Blue Jasmine

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The general consensus these days is that Woody Allen is very hit-and-miss, the fact is he brings such a large number of movies every year, that it’s hard to blame him if there’s a few duds. It’s clear however, especially with the example of 2011’s Midnight in Paris, that when Woody brings us a treat he can still deliver some of the most uniquely enjoyable cinema out there. Blue Jasmine takes a much more dramatic outlook than his last hit, telling the story of Cate Blanchett’s, troubled divorcee whose used to the finer things but is struggling to adjust to a life without them. As we watch her life after her nasty break up we also see, interspersed within, the lead up to the break up itself, in some of the most clever plot editing ¬†you’ll see all year. To complete the cast we also have Alec Baldwin as Jasmine’s rich ex, Sally Hawkins as her helpful and happy but poorer younger sister, and Bobby Cannavale as her greasy Italian-American fiancee.

Having only seen a handful of Woody Allen’s movies this one felt a lot different from the few I have seen. It was a much more straight drama and although there are lighter moments this movie is not a comedy, and it’s not even romantic, this is a deep character study of a woman brought to life by Blanchett’s performance and Allen’s superbly acute writing. What’s so brilliant about it is how real this character feels, while she maintains the image of being rich and glamorous we see her dark layer of denial and disbelief constantly bursting to her surface. It really is just so brilliant to watch Blanchett perfectly portray this character, the kind of performance that only comes along once in a blue moon, this is something really special and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run away with a flurry of Best Actress gongs this award season. She’s not the only great performer though, in fact, Allen gets the best out of everyone, Hawkins is always fantastic as she manages to be completely different in every film she’s in, Baldwin also delivers really well as a nasty piece of work whose particularly good at turning the charm on to get his own way.

Overall it’s very, very hard to find a fault in this movie, it’s superbly written, superbly acted and superbly directed, genuinely one of the most affecting and real dramas you will see on the big screen. Don’t miss it.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyI have been slack again this week in my posting and I had originally planned for this post to be my review of Tre, but last night I went to see The Hobbit and seeing as this is my 100th post, I thought it would be nice to coincide it with one of the biggest movie events of recent history and one of the things I’ve been anticipating for as long as I can remember. Through a troubled production with the financial problems at MGM and the loss of original director Guillermo Del Toro there were going to be questions asked from the start. Once Jackson came back on board as director things seemed to take off finally but I, along with almost everyone I know, was skeptical about the announcement that it would become a trilogy rather than the original, planned two films. There were even apprehensions that this might become the next Phantom Menace, it seemed almost an impossible feat to spread a book that is about half the size of one of the Lord of the Rings and give it three times the running length. But it’s no secret that bits of the story have been tweaked and there are bits from Tolkien’s appendices that will also be included and I can say that after seeing An Unexpected Journey it was the right move.

There have been mixed reviews to meet The Hobbit’s release most of which I have read complain mostly about the 48 fps shooting, saying that it makes the film look unrealistic since the frame rate is so fast, unfortunately I can’t comment on this matter as I went to see the film in 2D and, therefore, the normal 24 fps as my faith in 3D was lost a long time ago, but it seems a real shame that reviewers haven’t been able to look past this and I think overall this has tarnished their view and made them fail to see how great this movie really is.

One of my main worries going in to the film was the thought that some of the silly humour that is in Lord of the Rings may be taken too far in an attempt to make The Hobbit a more kid friendly film to accompany the book. I was proven wrong though and the moments of humour are actually very successful, the introduction to the dwarves and the cockney trolls being my personal favourites. The action should also be celebrated with a number of big set pieces that all hold their own and exciting moments are scattered throughout meaning you never really get the chance to get bored and it makes the long running time completely worth it.

It’s left me very excited as well for parts two and three as I can see the potential for this trilogy to become just as fantastic as The Lord of the Rings. The dwarves I’m sure will grow as the characters are given more time to breath and I expect there’ll be some camraderie to rival Merry and Pippin. Martin Freeman is, as usual, superb as Bilbo and is much better than I was expecting at coming across as how I’d always imagined him while reading the book in my childhood. Gollum is back, again being one of the strongest elements of the film – the riddle scene between him and Bilbo has to be one of my favourite of all time. And Gandalf is, well, Gandalf. So basically what I’m trying to say is ignore the mixed reviews get out out to cinema and get transported back to Middle Earth again, you won’t be disappointed.

Ponyo

So today saw me take my third excursion into the world of Hayao Miyazaki the pioneer of Studio Ghibli, it must be said that I am a complete beginner when it comes to anime and I’m still just scratching the surface of the whole culture but so far my ventures into the genre have been incredibly enjoyable, and Ponyo has served as no disappointment.

Ponyo is a little magic fish who finds herself discovered by little boy, Sosuke, what follows is a dream like adventure involving tsunamis, magic spells, villains, and a few OAP’s. One of the greatest things I’ve found with all of Miyazaki’s films is his ability to create a narrative that resembles exactly the trains of thought you found yourself on when you were about eight years old. This skill gives his films a unique charm and innocence that you’d be very hard done by to find in any Hollywood animation. The way the plot moves into more and more ridiculous territory is never questioned by characters and therefore isn’t by its audience, the only flaw coming in the slightly underwhelming conclusion.

Comparing this film to the worlds other great animation studio, Pixar, is where it becomes clear exactly what this film does right. First of all its cartoon style animation is almost more beautiful than any computer universe Pixar have created, but the biggest difference is its ability to make a film that appeals to all ages while not having to include some bits that adults will get and kids won’t and instead just focuses on being itself. Ponyo is the kind of the film that parents could take their kids to and enjoy it themselves solely because of its charm. This kind of film should be brought far further into the mainstream eye, Studio Ghibli has it’s own kind of magic.