Scene 23 – When Marine Was There

And just like a Phoenix…I am back! Risen from the flames, covered in ashes and dirt… and also wishing Dumbledore my lover wasn’t as forceful.

Going to try make these posts regular, even though I am swamped…It’s something I really wanna do. Anyhow, let’s get straight into it….

Since I have been on break, I thought it fun for the first movie to do (upon my return to blogging) to be the last one out of Studio Ghibli before their short-lived hiatus with ‘When Marine was There’. Having said that, ‘Marine’ would and should have sibling syndrome competing with ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, ‘Spirited Away’ and my personal favourite, ‘Princess Mononoke’. For me, it didn’t quite live up to the expectation….

‘When Marine was There’ follows a 12-year old girl, Anna. She doesn’t have any friends and her foster parents are overwhelmed with her, so they sent her to the countryside to visit some relatives. There she meets and befriends the mysterious girl Marnie. And that in a nutshell, is the plot. Stylistically, ‘Marnie’ is similar to ‘The Wind Rises’. However, with the stories roots firmly footed in English tale by Joan G. Robinson, the animators couldn’t let their imagination go wild and create amazing fantasy worlds like in ‘Spirited Away’. Personally, this is the major problem with the film. While the plot itself is great and has some interesting themes,  the friendship between the two girls is extremely superficial and barely explored. They meet and from one second to the other are best friends for life. To make it even worse, the dialogue is cringe-worthy at times, especially when cliché’d phrases like ‘I will love you forever’ and ‘ Always remember me’ are used. This wouldn’t be a problem, but since the mutual relationship is one major theme and not really developed, this dialogue seems heavy-handed and out-of-place. So not to spoil entire film…lets head to the Bad and the Good…

The Bad: Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s love affair with Western stories continues, this time however he hasn’t got the Godfather; Miyazaki, to steer him on the right path and everything seems forced and a little to cliché’d.

The Good: Absolutely Gorgeous Animation, as expected from Studio Ghibli. Enthralling story (even though laboured in parts). One for fans of Studio Ghibli, but wouldn’t recommend to newbies’s wanting to get lost in The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

But don’t take my word for it,this is just my Outake.

Watch it and let me know what you think….


Scene 22 – Song of the Sea

*Cue smoke machine….spot light centre stage*  “Hi Guys!”, the author say in his best prepubescent voice!….
I think that’s the kind of entrance I’d like this blog to make each week…and yes I have said each week, because I’m back to offer you my weekly brain burps on film that I have watched. I am sorry that I left you alone, and cold in the dark…again…but work got in the way. Saying that I am procrastinating from more work, by writing this actual blog…but…I truly loved this film so it most definitely worth the time spent writing and in fact reading.

Let me paint you a scene as you wind through a landscape populated with fairies, giants turned to, selkies and painfully tormented humans, Song of the Sea enthrals by merging the lines between the common and fantastical. Following on from his Oscar nominated début with Secret of Kells, director Tomm Moore’s second film with his team at Cartoon Saloon, is a far more personal piece.

Song of the Sea is part folk tale, part family drama, as Moore returns to the rich history of Celtic folklore, finding it lurking within the cracks of a broken family. Creating a powerful, yet refreshingly simple twist. Ben (voiced by David Rawle) lives with widowed father Conor (Brendan Gleeson) and his mute little sister Saoirse in a lighthouse. Ben prefers the simple companionship of this sheepdog Cu to Saoirse, for whom in a heartbreakingly complicated ball of emotion, he blames for the loss of their mother. So he clings to the vague, magical memories of her songs and stories as comfort from a cold, soulless father. To make matters worse, their sharp, stubborn Grandma (Fionnula Flanagan) arrives, coming up with the conclusion that only way to fix the family: take the children to Dublin, leaving Conor, and Ben’s beloved Cu behind. Just on cue, the night before their departure, Saoirse stumbles across hidden corners of their lighthouse, finding old family secrets that lie awaiting to be discovered.

Upon their arrival in Dublin, Ben is immediately determined to return, reluctantly taking Saoirse with him. Their journey submerses them into a fantastical, rich of history, myths and legends. *spoliers* There is something so enchanting about the way that the trio of stone fairies are discovered by the siblings in an overgrown roundabout in the middle of the town. The dialogue between the real world and the old world of legend doesn’t just lend itself to wondrous imagery, but also captures the ideas that hold real weight and are the driving forces within the film.

It is evident that Moore and everyone at the studio are proud for it’s Irish origins, honouring it’s folklore and culture, all the while technically taking the influence from 50’s American animation, Japanese anime and ancient Celtic art. Song of the Sea combines all these qualities, interweaving them in a compelling and original fashion. The studio uses every opportunity to take full advantage of the animated medium, delightful telling the story through shapes and symbols. The father, Conor, always hunched, sometimes over a Guinness in a dingy pub, has his sorrow echoed by a giant rock that lies offshore, curled over in an identical manner as if it bears the battering waves. Details like this are typical of the history found in every corner of each frame.

Such resonance weaves throughout the film, and demonstrates a devotion to theme shared with the best of children literature. This is evident as Ben and Satires travel deeper into the past, the world grows ever more fantastical, but not at the expense of the human story. Ben moves with the steely and passionate inconsistencies of primary-school boy, and Saoirse with the quiet, observant and playful demeanour of a real toddler coming to school age. Just like life, everyone is presented as flawed, complex creatures. As the background art enchants with wondrous colour and texture, the character animation is commendably reserved. It is a fantastic technique that the animators, who breathe life into the simple designs, using behaviour that hints each character being the mere tip of a human iceberg.

The reaches its ‘bell’ when the Owl Witch (also voiced by Fionnula Flanagan), bear uncanny echoes to Ben and Saoirse’s own lives. Her Obsession with “eliminating suffering” is an achingly honest mirror of Grandma, who strives, to the point of further damage, to heal. There is a robustness to the deceptive simplicity of Song of the Sea that is reminiscent to that of the great Hayao Miyazaki,with core plots similar to My Neighbour Totoro or Ponyo. Saying this, Moore and his studio contemporaries have made a truly unique world with a distinguished voice. But just like Miyazaki, Moore posits himself that hand-drawn animation in itself has a timeless quality that is impervious to age.

Scene 21 – Hector and The Search for Happiness

So in 2013, we the audiences were treated to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which saw Ben Stiller undertake a world-traversing voyage to understand the meaning of life…which is apparently a big deal. This time around sees Simon Pegg trying to get in touch with his happy-self, as weird as that sounds… in Hector and the Search for Happiness.

Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, and directed by Peter Chelsom, Simon Pegg plays our dissatisfied protagonist Hector; a quirky psychiatrist who realises his methods aren’t really helping his patients, and so embarks on a trip around the world, reaching destinations such as Shanghai and The Himalayas,  in a bid to discover the secret of happiness….ps. its cake, lots and lots of cake…

Chelsom does well to capture the energy of the various locales, and if nothing else the aesthetics within the film are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the tight budget…especially in comparison to Walter Mitty. As for the film’s relatable messages, the bulk of them hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which their executed can leave much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem, with an unfocused  screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s ultimate realization is extremely sudden to say the  least and feels like it comes completely out of nowhere.

Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Of course, as an actor Pegg proves up to the task in the emotional moments, but even for an actor as good as Pegg he cannot always imbue Hector with likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A prime example of Hector’s less than endearing decision-making comes when he cheats on his girlfriend days after departing for his voyage….cue every Beyonce song!

A supporting cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer and Toni Collette is always going to class up proceedings, and they are all enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is little cohesive power between their characters’ musings on happiness. Again, like in the instances with Pegg, it isn’t down to the actors faults more so that of the screenplay.

So just like your older sibling…It’s not as profound as it thinks it is, and the screenplay disappoints more than it impresses, but Hector and the Search for Happiness is a harmless, solidly performed romp. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment should be satisfied.

Week 20

It’s that time again kids, this weeks Watched, Read & Listened To List.

Again I would like to apologies for the lateness, it won’t happen again I swear!! Wont pick a highlight this week as there are far to many to mention, but normal service shall resume next week

Although….do watch Goal of the Dead…hilariously bad, which makes it so good!!

On with the list…

All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation marks: “Play”
Italics, Quotation marks: “Short Story

1:1 Thierry Henry 

Scene 20 – Ant Man

We’re back!!…and by we’re I mean me…so alone…

Sorry to my readers (roughly three people, including my…well, if she could read)…for  the lack of blogs in the past few weeks, just been uber busy and really haven’t had time. But I have made time now and will continue to do so…

One thing I will add is the weeks Watched, Read & Listened To List, may seem impressive but its actually a combination of the past three weeks due to the back log…but anyway on with the blog…

This weeks movie is set in the mega-film-world know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe…comic book nerds around the world rejoicing…about the movies, not so much about the Hipster like phase that comics have now fallen into. the vastly growing Marvel Universe, which has already brought us global successes such as The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, delves back into its inner sanctum to deliver a new tale, that of; Ant Man. Paul Rudd takes the lead as Scott Lang, a robin hood-type burglar who has just finished a stint in jail and is hoping to change his ways, and to be a better father for his daughter…on the count of three everyone…awwww….

Unfortunately, as if this tale was scripted…life as a convict makes it difficult to Scott to keep his job and he is forced into burglary once again. With a little help from his friends, he manages to break into an old guys house and break open a safe only to find what seems to be a retro-biker outfit. Unbeknownst to Scott and co, the house belongs to super-genius Hank Pam (Michael Douglas), founder of Pam Technologies, and owner of said suit, which has the ability to change the atomic structure of a person, i.e. miniaturize a person to the size of…well you guessed it from the title; an ant.

The casting of Paul Rudd was a highlight for me, as I knew from being a fan of the character, that it would allow him to bring his charm to the role. Scott Lang isn’t as smart as Tony Stark or as strong as Captain America, but he is more resourceful than both..there I said it! He is quick on his feet and able to ‘MacGyver’ his way out of any situation which was fascinating to watch. I also am aware that I did just use ‘MacGyver’ as a verb there, and in hindsight, am shocked that it isn’t used that way on a more frequent basis…I blame rap music. So…as Scott Lang learns more about the suit and the ants, he is able to add his unique qualities of sharp thinking and resourcefulness to form into this new and unique type of hero.  Surprisingly, for me one of the best parts of the film was in fact the ants. Explain the different types of ants and the advantages of them, and in a sense turning them into Ant Man’s Bat-Utility-Belt.

The film also has plenty of heart, not only thanks to Paul Rudd, but also thanks to its supporting cast. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly (who plays Hope van Dyne) share a father-daughter relationship, which in turn is beautifully echoed to that of Paul Rudd and his daughter Cassie. With Scott Lang being the first Marvel superhero who has a child, they don’t shy away form it.

Bringing in the comedic value was Scott Lang;s small team of enthusiastic consist played by Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and T.I. Add to that the villain, played by Corey Stoll, who added just a tad more than the average Marvel villain. He had an awesome suit in the form of the Yellowjackets and a clear reason about why what he was doing was wrong. However, he doesn’t actually get that many scenes and it would have been beneficial to see him at a younger age to explain some of his back-story…but there is only so much time you can keep an audience in its seats.

This film manages to stand on its own, there are elements only made possible by being in the Marvel-verse, but it doesn’t heavily rely on them, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It has been a while since we’ve had a standalone superhero film which isn’t a sequel, other than Guardians of the Galaxy…but you get what I’m saying. In essence, this film is a comedic heist film that happens to feature a superhero. what was refreshing was that we saw Scott Lang as a hero foremost and added the ‘super’ later. At the same time they managed to op up the Marvel world by exploring the micro-verse and showing us a small…pardon the pun, insight into the world of quantum.

I really hope that Ant-Man is going to be a hard sale to conventional audiences. People find the trailer funny and/or they love Marvel films which will get them into the seats, but when the title is Ant-Man it sounds ludicrous, and not in a positive sense. Having listened to a Stan Lee interview on the Nerdist Podcast, I’d say the old charmer would be pleased with how Ant Man turned out. His many reasoning for how it wasn’t a fan favourite as a comic being that the concept of his size wasn’t truly exploited, i.e.. Ant Man in a comic panel by himself, so his size isn’t really shown. But that is not a problem here, as transferring of mediums actually highlights this character more than it would have with previous Marvel ones. And I guess it’s true what they say…great things come in small packages!!…now I don’t know if that was a gentleman vegetable joke or just a cheesy line…but thats a question for another day!

Week 19

It’s that time again kids, this weeks Watched, Read & Listened To List.

This week I watched quite a bit of stuff….highlight of the week is a Tv documentary I watch Dara O’Briain Meets Stephen Hawking. I’m a big fan of both and see them meet was quite interesting. I’d also recommend this for fans of the bio-pic The Theory of Everything. If you are like me and ever wonder how much of these based on true fact stories is actually true… but that is just me. It is really interesting to see how Stephen interacts with Dara, considering his condition were he can’t actually speak for a while until he composes his answer; contrasting with Dara’s comedy/Geek background. There is an amazing part were Stephen tells Dara jokes…and you see Stephens reaction, his laughter. There is something so humbling and revealing into the  character that is Stephen Hawking before his illness took over.

Soundtrack of the week this week is Johann Johannsson score for The Theory of Everything…just because I was so caught up in the documentary. Which doesn’t mean that the score isn’t good, far from it…Johannsson sure knows how to pluck on the heart strings.

On with the list…

All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation marks: “Play”
Italics, Quotation marks: “Short Story



“Not all that wander are lost” – J.R.R Tolkien

Till next time..

Scene 19 – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a film that does about what you’d expect from a sequel that finally hits theaters almost ten years after its predecessor,  it gives the audience more of the same in terms of style and characters, but  not a whole lot more to be honest . Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return to co-writing and directing duties, bring the same visually stunning style that made the first movie  so resonate with audiences and fans.

The sequel takes ironically enough takes place in the same world; Sin City,  and once again tells its eerie noir vignettes through multiple character point-of-views full of its signature gratuitous violence, over-the-top vulgarity, and the black and white comic book panel style interspersed with dramatic splashes of color for effect.

Much of the original cast returns as well, and thankfully the nine years since the original Sin City have been kind to those actors…well the CG has been kind and done wonders for Mickey Rourke, who returns as the fan favorite Marv. Marv is just as insane and unpredictable as he was the first time around as he bashes skulls and swigs whiskey in his unusual but entertainingly written way.

Jessica Alba is given much more to do this time around as her character Nancy finally lets Sin City and the loss of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) corrupt her. It can be a bit confusing as to when the stories in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For do actually take place, as this particular story takes place after the first film, but other segments/characters, including a pre-gold eye Manute (Dennis Haysbert replacing the late Michael Clark Duncan), take place notably before the events of Sin City.

The notable new cast are actually a nice switch-up, and add the few factors of the film that somewhat outdo the original Sin City. Josh Brolin was born to play a character in these films with his square jaw and lined face, and he takes the focus of the movie, playing the dangerously smitten Dwight. Dwight can’t say no to his ex-lover Eva (played conveniently by Eva Green)…and to blame him who could, considering she is naked for pretty much the entirety of her scenes.

Eva Green yet again steals every scene, just as she did in 300: Rise of an Empire, and looks stunning with the black-and-white contrast mixed with her red lips and green eyes. This style of cinematography suits her down to the ground and she is clearly going through one of the most productive parts of her career, playing outlandish, strong and not always virtuous characters.

Another welcomed addition is Joseph Gordon Levitt, who brings one of the more noir-ish storylines as Johnny, a poker player that’s on a roll with revenge on his mind….if that doesn’t sound like a line from a movie poster I don know what does! His clash with the returning Powers Boothe as Senator Roark ends up being one of my favorite portions of the film, as it is so suited to the noir style.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For suffers from many of the same problems that the first film had, namely a severe imbalance in the quality in effects and artistic values. Some scenes, such as a sequence that sees Marv beat up the bad guys from the point-of-view of the camera following him through windows in a mansion, almost Hulk-esque,  are brilliantly directed by Rodriguez. Then on the other hand  we have scenes like one with Marv and Nancy on motorcycles, which look so fake and poor that it’s almost laughable. I know Rodriguez is a director that likes to walk the line in terms of his vision and how he goes about achieving it, but its scenes like this that take away a lot of the artistic argument for these films.

Another point I had are the stories, or their extremities rather, as the stories/characters get so excessive or extreme, just for sake of being shocking, and end up ultimately feeling fake.…again this could be analysing  Sin City as a fiction movie rather the a comic adaptation movie. They, as in comic book adaptations,  are speaking to the raging hormone fanboy audience that prefers something more colorful to usual language, saying that is not that there isn’t a place for this type of storytelling, but it will certainly take down an otherwise intelligently original film.

Fans of the original film will find Sin City: A Dame to Kill For satisfying to those same distinct tastes for stylized violence and larger-than-life quirky characters. But even with some exciting new additions to the cast, the film never goes beyond the trappings of the original film and rarely, if ever, does anything better.