and hugely loved Finding Nemo. Finding Nemo begins when Marlin and his wife Coral, two clown fish, move into a new sea anemone in a new neighbourhood with an entire ocean view and plenty of space for their soon to be hatched children. As they frolic around they're new home danger lurks and unknown to them they are being watched by a Barracuda. Coral rushes toward her eggs to try and protect them but the predator attacks and eats her and all the eggs except one, Nemo. Due to a crack in his egg Nemo is born with a small weak fin which, his dad, Marlin assures him is his lucky fin. Marlin is overprotective of Nemo because of what happened to his wife and on Nemo's first day of school the other children tease Nemo because of his dad's over protectiveness. The school teacher, Mr Ray, takes the class out to the drop off where Nemo follows three of his classmates to the brink of the wide ocean where they dare him to swim out to open sea. Just as Nemo is about to do it Marlin jumps out and he is furious with Nemo, who decides to swim out to a nearby boat to prove he can look after himself however, on his way back he is captured by a diver and taken from Marlin. Marlin decides he is going to do everything in his power to get his son back. He frantically tries to keep up with the boat to find out where it is going; eventually he loses the boat and this is when he meets Dory, a very forgetful and slightly annoying fish. Meanwhile, Nemo has been taken to a dentist in Sydney and has become part of the Aquarium where he meets a variety of different characters, all bought from a pet shop with the exception of Gill, who like Nemo has a one smaller weak fin and was caught at sea. The other aquarium fish soon realise that Nemo is a present for the dentist's niece who shook her last present to death. Gill quickly comes up with a plan that will allow Nemo as well as the other fish to escape. Meanwhile, Marlin and Dory are having the adventure of a lifetime, they have found a mask with an address on that will lead them to Nemo and what's more Dory remembers it. On their way to Sydney to find Nemo they encounter vegetarian sharks that believe 'fish are friends not food', a frightful monster lurking at the bottom of the ocean and a group current surfing turtles. Like all Pixar films the characterization is perfect, Dory and Marlin make a perfect double act. Marlin is uptight and high-strung whereas Dory is laidback and lackadaisical, they play off each other brilliantly. Dory sings repetitive songs and believes she can speak 'whale' whereas Marlin finds her songs irritating and prefers quietness and doesn't believe that it is possible to speak 'whale'. All this makes for a fantastically funny relationship and as time goes on they begin to depend on each other and even like each other as their unlikely friendship blossoms. Nemo is the opposite of his father he likes the idea of adventure and when he is captured he believes his father will never risk crossing the ocean, he is so scared of, to save his son. He is a child but you find yourself warming to him in a weird way as he plucks up the courage to try and make Gill's plan a success. You want his dad to find him and you don't want him to be given to the dentist's niece but you wouldn't mind if I had to stay with his new friends in the aquarium. The aquarium fish are also very entertaining, Gill is mysterious and at first seems untrustworthy but again you find yourself warming to him. The swearing in ceremony of Nemo is very funny as the fish perform some sort of ancient chant to formerly welcome him to the aquarium. The characters that Marlin and Dory meet also add to the film massively, the vegetarian sharks the highlight for me, with huge jaws of teeth and Australian accents they provide great entertainment. You also have to mention the current surfing turtles, they provide wicked entertainment, there cool drawl is awesome and you wish they could have been in the film for longer. The story is almost perfect; it is solid and provides pure enjoyment. It is never predictable and you never know what Marlin and Dory will encounter next, whether it is friend or foe, jellyfish swarm or a group of impressionist sardines. You never know which way it will go for Nemo, will he be shaken to death or will he roll his way back to the sea in a plastic bag? It truly is a mesmerizing, unpredictable and heartfelt story, the classic tale of friendship and family ties. One of Pixar's strengths over the years has been their abilities to transfer real human emotions to anything and everything, from toys to cars, rats to monsters and Finding Nemo is no exception. The fish move like you imagine fish to move but it is the way Pixar capture their facial movements and body language perfectly with their animation that makes the film so believable. This is perhaps what makes Pixar's work more successful than other computer animation studios; it allows the viewer to really relate to the characters. You really feel for Marlin in his seemingly impossible mission to save his son as he crosses the ocean, for Dory as she makes her first real friend and begins to remember things and Nemo as he desperately tries to escape so he can be re-united with his father. The film will entertain you through out, it will make you laugh and it might even make you cry. It's not only the way that the emotions of the fish are captured perfectly by the animators that make it so great; the animation of the whole thing is mesmerizing. The animation of the sea particularly impressed me; it looks pretty much like the real thing. The setting of the film on the reefs around Sydney is a perfect place for Pixar to showcase their skills; it looks more colourful and more beautiful than I imagine the real thing would look. The small environments such as the school area and the neighbourhood that Marlin moves into are entrancing, it is obvious that the animators paid an immense amount of attention to detail, and the results are spectacular. The tank environment is also perfect and again awash with bright and exotic colours. It's not just the films setting however, different fish and animals look stunning as well. The vibrant colours used for the environments are only surpassed by the mesmerising colours of the creatures. Each individual character looks unique awash with colour and close attention to the minor details. The attention to the way the three sharks have been designed is awesome each one more unique than the last, Brucie, the Great White looks particularly impressive and even the whale, although we only ever really see the inside of its mouth, looks superb. The film as a whole is a visual treat you'll be blown away by the sheer scale of the environments, the attention to the tiniest details and for me it is still the most visually stunning Pixar film to date. The uniqueness of each creature is just another reason to get excited about the animation we see here. We never see the same creature twice. Even creatures of the same species look uniquely different to the other. Marlin is unique to Coral and the difference between two fish of the same species is extremely subtle but perfectly noticeable at the same. It is a brilliant achievement from Pixar and they have shown us they can reproduce this again and again. This is a film that really can be enjoyed by the whole family. Kids and adults alike will love it. It fully deserves its title as Pixar's most commercially successful film to date and while all the Pixar are films are great this is certainly one of the best, right up there with the likes of Toy Story and Ratatouille. If you haven't seen it I strongly recommend doing so and it is due to be released on blu-ray this year so it is set to look even better than it already does.
The Lives of Others is a 2006 German political drama and it was the film debut of writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The film is set in 1984 East Germany and is essentially about agents from the Stasi monitoring the activities of artists. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and received wide critical acclaim upon its release. The film starts with a prisoner being taken into an interrogation room where he is questioned regarding suspicions that he knows the names of people who helped someone flee East Germany, it then cuts to the interrogator, Weisler, stopping a tape and explaining to a class the different interrogation techniques that he is using. The class finishes and he is joined by Grubitz who invites him to the theatre to see a new play written by political conformist Georg Dreyman that also stars Christa-Maria Sieland. Grubitz thinks that Dreyman is completely supportive of the countries regime but Weisler has his reservations, Grubitz goes to talk to Minister Bruno Hempf and when he asks him what he makes of Dreyman, Grubitz takes Weisler's point of view, Hempf agrees and orders Grubitz to have him monitored. Grubitz gives his close friend Weisler the job and within a day Dreyman's home is fully wired and the surveillance room is set up. Weisler begins 24 hour surveillance of Dreyman and from here this utterly compelling story unfolds. Whilst watching Dreyman and his partner Christa-Maria, Weisler begins to realise that Dreyman lives a good life; he has a gorgeous girlfriend, reads wonderful books and listens to beautiful music. It slowly dawns on him that in comparison his life is very dull, he proceeds to enter Dreyman's home and steals a book, he then hires a prostitute to try and make his own existence more exciting. He soon begins to take an added interest in the couple and when Dreyman begins work on an article that could end up with him being locked up he begins to fabricate reports and eventually ends up going to extreme lengths to protect the couple he is watching. The film shows us that even when we are subjected to extreme oppression free will can still be used and we can still take action to seek justice. Weisler falls in love with the music he hears, he is touched by the lives of the people he is watching and he chooses to deny his superiors and the regime he works to enforce. The film is extremely well made, it seems quite simple but it is the small details and subtleties of the plot and characterization that make the film so utterly compelling. Weisler becomes attached to the people he is watching but he never really shows it, he remains the same throughout the film, we never know how far he is willing to go to protect the artists he spies on, we can never guess his next course of action, what will he do the next time he sees Grubitz? Will he confess to his fabrications or will he continue to protect Dreyman? The plot is brilliant as the film slowly builds layer upon layer. It is not the actual events that drive the story on however, it is the characters emotions and how they react to the events that are unfolding around them. The characters are constantly being placed in unbelievably difficult positions. Positions that could determine how the rest of their life goes, whether they can continue with their work, continue writing or acting or continue in the career they have worked all their life for. The meticulous plotting by writer Donnersmarck is definitely the films biggest strength, you can't look away for fear of missing something. It allows the tension to build without the characters actually doing much, it is the emotional reactions of Weisler in particular that allow the plot to move forward, the new emotions sneak up on him and it is almost unknown to the audience and it only makes it more convincing. It's not just Donnersmarck's scriptwriting that impresses here though, his direction is also brilliant. The film is slightly stylised but it only adds to the entertainment. It is never shot in over complicated ways and stays pretty simple throughout. The dull colours and drab lighting he uses fit the mood of the film perfectly and it must come close to perfection. Weisler is played by German actor Ulrich Muhe, an actor scarcely heard of outside Germany before this film, quite how I don't know. To say his performance in this film is magnificent is a massive understatement, and like the film itself it is the subtleties of his performance that make him so convincing. He rarely shows any emotions but it's the slight changes in expression, the slight raising of his eyebrows that make his performance so brilliant. Weisler is without a doubt the best performer but the other actors involved are all brilliant. Martina Gedeck as Christa-Maria is excellent; she fits the role perfectly, and portrays the emotions of the character perfectly. Sebastian Koch is great as Dreyman and again he portrays the emotions and his uncertainties perfectly. There isn't much wrong with this film, the ending is heartfelt and you may well notice a lump in your throat as the final credits roll. The direction is great and the script is awesome. It is the subtleties of the film that make it so good, it is a tense political drama and I don't think anyone should dismiss it. It is most certainly a must see.
So we have entered a new year and 2009 is going to be hard year to beat for film. The total box office for the year passed 10 billion for the first time and we saw some superb films. The Coen's brought us there personal best, A Serious Man and James Cameron brought us a movie that he took over 10 years to make in Avatar, we had a Swedish vampire flick that blew the likes of Twilight away in Let the Right One In and the re-launch of yet another franchise in Star Trek XI. It was a diverse and excellent year for movie goers everywhere. Can 2010 live up to 2009? Here are the films I look forward to seeing this year. Alice in Wonderland Alice in Wonderland has been around for years; Lewis Carroll's novel has been adapted for the screen a number of times, most famously by Disney in the brilliant animated adaptation. Tim Burton is heading the latest effort to bring the aged old story to life. From the trailers we know it's going to be very colourful and wildly imaginative, plus the Depp/Burton collaboration is back and we love it. Expect weirdness and some great performances. Inception Christopher Nolan the man who re-branded the Batman franchise so successfully is back before hopefully delving into Batman again. He constantly throws out excellent films; his script writing abilities are unmatched at the moment and The Prestige and Memento were both brilliant and this new sci-fi looks like it could be even better. It stars Leonardo Di Caprio in and it looks a bit matrix-esque. It is sure to look brilliant and be ultra cool; it is my most anticipated film of the year. Paul A brand new comedy written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it looks pretty promising but how will the Pegg/Frost writing combo come off and will it match the Pegg/Wright combo that brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The film follows a seemingly simple story line, two men are on a road trip across America and then they find Paul an Alien voiced by Seth Rogen, and from there we'll have to see what happens. It all sounds very promising but will it live up to the expectation. Toy Story 3 The toys are back in town... It seems like an age since we had our last adventure with our beloved toys Woody, Buzz and Company. Toy Story 3 is a film that I have hoped and prayed for for years and finally it is here. This time Andy has gone to college and Woody, Buzz and Co. are donated to a children's playschool and they soon decide they want out. It's also going to be in 3D so the adventure is set to really come to life it could be brilliant but with Pixar's latest releases and the previous Toy Stories it has a lot to live up to. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 As a massive fan of the Harry Potter books I was never impressed by the earlier films. As the franchise has moved on the films have become darker and the overall the quality has undoubtedly improved. Half Blood Prince wasn't quite as good as The Order Of The Phoenix but Deathly Hallows, now a two-parter, looks set to be stunning. They've even added a sex scene as Harry, Ron and Hermione take part in their penultimate on screen adventure, it could be epic. Robin Hood I loved Gladiator, and let's be honest from the trailers Robin Hood looks pretty much like a Gladiator remake. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are back and this time they're wearing tights. It's one of many re-makes of older films this year but it has the potential to be the best, Scott and Crowe work well together and Scott is one of the best working directors today. Let's hope it isn't too much like Gladiator, would that be such a bad thing though? The World's End Another film that is due to be out at some point this year and another film that is co written by Simon Pegg, this time he's back with Edgar Wright and we all remember Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. Well if they're anything to go by this could be one of the highlights of the year and Nick Frost is also set to star. The film is set to have a sci-fi and doomsday theme to it and it is also the final film in the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy which includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, awesome! There you have it, the films that most excite me in no particular order, although you do know that Inception is the film that most interests me. It looks set to be another good year but I doubt it will reach the heights of 2009. 2011 looks set to be a massive year already but let's enjoy the year to come first.
Evil Dead II is the often credited as the film that spawned the genre comedy-horror and it is the sequel to The Evil Dead, although it could be argued that the film doesn't really class as a sequel and more a remake. The film is directed by Sam Raimi and stars Bruce Campbell in his legendary role as Ash. The film begins the same way that the first film begins but without all the characters, Ash and his girlfriend Linda head to up the hills to a secluded cabin where Ash finds The Book of the Dead and a tape recording of Professor Knowby reading from it. Ash plays the recording and when he hears a window smash and Linda scream he goes to see what has happened, he sees Linda has been possessed and proceeds to behead her, he then buries her and attacked by an invisible force that carries him through the trees and ends by smashing him into one and leaving him lying in a puddle. He tries to escape but the road leading up the hills has been destroyed so with no other choice he returns to the cabin where he goes through hell. There are some very comic scenes in this section of the film, one of the best is Ash looking into the mirror saying 'I'm fine, I'm fine' and then all of a sudden his reflection jumps out and says 'I don't think so, we just cut up our girlfriend, does that sound fine? Immediately after this Ash's hand becomes possessed and we see a slapstick battle between him and his possessed hand. This ends with him removing his own hand with a chainsaw, his hand then continues to attack him squeaking like some sort of mouse, he eventually catches it and traps it under a bucket and puts some books on top, the book at the top of the pile is entitled A Farewell to Arms. The comedy is there for all to see throughout the film and it is much less serious and something of a parody of the first. It's not just the comedy that makes this film a classic; we see Raimi's raw creative talents throughout, in the plot and in the direction. Every time it seems like the film has nowhere else to go writers Raimi and Scott Spiegel take it in another direction. Firstly, Knowby's daughter Annie, Ed, Jake and his wife Bobby Jo turn up, they realise that something has happened to Annie's parents and throw Ash in the cellar. Annie then plays more of the tape which explains what has happened throughout the film so far, suddenly they hear sounds coming from the cellar where Ash is being attacked by the re-incarnated form of Henrietta, Annie's mother. This is just one of many surprisingly unpredictable plot twists. The films dialogue is full of ridiculous one-liners and bright witty comments, when Ash shoots his hand and shouts 'got you, didn't I, you little sucker' is one moment that sticks in mind. There are moments like this throughout the film and although it is very slapstick and not overly clever it is still pretty funny. The best scene from the film involves the furniture and wall fixings in the room laughing, from the standing lamp to the Moose head seeing this Ash begins to laugh as he balances on the edge of insanity, it is a brilliant scene and one that had me laughing along with Ash and the furniture. As well as having a good solid script and some decent plot twists, Raimi directs the film brilliantly. The camera on a roller moving towards the cabin, coupled with a weird hissing noise to create the illusion of an invisible force is pure cinematic gold. It is techniques like this that prove Raimi is a creative god, being able to make this film on such a small budget and create such a level of commercial success is pretty impressive, particularly as the film remains a cult classic and has and still does have a massive influence on popular culture. Bruce Campbell is ridiculously good as Ash, his slapstick sequences and wide-eyed craziness are what make this role iconic. It is a remarkable comedy performance but he doesn't act stupid all the time, he also portrays the fear of the situation brilliantly but it is ultimately his borderline craziness that makes him so impressive. The rest of the cast are ok, they don't let the film down and no one steals the spotlight although that would be a pretty hard thing to do, it's Campbell that runs things in this one man show. Throughout the film it is blatantly obvious that it was made on low budget. The special effects leave something to be desired, the blood that gushes out of the wall and out of the cellar simply looks like red water, which it probably was. The zombies sometimes look more like a part of Jabba the Hutt's crew than the living dead and when Bruce is trying to escape in his car it is blatantly obvious that it is a model. Weak special effects is something that is to be expected in a low budget affair like this and whilst it does look ridiculous is does add to the slapstick comedy effect of the whole film. As well as poor special effects the film is full of very noticeable inconsistencies, the characters seem immune to becoming bloodstained and dirty, when Annie gets covered in blood streaming out of the cellar she stands up and has a mere speck of blood on her clothes. Throughout the film Ash who is constantly being thrown into walls, smashed over the head and getting covered in blood, seems to miraculously come clean, throughout he only has three minor cuts on his face and the blood that covers his face one minute is gone the next. Again, this is probably as a result of the low budget and the fact that the filmmakers just couldn't afford to keep the actors looking like they were going through hell; it is just another misfortune that ultimately adds to the slapstick style. The only thing that really disappointed me about the film was the ending; it is the sort of ending I hate, the sort that would normally ruin a film for me. The ending to this just leaves it set right up for a sequel. It isn't imaginative at all and is just an easy way to make more money from the success of one film. Luckily, I enjoyed the film a lot so the ending didn't ruin it entirely. If you haven't seen this film yet, put it at the top of your wish list. It is an absolute classic; it is very enjoyable and shouldn't be missed. It is a film that spawned a genre and it isn't just a sequel to the original it rips the original to shreds.