fyre: (Films 2012)
[personal profile] fyre
#5 - The Muppets

This film, I was going to see no matter what the reviewers said about it. I love the Muppets. I own all the films, and can recite them by heart. So yes. I love the Muppets, which is very peculiar, since puppets on the whole scare the seven hells out of me. Muppets are an exception.

The premise is simple - Muppet fanboy overhears Evil Tycoon planning to destroy Muppet-studios and tries to reunite the Muppets to save the thing he loves. Naturally, there are obstacles and silliness ensues.

To be honest, I was a tiny, tiny bit disappointed for the first fifteen minutes. This is mostly because it took so long to get to the actual Muppets. Walter, or whatever his name was, didn't interest me. Nor did his emotional journey. None of that was of interest to me. I wanted the Muppets I knew and loved, not some new fanboy guy. It didn't match the openings of Treasure Island or Christmas Carol at all.

That said, the human characters were charming, and the big opening number did really get me back into a Muppety mood. I couldn't have been more relieved when they started the fourth-wall jokes right from the word go.

And when we finally did get to the Muppets, that's when things improved big time. The songs, the hijinks, the sheer sentimental fantasticness of the scene with Kermit in his portrait gallery, when all the portraits came to life again. This is where I decided I liked the film quite a lot. And nothing, nothing, prepared us for the unexpected cameo during 'Muppet or a Man', which is by far the best song in the film. I know I teared up a little bit during 'Rainbow Connection' as well.

Still, while it was a solid Muppets film, I'm not in any hurry to get the DVD. I will at some point, but it won't be a bought-on-release one. Treasure Island and Christmas Carol are my favourites by far, and I think this is because of the narrative format, which - I know - isn't really the way the Muppets work. This combined with the slow opening are the reasons this won't make it to much top 3. It's better than Wizard of Oz by a mile, but still. When you promote a film with Muppets throughout, I expect Muppets throughout, not waiting 15 minutes for them to show up.

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#6 - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is the film I went to just because of the cast. To be honest, I didn't care if it sucked or not. It had Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Celia Imrie all together on the screen at the same time. I would have seen it if it was just a film about them sitting in an airport lounge.


It's a bit of a daft premise - half a dozen elderly strangers decide to up sticks and take up retirement in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a place for the elderly to spend their golden years in India (in Jaipur, I think). Of course, what they expect and what they get is very, very different.

It's a gentle, feel-good film. Yes, the premise is ridiculous, and far-fetched in the fact that they all stay in this shambolic hotel, but it doesn't stop it being a lovely, simple, entertaining film.

The characters are each very different and all dealing with their own issues and baggage, from Maggie Smith's exceedingly racist former housekeeper to Tom Wilkinson, who has come back to India for closure with the love of his young life. Each story was so gently uncovered and sometimes was so very heartbreaking.

What I love about these actors is that they are all so good at understated. There were moments where they can just make your heart break with a look. I love this kind of film, where everything is quiet, character-based and not all about the explosions and fighting, and where the romance - when it happens - is much more real, because these people know they're not as young as they were.

Also, I have discovered that when Judi Dench smiles, I smile. When she cries, I cry. She is a powerful Jedi. Powerful indeed.

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#7 - In Darkness

For something completely different, I wanted to see this film after seeing the trailer just before Marigold Hotel. This is not a film for easy viewing or a casual afternoon at the cinema. It's heavy and dark and claustrophobic, as you might expect with the subject matter.

The plot is based on the true story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker from Lvov in Poland, who sheltered Jews in the city's sewer system. It's a Polish-laguage film, but also features German and Hebrew.

I think part of what made it a harder watch was the simple fact that for once, I was watching a film set during the war, with the characters actually speaking the languages of the countries that were occupied. It's all well and good watching Schindler's List, but when every speaks English, it's not as real as hearing a Polish man shoouting at a German-speaking Jew to speak a language he can understand, so he knows he's not being betrayed.

It's also one of the most claustrophobic films I have ever sat through. The sewer system (whether sets or real old sewer tunnels) were confining enough, but in moments where they doused the lights and all you could hear was the breathing, and all you could see were the faint outlines created by incidental light, it was immersing and uncomfortable and disturbing.

What also makes this different from a lot of films set during the war is the fact that they don't paint all the characters in a too-good-to-be-true light. Socha is, at first, an opportunistic SOB, who only wants to profit from his pet Jews, but gradually becomes more and more protective of them as the situation worsens.

The people he saves are far from squeaky clean as well, and within the confines of the sewers, the morals break down more and more as they become more desperate. It really did go a long way to showing just what people will do when they have nothing left to lose.

It was hard and it absolutely gut-wrenchingly painful to watch. I cried. I won't deny it. I cried during the scene that he found out what happened to his workmate because of him. I cried like a child when he came back to say he and his wife would adopt the baby. I cried when the Rabbi broke down. It's a brilliant piece of film. It's gritty, it's painful, and above all else, it's real. I would recommend seeing it, but only if you are ready to deal with how much it will hurt.

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#8 - The Hunger Games

I went into this blind. No idea what it was about. Never read the books. Didn't even know there were books until they started putting posters up in the shops, after the film started to do well.

From what I can take from the plot, this is the story: in future-America (this, I'm not clear on. America? Not? Dunno), the wealthy and powerful live in The Capital. The workers, labourers etc live in the twelve Districts (kind of like states or counties? Or something?) and years ago, they tried to rise against the capital. The Capital squished them, what with being full of powerful and rich people. Every year after that, the districts each have to send a boy and girl between the age of 12 and 18, to basically fight to the death in a televised 'game show' from hell. It's partly punishment for the districts, but partly titillation for the people in the Capital, who never see people from the districts otherwise.

I do like a good semi-futuristic dystopia, where everything is messed up and broken. I found the design and premise of the world very interesting and nicely developed, although I did leave the cinema wondering if it was actually meant to be a future-America or just a general non-land that could be anywhere.

The concept is also chilling and very uncomfortable. At first, it almost seemed just like a TV talent show - X-Factor or some kind of nonsense like that. It didn't seem like the games could actual be real, until they started showing footage from the previous year. The minute the kids were put into the arena was the minute it got suddenly and horribly real.

I won't deny it, I loved Katniss. I love that we got to know her and understand her, and the moment when she is forced to kill, you can see the shock and horror in her face at what she has done. I love that she is principled and smart. I love that even though Peeta is an idiot, she's willing to forgive him, and to help him.

I also love Haymitch. I love that he's the embodiment of how the games can break you, even if you do survive. No wonder he's messed up and completely broken, as the only one to survive out of 24 children. Who knows how many he killed, and what he had to do to live.

I will freely admit I cried when Rue died. Not when she actually died, but when Katniss turned to the camer afterwards and raised her hand in a salute. I was sniffling all over and it only continued as the riots proceeded.

Overall, what impressed me the most that this is a film for teenagers, but it wasn't dumbed down. It could have easily been an adult film if it had been more gory. And a smart film at that. It doesn't glamourise the violence or the slaughter. It shines a harsh light on the reality of what it is to survive and what people, even children will do.

Also, it has an awesome soundtrack.

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#9 - Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

I love Aardman Studios. I will watch pretty mcuh anything they do, just because it's them. I love them for their little details, their sly wordplays, their background jokes, their ridiculous characters. And on this occasion, they gave me pirates. In case it has not been mentioned, I also love pirates.

The plot is a fun one - The Pirate Captain wants to win the Pirate of the Year award, but while he's a great Captain, he's not exactly a brilliant pirate and even has a Dodo instead of a parrot. Charles Darwin, when attacked by said pirate, tricks the Captain into coming to London so he can win a prize and an audience with Queen Victoria. Who Darwin is smitten on, and who also hates pirates. Wacky hijinks ensue.

I suspect I was laughing much more than anyone else in the cinema simply because other people were watching the characters and the action, but I was keeping one eye on the background at all time, and dying giggling over all the little puns and things, from the names of shops to posters on the wall as they walked past (eg. A Chinese laundry called Man Kee Laundry or a dentists called D. K. Ying. Or a powder shop called Napoleon Blownapart)

The voice casting was perfect, from Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain right through to Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria. You could tell that the performers were having far too much fun with the characters they were playing, and it came across brilliantly.

Ill be getting it on DVD as soon as I can, plus probably seeing it at least one or two more times, just to try and pick up all the little details I can while it's on the big screen. I loved it to pieces and was grinning all the way home.
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Fyre

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