Cinema Review - Rock Of Ages (2012)

I am a girl who likes to rock out and can seen on a regular basis sporting the sign of the horns down my local sleaze pit. I was brought up in the 80's on a musical diet of hair metal and leather clad rock stars and always fancied myself as a bit of a Joan Jett. What I am saying that finding out Broadway musical Rock Of Ages was being adapted for the big screen was music to my ears.

As the opening credits played out to 'Nothin' But a Good Time' by Poison I was in my element and for moments, I felt like I could've been watching the stage show. It was loud, bright and more than a little bit camp and I got totally carried away with it all. It was complete escapism, that's what it was and further in I was no longer watching a show I was trapped inside an 1980's rock music video instead. I have to put this down to the directorial talent of Adam Shankman. His long career as a dancer and choreographer was ever present through dramatic face to the front shots, scenes filled with smoke and frantic camera work. It didn't look out of place though, instead it fitted the mood of the film brilliantly and sometimes even adding to elements of the film that were otherwise lacking. The biggest example I found of this involves the classic music vid elements of split screening and fading which were used to showcase parts of a somewhat barely there plot amongst 123 minutes crammed full of musical numbers.

Split into two parts the music gets the bigger slice of the pie but this is a musical film of course so I guess you have to ask how important a concrete plot line is as far as enjoyment is concerned. I'm still in two minds with the answer to that question, if I'm truly honest.

Rock Of Ages is the story of small town girl Sherri who moves to L.A and meets city boy Drew. He dreams of being a rock star while she just wants more from her life. They fall in love and work on finding themselves and realising their dreams. Julianne Hough and Diego Bonetta are great as Sherri and Drew and if you let yourself be carried away, the chemistry is completely believable. I found myself rooting for the pair of young lovers as the opening scenes progressed and overall, Bonetta is the stand out of the film vocally; no surprise considering he's professional but still.

The problem with the plot is the tangent it seems to go off on as Tom Cruise's character Stacee Jaxx is introduced. Now don't misunderstand me, it's not Cruises fault. He puts everything into his role of a flabouyant yet washed up, deluded rocker. His timing is spot on and when he says he's a slave to rock n roll, he means it. It's just that this sub-plot seems to forget that it is just that and as a result the love story from the beginning gets forgotten by the spotlight. Of course, it's brought back towards the end in order to wrap up the film but it feels lazy and isn't enough to save the thread bare story.

On a better note and one that's important is the entertainment factor. Rock Of Ages is a film that doesn't take it self too seriously so plot aside it's best not too either. Laugh out loud moments came from Russell Brand, as Lonny Barnett, who for anyone who as seen him live may as well being playing himself. He is hilarious though and teamed up with the dubious choice of Alec Baldwin for Dennis Dupree makes for surprising fun - watch out their rendition of REO Speedwagon's 'Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore', I literally cried tears!
Catherine Zeta Jones is there too. She plays Patricia Whitmore, who according to Brand is 'a woman who looks like she's been hibernating in margaret thatchers bum hole'. Her character doesn't really get developed though which is a shame because seeing her sing 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' by Pat Benata with a technical dance routine to boot is my favourite scene of the film.

The singing and dancing is what really makes this film. You get used to some of the musical numbers feeling like backing tracks to montages and even accepting this as plot but I really don't want to hang on that subject any more. Rock Of Ages is fun and lively and should be seen like that. The choreography (also done by Shankman) is outstanding and each song that starts slides effortlessly into the film. If you don't dig musicals then you may be tempted to stay home but I would say, give it a go.. embrace the leather and rock on! I walked away humming with a massive smile on my face.

I will leave you with this picture, I saw it and it made me smile. Good advice I think.

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Sunday Soundtrack

Rock n Roll High School By The Ramones
From Rock n Roll High School (1979)

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My Pick - 12 Animated Heroines ( A List)

With the release of Pixar's new film Brave making it's UK release in just over a month, I've been checking out trailers. I have already fallen it's main girl Merida with her Scottish accent and shocking red hair so cannot wait until I finally get a seat and watch the film in it's glory.

I have watched a lot of animation over the years and as a result have seen the female represented in so many different ways. I thought I would take a look at some of my favourite heroines in animated form and share them with you guys. I didn't put them in order because that would be too hard, I really do adore each of these in equal measure for their own merits and reasons..

Here they are..

1. Esmerelda: From The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (Disney, 1996).
A Gyspy girl who befriends the deformed Quasimodo. As an outcast herself she wants nothing more than acceptance in society for all and isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in. I love her because she's quick witted, a little exotic and passionate. She thinks fast, managing to get herself out of imminent danger but helps others too. She also shows she's no push over when she attracts the attention of men, I so wanted her to marry the hunchback but we can't have it all can we?

2. Coraline: From Coraline (Laika Inc, 2009)
Coraline reminds me so of myself when I was a young girl. She's a curious little mite who feels completely misunderstood by the crazy adults around her. I love her stubborn streak but ultimately the best thing about her is that she knows where her loyalties lie. She's a bit like a darker Alice when she finds her own little world of wonder and gets a little of the 'grass is greener' attitude but ultimately this girl knows the difference between right and wrong even if she is a little madam.

3. Tinker Bell: From Peter Pan (Disney, 1953)
How could I make a list like this and not include the fieriest fairy of them all? Okay so she doesn't speak but with body language and facial expressions like she has she doesn't need to. She's like a little fire rocket with her bad temper and mischievous nature but she's also kind and super cute. Oh, and she leaves a trail of fairy dust behind her.. what more do you want in a girl?

4. Dory: From Finding Nemo (Pixar, 2003)
Dory is a fish, a blue tang fish to be precise, but she is female.I have included her in this list because I remember the first time I ever watched Finding Nemo and thinking I wish I was more like her. She is  the  driving force behind Marlin finding his missing son despite making mistakes. She is a funny thing, she can't remember the simplest facts but she never gives up. There's something really special about Dory and it's completely down to her 'glass half full' attitude. She is like an advert for optimism and proves that anyone can succeed if they 'just keep swimming'.

 5. Kayley: From Quest For Camelot (Warner Bros, 1998)
This is a strange choice for me because the feminist inside of me hates the fact that this girl needs to be constantly saved. She gains kudos though based on the fact that all she wants to do is follow in her daddy's footsteps and be a Knight. She does show some bravery and strength so all isn't lost with her and isn't there something to be said about always learning something new? Kayley is open to new teachings without losing her focus her goal - I guess she's not all that helpless afterall, hmmmm.

6. Alice: From Alice In Wonderland (Disney, 1951)
Everyone knows Alice. She's the girl who falls down the rabbit hole and finds herself in a land of bizarre wonderment. I loved her sense of imagination and curious nature and the fact she was perceived as a child rather than a young woman. Her reactions to things around her were typically young such as her crying and her tantrums but she was polite and well spoken too. She grew up in front of my eyes despite the madness she had found her self in and I've always had a soft spot for Alice because of this.

7. Ariel: From The Little Mermaid (Disney, 1989)
Ariel is one from my childhood and I thought she was amazing back then and still do to this day. She is breathtakingly beautiful, has a crab for a best friend and got to swim underwater all day. Ok, so maybe they're not the best reasons to love Ariel but they were my reasons as a youngster and I'm sticking to them.We'll try to forget that she gave up everything for a man, that kinda taints her a bit but the anyone prepared to give up her family and take the word of an evil octopus witch in order to get it must have some oomph about her.

8. Astrid: From How To Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks, 2010)
I know that Astrid isn't the main character in her film but she is Hiccup's love interest so features a fair bit. I had to put her in this list because quite simply she's too cool for school. She has this stand offishness about her and really knows her own mind making her really hard to impress. She's not typically girly or sweet and would much rather fight with the boys than kiss them. She does have a softer side but it only comes through a little bit and only when it's earned.

9. Rapunzel: From Tangled (Disney, 2010)
I'm all for a girl who isn't afraid to go and get what she wants and Rapunzel does just that. After being locked in a tower for years and years by her 'Mother' Gothel, she gets curious as to what is out there and makes a break for it. Of course, she can't do it without the help of a man but no-one is perfect huh? All those years of being locked up have made her educated and smart though. She shows elements of bravery too and well, is pretty handy with a frying pan.

10. Gloria: From Madagascar (DreamWorks, 2005)
Gloria is a hippopotamus who lives in a zoo and is friends with Marty, Melman and Alex (a lion, a giraffe and a zebra). Throughout three films so far, the trio go on adventures. Being the only girl of group, Gloria is kind and motherly. She's doesn't like problems or confrontation and is the voice of reason for her friends. In fact, she's kinda stereotype girly, even more so in the second film on her quest for love. I still think she's super and really, really funny!

11. Princess Fiona: From Shrek (DreamWorks, 2001)
Ahhhh, Princess Fiona - teaching all girl's that looks don't mean diddly squat since the early 2001.  Of course she has to go on a journey to get there, in fact she starts of as the typical fairy tale princess and then completely turns that on it's head. She is independent and true to her inner self, eventually. Her good heart proves it is what on the inside that counts while her ogerish ways are hilarious to watch.

12. Jessica Rabbit: From Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Disney, 1988)
Look at her, isn't she beautiful? The thing about Jessica though is the class she oozes and her underlying want to be treated for what she is and not just what she looks like. She loves her husband Roger dearly and would do anything to protect him. She shows she has brains and a mean slap too, making her strong and pretty powerful in her relationships. Although, lots of characters in the film say she is lucky to have Roger, I think it's Roger who is lucky to have her.

What about you guys? Do you have a favourite animated lady? Is there someone that simply must be on the above list who I have missed out? Please, Let me know!

photo credits:

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DVD Review - The Prestige (2006)

This was recommended to me. 'Watch it', I was told, 'It's about magicians'. I rolled my eyes, but then last night after a quick look up on the internet I decided to give it a go. I was glad that I did. With the release of The Dark Knight Rises round the corner I was looking forward to seeing some more of Christopher Nolan's work and with my new found love for Christian Bale still fluttering in my heart The Prestige was set up for success. As well as Bale, it has a stellar cast including  Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Michael Caine (Batman Begins, Dark Knight) and Scarlett Johansson (Avengers). Oh, and in case you miss it (which I did somehow) there's David Bowie too!

 It is indeed about magicians, more specifically a rivalry between two of them. Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) used to be friends and assistants to another magician along with engineer Cutter (Caine). When a trick goes wrong one day and Angier's wife is killed, Borden is blamed. The pair go their separate ways and both magicians compete to be the best. What starts off as petty sabotage and a case of one upmanship turns deadly though as the stakes change when Borden pulls of a trick that defies explanation. Enraged that Borden seems to have everything he wants Angier is determined to find out his rival's secrets but ends up pulling them both (and everyone around them) into a pit of obsession, deceit and illusion.

The film start is a little messy. For ages I was sat there thinking to myself that nothing made any sense  but then I remembered this was Nolan directing. I got the same feeling with Memento but that turned out marvellous, I decided to stick it out. So I watched as the story darted back and forth, as people had conversations about things I couldn't understand and I became frustrated. It was weird.It wasn't angry frustration, instead it was this intense suspense building up inside of me until bit by bit I realised I was focusing and the many, many elements started merging together.

The film is layered to perfection and is only helped along by the cast. Nolan and Jackman make great enemies. The ruthlessness between them is as dark as the Victorian backdrop making the idea of a face to face confrontation achingly tense and the actuality of it explosive. Caine is coarse and although I saw little differentiation between his take on Cutter and that of Alfred in Batman, it doesn't matter because he plays fractious mentor with ease. Johansson who looks stunning in this film adds an effortless lightness that is sometimes so needed and Bowie does't even look like Bowie, seriously.

What you need to remember with The Prestige is that the subject is magic and anything can happen. Nothing is concrete at all and when I thought I'd worked one thing out, someone or something was there to steer me in a new direction. Fantasy and reality become perfectly crossed wires as the magic of showmanship takes on a level with an intricate plot that twists, surprises and baffles. Nolan truly is a master of his art.

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30 Day Film Challenge - 2. My Least Favourite Film

If I struggled with my favourite film, coming up with a least favourite was ten times harder. I immediately came up with many a film that I dislike for various reasons but when I really thought about it, the reasoning always seemed flaky or a little stupid. I hate film bashing. I am always fully aware that my opinions are just that and not always agreeable with everyone elses. What I decided then is that it would be a pretty boring world if we all liked (and disliked) the same things. Therefore, the film I eventually decided on was based entirely personal reasons and has a little story behind it.. I shall explain...

The Boy With The Strpied Pajamas (2008)

The Boy With The Striped Pajamas is based on a novel written by John Boyne. A novel that found it's way on to my reading list during my first year at University. Simplified, the story follows a friendship between Bruno, an 8 year old German boy, and Shmeul, a Jewish boy of the same age. Set during World War II, Bruno (whose father is commander in the Nazi army) lives in a three storey Polish town house while his friend resides behind the fence of a concentration camp. Bruno visits his friend every day and the two sit either side of the fence without anyone knowing. One day, Shmeul is upset because his father is missing and Bruno vows to help his friend find out where he is.

Now the story of me and that novel, it is relevant to all this I promise.

Truth is, I never finished it. It actually ended up in a heap after literally being thrown against my bedroom wall one night. I didn't throw it because I hated the book though, quite the opposite in fact. I became totally engulfed in those little boys lives that I clasped on to the naivety of their friendship. I loved the subtlety and freshness of the book and I loved the way it tip toed through an awful subject matter. I ended up not finishing because I became a heart broken silly girl during a scene where Bruno got head lice and had all his hair shaved off. I put two and two together right there, came to the devastating conclusion in my head and couldn't continue.

Ironically, I was made to watch the film during a lecture just a few weeks later and I was absolutely horrified.  It started off with promise. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) made Bruno likeable from the offset, which is differs from the book and isn't so much of a bad thing. For such a young actor, Butterfield is enigmatic and engaging. He manages the opposites of Bruno's relationships perfectly and the scenes that draw on how torn he is between  his friendship with Shmeul, played by Jack Scanlon and his miltitant father, played by David Thewlis (Harry Potter) are worth a watch.

The problems with this film began when I started to think about it and look back at what I had read. I'm no purist. I don't have a problem with book to screen adaptations nor do I with artistic licence but I honestly felt that all the subtlety that helped build Bruno's character was lost. It was almost as if he just became who he was, knew what he knew and the audience just had to accept it. There's a childish naivety towards the concentration camp that plays out beautifully on page that just isn't there in the film and I missed it.

Mark Herman wrote the screen play and directed. With films like Little Voice and Brassed Off under his belt I wasn't surprised that The Boy With Striped Pyjamas had all the glossiness of a Miramax picture but this isn't a rags to riches story, it's about the holocaust; something the film makers seem to forget a little too often.   As a result the film is clunky and watered down. The attempt to take such a subject matter and make it suitable for children fails, I mean when does something so harrowing become suitable for a child to understand? I saw Schindlers List when I was 14 and didn't completely get it but it at least affected me making me want to know more.

There was so much in The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas that I just didn't get and yet I always seemed one step ahead of any of the characters making the film predictable. This was more down to the lack of development and each character's knowledge of the situation than the fact that I had read the novel first. Most of the scenes were sweeping and stylistic without much context or incite and the incessant music score (that was absolutely everywhere) only helped to  take  away any tension or depth that could've been present.

So what about that fateful ending? The bit that I didn't read but knew was coming? Ironically, it was by far the best bit of the film. It wasn't nearly as atmospheric or terrifying as it should of been if put against what happened in reality but it made the point that the whole film was leading up to. That's why it shone out from the rest of the film in fact, all the energy and creativity must have gone on this 15 minute sequence. I watched it, I cried (big girl remember) and then thought that that rest of the film was pretty pointless.

I know it sounds like I'm against book adaptations but I really am not and will aim to prove so with some that I've loved in the near future. As always though, I'd love to hear your opinions.

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Blog Stuff - Spreading Wings


I realised today that there wasn't a place on my blog to keep all you lovelies up to date with stuff, so I'm creating one! Every so often, I'm going to publish these posts entitled 'blog stuff' that will be about things specific  to my little piece of interweb space but I also want showcase some of the great stuff I've been reading by others (my bookmarks are heaving!!!).

I also thought it may be nice to finally show my face and extend a warm hug to those of you who take the time to read.. so, here I am...

Now, if that didn't scare you away I'll get on to the reason I am posting today. I have set up a facebook page and pinterest one too, I already had twitter. The links to these various things are below if you fancy coming over to say hey!

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3 Of A Kind? - Internet Predators

Welcome to another 3 of A Kind, If you happen to be interested you can see the first instalment here. This time I decided to look at a subject that freaks me out, the idea that not everyone on-line is who we think they are. A weird subject matter but one that has been explored by many a film maker.

Here are my picks...
Strangeland (1998)
written by Dee Snider. directed by John Pieplow 


Cast Includes: Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo), Kevin Gage (Blow) and Dee Snider (80's Rock Band Twisted Sister's Front Man).

Plot Outline: Girl meets boy on the internet (Capt. Howdy)  and after being invited to a party, goes to meet him. There isn't a party of course and she is abducted along with several others. Her father, a cop tracks down her abductor and saves her. Capt Howdy is rehabilitated in a mental hospital, released and then set upon by vigilantes. The rest of the film is about his revenge.

Best Bits? - Snider looks so bloody creepy! His Capt. Howdy's persona is bad enough but his rehabilitated character looks so weird it's kinda scary.

Worse Bits? - The whole film lacks tension. There's no real build up. Things just seem to happen.

How Does It Come Across? - Self Indulgent. Written and produced by Snider it relies on shock tactics and is high on torture gore. There is an underlying moral code trying to get through but it sort of gets lost.

My Verdict: - When I really think about it, I like the whole Jekyll and Hyde thing that Snider has going on and I also like the fact that the film tries to question the ambiguity of what is considering good and evil. Unfortunately, Howdy's droning poetics and the repeated skin piercing  torture scenes turned me off and as I said earlier, there was no tension to draw me be back in.

Megan Is Missing (2011)
written and directed by Michael Goi

Cast Includes: More or less unknown youngsters Amber Perkins and Rachel Quinn.

Plot Outline: Megan and Amy are best friends but polar opposites in personality. Megan starts chatting to a boy named 'Josh' online and before long arranges to meet him. She disappears and Amy trys to find out what has happened to her, that is until she goes missing too.

Best Bits? - The differences between the two main characters made for a interesting relationship but also demanded opposite reactions to their ultimate fate from me. The news report segments of the film were satirical and a wickedly good interpretation of today's response to propaganda.

Worse Bits? - Look out for some 'hands over eyes' inducing stills that flash up before you get chance to react and The last 22 minutes unnerved me that much I had to switch it off and return to it when it was light (I know, wuss)!

How Does It Come Across? - Disturbing. I really bought into the whole 'found footage' genre here which is something I rarely do. Amy's story in particular was heart wrenching and when searching the net and finding that inspiration for the film came from at least 7 real life events, the whole thing took on a whole new level of real.

My Verdict: - I can't say I loved this film because that implies I got some sort of enjoyment out of watching it. I didn't at all. I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach from start to finish but it was all really well done. The memory of the film has stayed with and got me both thinking and talking about it so let's just say it made an impression on me. That said, I don't think I would be able to watch it again.

Trust (2010)

Cast Includes: - Liana Liberato, Clive Owen (Children Of Men, King Arthur) and Chris Henry Coffey (The International).

Plot Outline: - Annie meets her first ever boyfriend on-line but he is not all that he claims to be. Her parents struggle with the situation, specifically their daughter's action but try to support her as she slowly begins to realise what has happened to her.

Best Bits? - The detail invested in each of the characters, Schwimmer has done a marvellous job of engaging the watcher with the lives of this otherwise normal suburban family. The acting is brilliant too. There is certainly a journey to go on - it's not an easy one though.

Worse Bits?- The sex scene. The look on that girl's face will stay with me forever.

How Does It Come Across?- Frustrating! I wanted to scream at Annie... A LOT and Owen and Catherine Keener as her parents, were a little over handed. However, this all added to the end product (and feeling) being stupidly convincing.

My Verdict: - Considering all I knew of Schwimmer was his goof ball character on Friends, I wasn't expecting much. He blew me away with this film purely because it was really hard hitting without relying on any 'shocking' scenes. I followed the story and felt every form of emotion as the time ticked along. 

Are there any more films like these out there? Please let me know.
Also, if there is a particular topic, genre or even actor you would like to see in a future '3 of a kind' feature, please get in touch. As always, I love hearing from you.

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News From The Web - The Amazing Spider-Man Premiere

Last night the UK premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man took place at the Odeon, Leicester Square in London. I know it's everywhere today but I couldn't let it go without a mention on here. I wasn't lucky enough to be there of course, so instead I spent the evening awaiting tweet updates from @SonyPicturesUK and watching various live streams.

All eyes were on the undoubted stars of the film Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone who play Peter Parker and his love interest Gwen Stacey. Despite their rumoured off screen romance the pair arrived separately, him beautifully suited up and her in a glittery, low cut cat suit.

 Garfield is feeling pressure but excitement over his new role. He said 'I grew up with Spider-Man. He was an important symbol in my life growing up... plus I was blown away by Tobey Maguire's interpretation.   feel immense pressure, like how Peter Parker feels I think'. 

The film doesn't just follow on from where Maguire left off five years ago though. Instead it's a complete reboot of the classic comic book tale in which a a teenager gains super powers after being bitten by a radio active spider. Marc Webb (I know right..) directs while Avi Arad produces and both have had nothing but praise for the young star. 

Stone's character Gwen Stacey falls for Peter Parker rather than his spidery alto ego in the film and with a real life romance in their midst, reporters were all over it. The pair have kept tight lipped about it all but when asked about Stone, Garfield called her 'special'. 

Also there was welsh actor Rhys Ifans who attended with his girlfriend, Anna Friel. Ifans plays Curt Connor who turns into a mutant Lizard.. it's all very exciting.

The Amazing Spider-Man is due to hit cinema screens July 3rd. I will be first in the queue.

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News From The Web - Joe Cornish Gets His Hands On Snow Crash!

For those of you who don't know Snow Crash is an award nominated science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson. It is also a novel that I happen to have read (now you definitely wouldn't know that). After a few false starts and many, many rumours about a big screen adaptation it emerged this week that Joe Cornish is set to write and direct in association with Paramount Pictures.

Cornish is best known for comedy and as part of the radio/TV duo Adam and Joe with his partner Adam Buxton. In 2011 however he made his directorial debut with comedy horror film Attack The Block (2011)  and  since then has co-wrote The Adventures Of Tintin (2011) with Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright.

Attack the Block was a hit to be fair. As his first turn in the directors chair Cornish pulled it out the bag. Okay so it wasn't a piece of perfection.On a personal level it was no where near scary enough to slip into the horror genre but it certainly took a stand as a piece of drama that set him up for his next project.I overall enjoyed Tintin too, it may have lacked some of the depth that people were expecting but it flowed with plenty to keep me entertained. I do worry though that Cornish may loose focus with Snow Crash, a story of complexity. 

Set in the future, in a dystopian US to be exact. With the government in pieces the country is split into territories, with each one being controlled by completing corporate organisations. Hiro, the protaginist of the book, is a computer hacker investigating Snow Crash; a drug of extreme potency that not only effects the body but also the human mind through virtual means.

I wasn't kidding when I said it was complex but done right, an adaptation has the potential to mind blowing. I'm just hoping that Cornish can use everything he has got to make it so.

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DVD Review - Geek Charming (2011)

I have always loved Disney. When I was a child I used to lap up every second of the colourful, near perfect world depicted in animation and as a result waited around until my early thirties until my prince charming came and swept me off my feet. It didn't happen of course but with Disney animation at least there's an element of suspension from the real world that allows children (and adults) to grip onto impossible hopes and dreams right?

What about the non animated movies then? The ones that are repeated at Christmas and the whole family gather to watch. Are they any different? Do they have a moral underlying the typical chocolate coated world of Disney and can the new releases still hold an itty bit of magic?

I set off to find out..

Geek Charming was originally released exclusively for the Disney channel in November 2011 only to be released to the DVD market a few weeks ago. It's based on a novel by Robin Palmer that was then re scripted by Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy and then directed by Jeffrey Hornaday. It stars Sarah Hyland (from ABC's sitcom Modern Family) and Mark Prokop.

Dylan Schoenfield is a snobby, popluar girl  who seemingly cares about nothing more than winning the school title of Blosson Queen. Josh Rosen is president of the school film club and wants nothing more than to win a prize at Puget Sound Film Festival. Of course, their two worlds collide when Josh wants to make Dylan the subject of his film. While she is busy giving him a taste of what it means to be popular, her world starts to crack and he begins to see a different side to a girl that would have normally avoided him against all costs.

If you have seen Mean Girls then you have seen this plot before and done marginally better I might add. It really is just another typical teen comedy about high school cliques and conforming to peer pressure. The story is somewhat predictable from the offset and the characterisations are exaggerated. I'm not sure how believable this makes it all however, I know I certainly didn't act like that at school but I do know girls that did. The cool kids have their own language along with the other things that make them, well... cool and although it all seems a little bit nonsensical, perhaps it's meant to be? Are we really supposed to understand what they're going on about? I'm not hip enough remember! 

I could pick holes in much of the films aesthetics. Prokop's Josh is nowhere near geeky enough for example and when Dylan gives him a make over about half way through I preferred the original.It's all personal preference though and what really gives this film some cred is Dylan's transition and the way Hyland's emotional evolution strips away the fake, brattish visage.

It's not perfect but it is Disney and is surely meant to be more entertaining than real. It tries to teach about misguided preconceptions but becomes cutesy by relying on that age old feeling associated with fairy tale endings. For me, that feeling (and hope) may never go away but unfortunately after one watch Geek Charming's memory just might.

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Sunday Soundtrack

Mile End By (The Wonderful) Pulp
From The Film Trainspotting (1996)

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Cinema Review - The Pact (2012)

After seeing the trailer, I couldn't wait to see The Pact. It seemed to have everything I like in a spine chiller; things that go bump, lots of screaming and a bloody good mystery. Extended from an original short by writer/director Nicholas McCarthy, The Pact had it's premier at this years Sundance Festival to somewhat mixed reviews. I haven't seen the short and I knew little about McCarthy but I had pretty high expectations from the trailer alone. 

The plot is a simple one.Annie returns to her childhood home to meet with her sister Nicole after her mother's death, only to find the house abandoned and Nicole missing. With a cast of relative unknowns, I had nothing to really compare to but Annie, played by Caity Lotz is a cynical loner who simply shrugs off Nicole's disappearance as inevitable. That is until her cousin also goes missing and all manner of weird stuff starts happening around her. 

The film then takes a  'who dunnit' turn as Annie aims to find out what the hell is going on. She doesn't do it alone though. She's helped by another cynic, this time a cop called Bill Creek played by Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) and Haley Hudson's spooky physic Stevie. It's worth mentioning here that Hudson's performance is by far the stand out. She looks bizarre, she sounds bizarre and her actions are well, bizarre.I don't want to be cruel but the other acting was bland. Hudson fits the freaky stereotype that her role depends however, her character has a mystery surrounding her and this coupled with the way she is played makes her the most interesting to watch.

McCarthy's feature length directorial debut starts off brilliantly. The overall mood is one of eerie suspense built up with a series of almost silent shots only interrupted by the sound of footsteps or the clunk of a door. The first act leaves a feeling of disorientation with plenty been filmed from the side, back or above.This only adds to the premise that someone or something is watching the unsuspecting characters but what or from where is left to the mystery. Unfortunately, this goes on for far too long and instead of being atmospheric it becomes drawn out and gave me a severe case of film deja vu. Every so often the unknown does creep up, breaking the silence and adding flashes of terror though. McCarthy uses a clever directing trick by not starting the scares too early but in truth these moments are way too few and far between to induce any real 'eyes behind hand' reactions.

The Pact seems to get stuck rather awkwardly between the horror and thriller genres and as a result doesn't seem to know what it is. It rolls out the cliches with abundance. I don't react to cheap thrills so flickering lights and spooky music are lost on me and I've seen the whole possession thing done to death (no pun intended). What seems like forever, the second act offers a glimpse of what could be there but offers nothing new. It goes up against scenes in such films as The Exorcist (1973) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and in doing so falls very short. Another thing that happens around the half way mark is a rather massive plot hole and a reveal that I feel shouldn't be there. I don't doubt that there are people who will miss this but I didn't and it allowed me to unravel the rest of the film pretty quickly.

One thing I did like even though I have seen it before was the contrast between the inside of the childhood home and the outside scenes. Inside was dusky, dank and dark. It was lit by candle or lamp light and felt claustrophobic. The house felt old, vintage almost. Like an old coat with secrets of a previous owner, a story to tell. The outside was completely opposite. It was light and free. I would go so far as to say saturated and sometimes.. very beautiful. I like it when directors try to mirror emotions with surroundings and the house certainly had that air of uneasiness about it, Annie's apprehensions then were somewhat founded.

The third act and the lead up to the film's conclusion showed more promise.Well, it would of done if boredom hadn't have set in by this point. It had elements of classic horror that were unfortunately wasted due   to bad acting reactions. The massive build up made a scene that could have been terrifying loose all suspense and by the end of the film I just felt cheated. The 'twist' wasn't bad but I had figured it out long before I was shown it and I was left with so many loose ends that I ended up confused. It made me think at least, if only to figure out the relevance of said loose ends or why on earth it was called The Pact but all in all it's forgettable. 

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DVD Review - The Muppets (2011)

Who remembers The Muppets? 

Who has memories attached to the remembrance of that gang of crazy creatures?

And yet who had forgotten them for 2, 10 (or maybe even more) years?

I answer yes to all 3 of the questions above and yet the second this DVD hit the player everything came flooding back and a huge smile was slapped on my face that stayed there for the 109 minute duration. It's that simple really and I dare to question any cynic who thinks they could sit through this without even a flutter of happiness overcoming them.

So what was it I hear you ask. What made this seemingly nostalgic throwback so wonderful? Well, I'll tell you..

Firstly, there's a new character. He's called Walter and from the offset there is no doubt that this is his story. He lives in Small Town with his brother Gary, played by Jason Segal (Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and he is The Muppets number one fan. Despite his cheeky grin and podgy appearance Segal's character is all human so it's mildly curious then that Walter is wonderfully muppety.
Walter is a sweetheart. He's naive and childlike. Gary adores him and the two have grown up not just as brothers but as best friends too. Well I say grown up, Walter hasn't really. While his brother has changed in height and appearance over the years, he stays small and exactly the same. 

Gary and his girlfriend of 10 years Mary, Amy Adams (Enchanted), decide to visit Los Angeles for their Anniversary.Being the home of the famous Muppets studio it's only natural that they invite a very excited Walter along for the ride. When at the studio Walter overhears tycoon Tex Richman's, Chris Cooper (The Kingdom, The Patriot) evil plan to demolish it and drill for oil. Of course, Walter (and Gary) are horrified and realise there is only one thing for it - find Kermit and the rest of the Muppet Gang, put on a giant telethon and raise the money to save the day!

Okay, so the plot line is thin and very similar to A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie but that just adds to the purity of it. It dares to ask the question, were The Muppets ever fashionable and Segal, who co wrote the film with Nicholas Stoller brings them up to date without losing that yesterday feel. James Bobin, of Flight Of The Conchords fame directs creating whimsical shots of candy coloured loveliness and sickly sweet song and dance numbers that are guaranteed to have you swaying along. 

On the subject of songs, Bobin's friend Bret Mckenzie (one of the other co-creators and member of Flight Of The Conchords), wrote the Academy award winning song 'Man or Muppet' which both funny and heart warming. Another highlight comes with the early show stopper 'Life's a Happy Song' which is so cheesy it fits the Muppets vibe perfectly. There's some of the original songs in there too because it wouldn't be a Muppet movie without them as well as some rather bizarre (but equally charming) pop song covers.

By bringing in more rounded human characters and not just relying on cameos gives the film mainstream flare.  Segal plays his character with cheeky charm. Caught between his living in his brother's childish wonder and his adult life, Gary is satirical and smaltzy. Adams brings sweet and typically girly (with just a hint of punch) to Mary while Cooper plays his Villain with pantomime perfection. Don't be disheartened though, they are lots of cameos too ( I won't say who so not to spoil) and all the Muppets make an appearance with some pretty cool back stories explaining where they've been.

With cliches round every corner The Muppets is sure to make you smile. It clever without being over the top. Segal and Stoller aren't pretending to make any different, they (just like the Muppets themselves) want to put on a show and put on a show they do! Each creature hasn't changed and like I did when I was just a little gig I wanted to reach into the film and ruffle Kermit's head. It's a story of wonderment and one of belonging, not just Walter and his new found friends but for the audience too (it really does have something for everyone). It's a war on the cynic and proves that these loveable creatures can find a place in anybody's heart - watch it, I dare you not to fall in love.

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News From The Web - Hugh Laurie As RoboCop Baddie

If you haven't seen at least one episode of the medical drama House, where on earth have you been? Originally running on Fox network for 8 seasons, it came to an end in May. It's undoubted star Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House himself has proved that he he can play mean spirited, sarcastic and selfish but underneath it all his character is ultimately a really nice guy.

My point is, can Laurie now make the transition to play full on evil because Variety reports that he has just signed up to play super villain Omni Corp CEO in Jose Padilha's remake of MGM's RoboCop. Yes, that's right, Laurie is joining the already intriguing cast including Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, The Avengers) and Abbie Cornish (Limitless, Sucker Punch) in arguably the most ancipipated sci-fi remake of 2013i.

I have no doubt he can do it be fair. Away from his award winning work on House Hugh Laurie has graced
TV screens for years. He has also had roles in Cinema as well as doing lots of  voice work for animated films like Hop and Monsters Vs Aliens. RoboCop will surely be then his most momentous role to date but Laurie oozes charisma and certainly has the acting range to fit the mould with perfection.

Padilha's version of the film sticks to the premise of the original. Centering around Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, Lola Versus) who is  murdered on duty then remade into the unstoppable cyborg known as RoboCop. Gary Oldman (Leon, The Dark Knight) plays RoboCop's scientist creator (a character unique to the new version) which will no doubt lead to some great interactions between the two on screen. Production comes from Strike Entertainment partners Eric Newman and Marc Abraham and with Padiha directing form a script originally written by Josh Zetumer, with recent drafts by Nick Scheck and James Vanderbilt, it's all very arousing.

RoboCop is due to hit the cineam in August 2013.

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30 Day Film Challenge - 1. My Favourite Film

Aaaarrrggghhh! This is such a hard one for me, as I'm sure it would be for most people. The reason being is that my 'favourite' film changes all the time. I could go for years with one film holding a special place in my heart and then I see something that blows me away, which changes everything. Maybe I am fickle? I don't know. 
Anyway, the one I've chosen is.... (drum roll pleaese...)

The Machinist

This is a fairly recent watch for me. I don't understand why I had never seen it before because I was in complete awe of it from beginning to end. It's very rare that a film with a guaranteed twist can take me right to the conclusion without even an inkling.It's even rarer that after watching a film, I would then restart it straight away to watch it again. The Machinist did all of that and more.

I knew the film starred  Christian Bale but as his eyes widened with shock or horror in the opening scenes so did mine. I didn't recognise him. I know him as Batman, strong in physique and stature but the figure on my screen was literally skin and bone. He was zombified and wraith like, a freak of nature that I was almost afraid to look at too closely. His character Trevor Reznik hasn't slept for a year, eats very little and seems to have the weight of the gloomy world he lives in on his shoulders. Bale obviously took all of this board in his preparation by loosing a reported 62 pounds and taking method acting to a whole new level.

Reznik, a metal shop worker is trapped in a nightmarish state of paranoia convinced that someone is out to get him. With few friends and his work mates turning against him he flickers from reality to hallucination and back again as his  psychological torment descends into utter chaos. The question is, whether that chaos is all in the mind or if the newcomer in his life, the peculiar Ivan played by John Sharian (Fifth Element, Saving Private Ryan) holds the key to the mystery.

The mood of the film is haunting. It's atmospheric in the heaviest sense. With it's washed out look and prominent hues of blue and grey director Brad Anderson echoes Reznik's character perfectly making the world he lives in consume him utterly.The mounting tension felt by Reznik is passed through the screen with eery easiness and although slow in build up the film doesn't seem to loose pace.

Although, probably not the most original of story lines writer Scott Kosar has a subtlety that only allows one peek under the shrouds of mystery at a time. It was this concise splattering of cryptic clues throughout that forced my second viewing and even now, I still notice the new. 

Kosar, Anderson and Bale work together like a triple threat with motif and actions that demand second guessing and I jumped to all manner of conclusions in my head before the end played out. It isn't a pretty film and neither did it leave me with a nice feeling in my stomach. It is cohesive though with a harrowing soundtrack to add to the thrills. It's entertaining and it deserves to be watched.

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