Top Five: Matthew Vaughn

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There are many directors I admire – Steven Spielberg, Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott – but probably my absolute favourite is Matthew Vaughn. Though not quite so prolific as the aforementioned names, Matthew Vaughn has been a strong stylistic voice on the scene since the 90s, forming a strong relationship with Guy Ritchie as a recurring producer before forging his own path as a director. I’ve seen all of his films, which isn’t exactly a mean feat – there’s only five of them – but each of them have a very individual genre and tone, whilst still obviously part of one filmmaker’s specific canon. From fairy-tales to crime films, superheroes and spies, all of Matthew Vaughn’s might be adaptations of graphic novels or books; but all have such a creative take on the source material and genre features that it feels like specifically his vision, which is why I love them so much. You never know what he’s going to take on next.

Except we do: his next film is a sequel to his most recent outing, Kingsman: The Secret Service, but even his interviews on the film suggest an entirely different film, focusing on Americana as a theme rather than class relations. So, as an appreciation post for one of my favourite filmmakers, as well as a channel for my excitement for his next film, here is my top five favourite films directed by Matthew Vaughn (in order of release):

  1. Layer Cake (2004) (AKA His First):

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Layer Cake was Vaughn’s directorial debut, establishing a style which really put him on the map: a hyper-violent, oh-so-cool London lad film about a middle man on the drug-ring scene, played by Daniel Craig, who is just about to retire comfortably when his last job gets very messy. Layer Cake allowed Vaughn to showcase his filmic roots in a film that, while reflecting his collaboration with Guy Ritchie, with its brash British characters and gritty tone, was inventive in that it placed entirely new characters in a crime film, such as the middle class XXXX (Daniel Craig’s character in the film is unnamed, which is so much fun). Whilst not my favourite Matthew Vaughn movie (crime movies are not my forte), the large, brilliant cast, including Sienna Miller, George Harris and Michael Gambon, highlights the faith the film industry had in this first time director.

  1. Stardust (2007) (AKA My Guilty Pleasure)

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Maybe it’s the pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox with pirate hair, or a campy Robert De Niro, a long-haired Mark Strong, or just a love of fairy-tales, but Stardust is one of my absolute favourite films, and very high on the list of Vaughn films for me. Adapted from the Neil Gaiman book of the same name, Stardust is about a poor boy named Tristan (Charlie Cox) from the small town of Wall who, in order to win the affection of his crush Victoria (Sienna Miller), ventures over the fence into a magical neighbouring town to collect a fallen star, who appears in the form of Yvaine (Claire Danes). As they trek back home, they encounter all sorts of obstacles and villains, such as Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) and the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), and new friends too, and it’s all narrated so wonderfully by Ian McKellen that I can’t help but be enchanted every time. Even though it’s ridiculously cheesy and very camp, I fall in love every time I watch it; it’s full of great little cameos, fun scenes, and an incredibly heart-warming will-they-won’t-they love story, and you can really see the world-building that both Gaiman and Vaughn have contributed to, since the fairy-tale itself stands up quite well. It may be Vaughn’s least-known movie, but it holds a special place in my heart.

  1. Kick-Ass (2010) (AKA Everyone’s Favourite)

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When I was in high school, my friends would not shut up about Kick-Ass! And when I finally watched it, many years too late, I completely realised why: it does what Matthew Vaughn does best by taking genre tropes, in this case superhero tropes, and uses them lovingly, whilst also making them baudy and sending them up. In this case, bored, comic-reading teenager Dave Lizewski (a fresh-faced Aaron Taylor-Johnson) decides to become the superhero Kick-Ass after a car accident leaves him with the inability to feel pain, catching the attention of crime boss Frank D’Amico (a barely recognisable Mark Strong) and two other superheroes, daddy-daughter duo Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz). It’s big, and bold, and incredibly funny, creating careers for Taylor-Johnson and Moretz as well as revitalising Cage’s, and in the beginning of an age of superhero films, it managed to be a precursor to the lower budget superhero movies that are making a comeback (Chronicle, even Deadpool), focusing on story and characters instead of meeting marks. Its sequel might not hold up, but that’s not directed by Vaughn, and Kick-Ass works so well on its own.

  1. X-Men: First Class (2011) (AKA My First)

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Even my favourite X-Men film is a Matthew Vaughn movie! X-Men: First Class not only started my love of Matthew Vaughn movies, but it started my love and interest of the X-Men franchise, and superhero movies as a whole genre. This prequel to the original X-trilogy, which sees a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) discovering their powers and meeting for the first time in the 1960s, is very much a departure from his regular, almost parody-like genre films, but is still so reflective of his own visual tone – strong 60s style, star-studded cast (albeit American this time), and a story that focuses on the characters’ relationships, not their battle scenes. Though he’d firs been tapped to direct X-Men: The Last Stand, no-one could have saved that sinking ship, and First Class was the perfect vehicle that allowed Vaughn to work on even bigger projects, like his next one, which is my absolute favourite.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) (AKA My Love)

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There is not a single thing I don’t like about this movie. For those of you reading this who have ever suffered a conversation with me about this film, please forgive me, but this is the part where I sing the praises of one of my favourite movies ever. A classic tale of working class man becomes upper class gentleman, Kingsman tells the story of Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton), a young man who is taken under the wing of gentleman spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and joins the secret spy agency Kingsman, just as tech billionaire Richmond Valentine (a lispy Samuel L. Jackson), whose radical environmental beliefs are much, much more sinister than they seem, sets his plan into action. Kingsman pays homage to the over-the-top classic spy movies of the 60s with its larger than life villain, crazy technology and gentlemanly affairs, whilst also forging its own path entirely, using its filthy humour, outrageous violence and great mixture of talented veterans and exciting newcomers to set itself apart and make it one of the most loved and successful films of 2015, especially for a heavily rated film. I love the cast; I love the soundtrack; I love the themes; the story, the humour, and even the gory action. It is peak Matthew Vaughn, and I love it.

If you haven’t seen a Matthew Vaughn film, please do! I would recommend any of these films feverishly, because, if nothing else, you’re going to have a seriously fun two hours. And if you’ve seen these films, tell me what your favourite is in the comments!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0891216/mediaviewer/rm209816832
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375912/mediaviewer/rm414679296
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486655/mediaviewer/rm1031900416
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1250777/mediaviewer/rm2146077952
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1270798/mediaviewer/rm3898784000
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802144/mediaviewer/rm80084992

Two Years of In Film, As In Life!


Two years ago, I was a first year university student with no idea. With very little background knowledge and no idea how to achieve it, I dreamed of being a film critic, driven by my passion for film and my keen interest in reading about them. So when my best friend told me about how she’d started a blog, I thought, I could do that! And thus, my passion project and love for the last two years was started in the form of In Film, As In Life.

In Film, As In Life changed my own life from then: it inspired me to watch more films, both in cinema and on DVD; it allowed me to develop my own opinions and ideas about movies, and taught me how to express them; it also encouraged me to have faith in my own opinions about film (just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean you’re wrong). It even gave me the opportunity to do internships with magazines I admire and love; I even got to write for Empire Magazine, my original inspiration for becoming a film critic, and I’m still working for FilmInk, a movie magazine which pushes my love of indie cinema. And don’t get me wrong, not all of my reviews of been perfect or flawless or even well-written – I cringe reading back my older reviews – but it’s all been a learning process, and boy, have I learned a few things. 

But one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that some people actually read my reviews, people I know, and people I don’t. I would do this even if nobody was reading (and not many people, if any at all, were reading for a very long time), but one of the wonderful things this blog has allowed me to do is interact with people who love movies just as much as I do. I feel a sense of pride every time I press post on a new review, but that’s nothing in comparison to the excitement I get reading comments and interacting with this community. So to all you readers out there, thank you. 

While I’m here, I may as well thank a few more people (since this is already a very indulgent personal post): thank you to everyone who reads these posts, I love hearing your thoughts and talking to you about my favourite things. Thank you to my friends who put up with my writer’s block, who read through my reviews and help me keep going. Thank you to my family, who have always given me constructive criticism and pushed me to do my best, and thank you to all of my friends who go to the movies with me; you make every cinema trip so much more fun. 

But the most important acknowledgement here is all the movies I’ve seen over the last two years. This website has inspired me to watch as many things as I can, and I have seen well over a hundred films in the last two years at the movies alone, and infinitely more DVDs. While not all of those movies have been good, I have enjoyed going to see each and every one, all for different reasons. Some made me laugh, many made me cry, a lot made me think, and they were all such different viewing experiences that they were all worth the money (sometimes, my mum makes me tally up how much money I’ve spent on DVDs or movie tickets; I’m always more impressed than depressed). 

So to celebrate the last two wonderful, fascinating, exciting years, I want to share with you my five favourite movie-related experiences from the last two years: they may not have all been 5 star films, but I had the most amazing time. So here is my celebratory top five:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road – In Conversation
After the phenomenon that was Mad Max: Fury Road, my friends and I scored tickets to a panel with George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, who shared concept art, videos and storyboards of the mind-blowing film. It was so interesting to get their insight into the deep themes of the film; an action blockbuster on the surface, the feminist themes and human values were fascinating in discussion with some of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers. 

2. The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood

In 2015 I was lucky enough to be able to visit the US and spend a fabulous day in Hollywood, soaking in the sunshine and the history of Tinseltown. I saw the Dolby Theatre and all its Oscar history (they have columns engraved with the names of each of the Best Picture winners dating back to the 1920s!!); I got to see some of my favourite names, Julie Andrews and Harrison Ford on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and then got to measure my hands against my heroes at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Tom Hanks, RDJ, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, and the brilliant Robin Williams, it was a pretty inspiring place, topped off with lunch at the Hard Rock. It was only one day, but it made the whole trip. 

3. Star Wars: the Force Awakens, in Midnight Release

For the first Star Wars release in over ten years, my friends and I ventured to our local cinema to bask in the neediness and fandom that is a Star Wars midnight release. The adrenaline was pumping late at night, the lines were full of people dressed as stormtroopers, Jedi and Darth Vader, and even with all that coolness, nothing compared to the excitement of seeing that opening crawl for the very first time. A perfect night for a great film. 

4. Spotlight and Deadpool: Double Movie Day 

With my great movie friend Sam, we embarked on a mission of epic proportions: two movies, one amazing day. We started with Spotlight early in the morning, and its deep, emotional themes moved us before we got to cleanse our palettes with one of the biggest comedies of 2016 – Deadpool. They were surprisingly complimentary films, one to make you think and one to follow as an upper, and we’ve been trying to one-up ourselves ever since. 

5. The Founder – My First Press Screening 

My first glamorous introduction into the wonderful world of film criticism, I ventured into the city to see Michael Keaton’s the Founder in a private screening. Signing embargoes, checking my phone at the door; my friend Marina and I drank in the corporate atmosphere before walking all the way back to the office (a longer walk than imaginable), stopping only for dumplings on the way. 

Happy Two Years for In Film, As In Life, and here’s to many more! 

Talk soon, 

Jessica x

The LEGO Batman Movie

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Franchise films can still be full of surprises: Sony and Marvel are working together with Spider-Man, apparently we’re getting a Warner Bros. Extended Monster Universe (where King Kong, Godzilla and a bunch of retro baddies will fight it out), and one of the best DC films of recent years is now a LEGO movie. Like I said, full of surprises.

But it’s not that surprising for anyone who loved the original LEGO Movie, as the new LEGO Batman Movie takes the standout character from that epic adventure, Will Arnett’s Batman, and gives him his own standalone film to make jokes about abs, lobster Thermidor, and other less successful DC movies.

Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) seems to have it all: fancy house, infinite money, super-secret identity – everything except a family to share it with. But when the new Gotham police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) announces that she wants to team up with Batman, the Dark Knight must work together with his new friends to foil the Joker’s (Zach Galifianakis) secret plot to the down the city with an army of the world’s greatest villains.

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Just like the LEGO Movie before it, the LEGO Batman Movie is a joyride from start to finish, taking the world’s most iconic sour-faced superhero and giving him a lot of heart and laughs. LEGO Batman takes all the central themes to the other Batman films – isolation, grief, guilt – and boils them down to make them the relatable and real emotions of a human being, not just the weight to bear for a billionaire, layering them through the simple story to give it more depth and making it stand out from the Batman films before it. We feel Batman’s trepidation to get close to people again, with his too-cool act with newly adopted son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), Barbara, and even the Joker, allowing us our first look at a really insecure Bruce Wayne – here, he hides behind the mask because it’s easier than being Bruce (we only see Bruce himself twice in the film, his chiselled LEGO features uncanny to those of Christian Bale). And if this all sounds way too dark for a kids’ movie, you’re right; where Nolan’s Batman trilogy was grounded in a darker world, McKay’s Batman puts the dark in the Dark Knight himself.

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The rest of the movie makes up for this, though, keeping very much in line with the LEGO Movie’s colourful world and off-the-wall humour. With the Joker’s plot to gain entry to the fantastical, top secret prison The Phantom Zone, and unleash every Warner Bros. villain dating back to the golden age of cinema, a lot of fun and jokes are to be had, with the Joker and Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate) riffing off everyone from Voldemort to the Wicked Witch of the West. And with Batman basically being an overdramatic child, complete with super cool gadgets and all, his competence is always questionable but fun, swinging from expert Master Builder to being babysat by Arthur (Ralph Fiennes) on a dime. Then there’s the new take on Batman and Joker’s relationship, playing it out like a troubled relationship, creating by far one of the most entertaining and interesting Batman relationships to date. It’s all a little silly, but so earnest and in good spirit that you can’t help but smile throughout the whole film.

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Because despite all the darkness, LEGO Batman is very much a kids movie, with most of Batman’s humour aimed at a younger audience. Regardless, there are still many jokes that will delight adult viewers, like meta-references to Batman’s history and the current DCEU, and a very well placed Dick Grayson joke that steals the whole show. Combine this with the most extensive voice cast ever assembled, from Channing Tatum to Eddie Izzard, Billy Dee Williams, Mariah Carey and even Siri, plus Will Arnett’s impossibly gravelly Batman tying it all together, and there’s certainly fun to be had for older Batman and film fans.

It’s hard to not compare superhero films sometimes: Civil War is better than BvS, Suicide Squad couldn’t quite pull off what Guardians did a few years before, and so far, little LEGO Batman has a better track record than dark and gritty live action Batfleck. But none of these comparisons are ever to say that DC is a failure, because we all want DC to succeed, to take note that audiences don’t just want a highlights reel of superheroes, but an interesting, individualistic story that does justice to the characters. So if there’s anything for DC to take away from LEGO Batman, perhaps it’s that Batman doesn’t always have to be gritty, and neither do all their other films: audiences respond to humour, and heart, and that’s what makes LEGO Batman so damn enjoyable.

7/10.

It’s such a huge cast, this is probably the easiest top five list I’ve ever written, so here’s my top five favourite films and TV shows starring the cast of The LEGO Batman movie:

  1. Daredevil – Rosario Dawson
  2. Arrested Development – Will Arnett and Michael Cera
  3. Parks and Recreation – Jenny Slate and Will Arnett (in one episode)
  4. The Whole Harry Potter Series – Ralph Fiennes
  5. 21 Jump Street – Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4116284/mediaviewer/rm383269888
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4116284/mediaviewer/rm2466920448
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4116284/mediaviewer/rm366492672
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4116284/mediaviewer/rm131611648

Movie March: Week 4

Movie March is officially over! It’s April, which means soon we get to see all the new “summer” releases and some of the most anticipated films of the year, but first, let’s recap the last week of Movie March, from the 22nd right through to the end of the month. It certainly wasn’t a failure of a week – I ended up watching seven movies in ten days, plus a bunch of YouTube and TV – but it was pretty sporadic, since three of those movies were watched in one monster day. Speaking of monsters, the most recent monster movie also gets a look in here – and it’s not as bad as you think. Without further ado, here’s my final week of Movie March summed up:

22/3: More YouTube
No movies today, but I have recently discovered a new favourite YouTube channel: Andre “Black Nerd”, run by Andre Meadows. A frequent guest on one of my favourite podcasts, Andre is so enthusiastic and never ashamed of his guilty pleasure viewing – his Riverdale recaps are hilarious, his love of the Power Rangers makes me actually interested to see the movie (though I probably won’t), and he’s a Disney fan, so his wide scope of interests is actually fairly similar to mine. Plus, discovering a new channel means a big back-catalogue ripe for a binge-watch, which is both dangerous and exciting.

23/3: Funny Face
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A friend who shares my love of classic cinema has been talking this movie up for so long, I eventually gave in and watched it. I was missing out for so long! A proper ear-worm musical, Funny Face sees Audrey Hepburn play Jo Stockton, a philosophy-loving intellectual who gets whisked away to Paris into the world of high fashion after being discovered by a classy magazine editor (Kay Thompson) and her charming photographer friend (the one and only Fred Astaire). Full of iconic Audrey Hepburn outfits, a lot of dance scenes, both brilliant and hilarious, and some s’wonderful and s’marvelous songs, Funny Face might not be for the casual musical fan, but is lifeblood for any die-hard classic musical lover.
7/10.

25/3: Beauty and the Beast, the LEGO Batman Movie, and Cop Car


I’ve skipped the 24th (and will skip the 26th and 27th) because on my day off this week, I crammed in three beautiful, funny and thrilling films and had one amazing day. Starting my day with Beauty and the Beast (which I have already reviewed), I got lost in the live-action remake of such a beloved classic. Even though the almost-identical story makes the point of this movie questionable, the new music and stunning visuals made this film utterly enchanting, with the talented cast stealing my heart (Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci? My absolute favourites) and getting stuck in my head. Next was the LEGO Batman Movie, which I highly anticipated after recently starting the Dark Knight trilogy, and it didn’t disappoint: though much more of a kids movie, dealing with less-adult themes than the original LEGO Movie, LEGO Batman is a joy ride from start to finish, cramming in jokes, meta-references and even musical numbers to make sure you’re constantly entertained. The all-star cast is so enormous it’s ridiculous, and though it’s not perfect, LEGO Batman proves that the Dark Knight doesn’t have to be all dark. I finished my day off with Cop Car, an indie thriller from Jon Watts (the director helming Spider-Man: Homecoming later this year) which sees two runaway kids steal a police car from a cop who definitely shouldn’t be messed with. Starring a terrifying Kevin Bacon as the cop, Cop Car is 84 tight minutes of heart stopping moments, as the two show-stealing kids Travis and Harrison (played by James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford) go on the run and just try and survive the movie, basically. It’s full of twists, turns, and on-the-edge-of-your-seat scenes, and is a film any movie-lover has to see.
So, overall, a pretty good day.
8/10 (Beauty and the Beast), 7/10 (the LEGO Batman Movie), 9/10 (Cop Car).

28/3: Kong: Skull Island
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I know what you’re thinking. The new King Kong movie? Really? But before you judge, I’d like to point out that this is one of those movies that needs to be taken as a product of genre. It’s not a high-concept action drama; it’s a creature feature, almost B-movie style thriller, which focuses on the action and jump scares to create 2 hours of pure action entertainment, the human characters and their Vietnam-war setting merely acting as a vehicle for epic fights. This isn’t normally my thing, but going in with an open mind meant I was genuinely on the edge of my seat as Kong hunts down both humans and creatures, and even meant I could enjoy what little character development there was, since John C. Reilly steals the show and even tugs a few heartstring. I know that all movies should be placed on equal footing when it comes to reviews, and Kong is no Citizen Kane, but if a popcorn flick is what you desire, I highly recommend Kong: Skull Island. Who’d have thought?
6/10.

29/3: The Dark Knight
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Can you believe I’d never seen this before last Wednesday? I couldn’t either. But Heath Ledger is one of my favourite actors of all time, and watching him as the Joker felt like his career coming full circle for me: his performance as the Joker was more detailed and intense than I could have ever expected, not just a character, but a real man, terrifying and unpredictable, a symbol of chaos and more than just a villain. He definitely overshadows a lot of the rest of the movie, but it’s all still amazing: Gary Oldman truly had me worried for a second as Commissioner Gordon, and Aaron Eckhart is truly tragic as Harvey Dent (though that eyeball is very distracting). The movie just moves from one epic scene to the next, with all of the Joker’s machinations gripping and suspenseful, and Christian Bale again holds it all together as Bruce/Batman, becoming the conflicted, complicated vigilante that Gotham doesn’t deserve, but needs. Even though I think Batman Begins is a tighter movie that stands on its own better, I can’t deny that the Dark Knight is a masterpiece.
9/10.

30/3: The Office
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Season 9 is playing with my emotions, you guys. I’m conflicted, you see, because on one hand they’re creating a lot of drama, which I love, but they’re tearing apart friendships and ruining characters that I’ve come to love. Andy is now deplorable, Erin deserves all the happiness, I’m worried for Jim and Pam, and Angela and Oscar deserve so much better, both in their friendship together and their respective relationships. It’s surprising and infuriating but still addictive, and I can only hope it wraps itself up well. Please.
8/10.

31/3: The LEGO Batman Movie
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Again? Of course! I end up seeing a lot of movies twice in the cinema (I saw La La Land 3 times at the movies), so when some friends wanted to see it, I didn’t hesitate to go too. It’s definitely as fun upon re-watching; though it moves kind of slow sometimes the second time around, these sections are followed by the most exciting scenes, so it brings you back up right after. Definitely worth checking out, but maybe only once.
Again, 7/10.

Movie March was definitely a rollercoaster! I’ve seen so many new films, rewatched a lot of favourites that I haven’t seen in a while, and really been able to take a look at my watching habits. Surprise, I watch a lot of stuff! But Movie March has encouraged me to watch more, and I’ll definitely be continuing that into April and throughout the rest of the year. I may even do a weekly round-up of everything I watched every week, so keep your eyes peeled! And as always, I’m open to suggestions for more movies to watch in the comments. Happy watching!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050419/mediaviewer/rm4119116544
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2771200/mediaviewer/rm2593665792
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4116284/mediaviewer/rm1143086592
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3813310/mediaviewer/rm2059790592
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Beauty and the Beast

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For any Disney fan, this new trend of live action remakes is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we get a new look at some of most beloved classics – new visuals, new background, sometimes even new songs – but what if they ruin it? Change the way we view the original? And since the original films are already so well loved, what’s the point?

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These are all questions worth considering regarding the new updated Beauty and the Beast. As a very faithful adaptation to the original, this new version of the story is almost exactly the same: Belle (Emma Watson) is a modern woman living in a backwards small town, dreaming of adventure. When her father is captured by a reclusive Beast, she takes her place, fearing her dreams of adventure are over, but with the Beast and his castle under a tragic spell, this could be the adventure she’s been waiting for. These extreme similarities aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as the original story is such a beautiful tale, but if there’s only going to be minor changes to the story, why bother making a new one?

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However, the small changes made to the story do fill out a few of the holes and modernise the more outdated elements of the original. Whether it’s Belle as the family inventor, some context to the Beast and his family, or a full backstory to Belle’s mother and why they left Paris, these new additions to create little surprises along the way that develop the story and make it less predictable. The original, wonderful story is also enriched by the stunning visuals, which are certainly an upgrade from the animated version; the castle is gorgeous, the town is so colourful and alive, like you could walk right through it yourself, and the famous ballroom dance scene is simply enchanting, a pure fairy-tale. Not all of the CGI comes off perfectly – Lumiere and the Beast are occasionally very distracting – but overall the look of the film is mesmerising and elegant.

The classic songs from the original in this version are just as good as we remembered, but the new songs added into the mix also make this newer version worth the watch, with Days in the Sun and Evermore tugging at the heartstrings, bolstered by the brilliant cast. Emma Watson was the perfect choice for Belle, giving her so much strength and heart, transforming the character and allowing such a brilliant role model for young women to truly shine. Opposite her as the Beast, Dan Stevens powers through his CGI, managing to make the Beast so incredibly sympathetic and expressive that you almost prefer him as the Beast. Luke Evans and Josh Gad are scene stealers as Gaston and Le Fou, their chemistry off the charts and their songs some of the best, but it’s a shame they don’t get to play a huge role in the film; instead, Kevin Kline steals the show, his few scenes being some of the most emotional, yet subtle, in the whole film. And the dream team of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Emma Thompson are wonderful together, despite some iffy CGI at times, but they aren’t as compelling as the human characters, acting more as background characters this time around.

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When all is said and done, one controversial question rises to the top: did we need a new version of Beauty and the Beast? Do we need new versions of any of Disney’s best movies? Aren’t the old ones enough? Whilst 2016’s Jungle Book is a step up because the original isn’t perfect, Disney making newer versions of its better movies is a harder sell because the originals are so good, and there isn’t much room for improvement. It helps that this new Beauty and the Beast is wonderful, whether you’re a hard-core Disney fan or just love a good fairy-tale; but at this point, more live action remakes are coming whether we like them or not. As long as they continue to make them as well as this, hopefully there will be more successful ones to come.

8/10.

This cast is so wonderful, so here’s my top five favourite movies starring the cast of Beauty and the Beast:

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Emma Watson and Emma Thompson
  2. Moulin Rouge! – Ewan McGregor
  3. X-Men 2 – Ian McKellen
  4. Love Actually – Emma Thompson
  5. Easy A – Stanley Tucci

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2771200/mediaviewer/rm2593665792
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2771200/mediaviewer/rm2610443008
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2771200/mediaviewer/rm2250899712
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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2771200/mediaviewer/rm3089760512

Batman Begins

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It’s been nearly two years since I created the Watchlist, a list designed to inspire me to watch huge movies that I’ve never seen, then write about them. And nearly two years on, I’m nowhere near done. Not even close. But today I am one step closer, because I finally saw the predecessor to one of the greatest movies of all time, a fantastic movie in its own right: Batman Begins. And of course I thoroughly enjoyed it, so here is my review of Batman Begins.

Batman has had a tough life. Apart from his parents dying, he’s had to suffer through many incarnations, some good, some bad, some God-awful – but the Caped Crusader has never been in better hands than Christopher Nolan, whose late-2000s trilogy is widely regarded as one of the best movie trilogies in history. And even though the second instalment is easily the best, that takes nothing away from the movie that started it all, Batman Begins.

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After the tragic death of his parents as a child, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) feels to Asia in his twenties after the murder of their killer, spending years training with his mentor Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). When he returns to his crime-ridden home of Gotham City, he devotes himself to fighting crime, and becomes the Batman.

Easily one of the best origin stories ever made, Batman Begins takes all the elements of an origin story and makes them worth watching. From the thrilling action as Bruce learns martial arts (THAT League of Shadows scene, my God) to the trial and error fun he has building his suit and making new gadgets, the origin stuff barely gets boring, even though Batman doesn’t show up until halfway through the movie.

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That’s because Nolan couples a great origin with an even greater story: Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) is the king of corruption in Gotham, with men in every office across the city, and the help of twisted psychologist Dr Jonathan Crane to ensure none of his men go to prison. But there’s a mysterious figure even higher up in the chain of command who’s responsible for it all, and Batman must work with Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the police to break the crime ring. Nolan’s efforts to ground the story in dark reality as much as possible lend enormous credibility to a man dressed up as a giant bat, and the movie walks the line brilliantly between fantastical superhero movie and crime film. Even the final act, which is much more superhero-esque in its scale and stakes as Crane’s plot to destroy the city takes full effect, but by then the audience is totally on board, caught up in the great script, twisting story and the excitement of seeing Batman battle the Scarecrow.

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But even though Batman Begins is much more gritty and realistic, it’s still a ton of fun to watch: there’s something inherently exciting about a well-told origin story, a superhero finding their feet for the first time, and seeing Batman’s gadgets properly get their due (remember, before this I had only seen BvS – the gadgets didn’t grab me in that) makes you feel like a little kid again. I’ve also never seen a group of actors more excited to be there than this prestigious cast; everyone is giving 100%, whether it’s Liam Neeson as the mysterious Ducard, (perfect) Gary Oldman’s compassionate Jim Gordon, the terrifying Cillian Murphy as Crane, or the little glint in Morgan Freeman’s eye as he plays tech wiz Lucius Fox. And despite all the criticism that Christian Bale gets for being overshadowed in these films, I thought he was fantastic as both Bruce Wayne and Batman – he ties the film together nicely, and plays well with others, knowing when to let them take the spotlight. But he is Batman, after all, and steps up to the challenge of playing one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

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Batman has never grabbed my attention like other superheroes have. Tony Stark has always been my favourite billionaire playboy, and Spider-Man will always be my favourite superhero. But this Batman movie is brilliant on both a film level and a superhero movie level: in attempting to make a great film, not just a great superhero movie, Nolan has allowed Batman to become more than just a great superhero. He’s a great character, surrounded by other interesting characters in this fascinating world, and he’s the kind of character you always want to learn more about. I’m officially become a Batman fan. And all I can say is, if the Dark Knight is even better than Batman Begins, it must be pretty spectacular.

9/10.

This is probably the most impressive cast I’ve ever had to do one of these lists for, so here’s my top five favourite films starring the Batman Begins cast:

  1. Taken – Liam Neeson
  2. The Fighter – Christian Bale
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Gary Oldman
  4. Bruce Almighty – Morgan Freeman
  5. Kingsman: the Secret Service – Michael Caine

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0372784/mediaviewer/rm107917312
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0372784/mediaviewer/rm74362880
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0372784/mediaviewer/rm661585920
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0372784/mediaviewer/rm250910976
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Movie March: Week Three

Movie March: Week Three

It’s been a bad week, guys. I’m sorry. For seven nights of potential movie watching, I only watched four. They were good movies, don’t get me wrong, but only four? I’ll do better next week, I promise. But on a positive note, this week Movie march became something a little bit different to me: starting this challenge I was using it to try and inspire myself to watch more movies, but instead I’ve found that it’s been a way for me to sort of analyse my watching habits, and start paying attention to not just how much I watch, but what I watch.

For example, it’s become pretty clear that I go through phases – I’m doing a long-form Marvel marathon, I’ve been watching a lot of Disney movies, and I’ve rekindled my love of Audrey Hepburn movies, so I’ll probably try and finish that box set too. I’ve also noticed that I seem to watch SOMETHING every day, whether it’s a movie, some TV, or especially YouTube, so I’ll talk a little about my favourite movie-related channels later too.

Long story short, they may not have always been movies, but I have watched something every day, so let me break it down for you:

15/3: Riverdale
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I wrote at length last week about how much I’m obsessed with Riverdale at the moment, and it’s not going away any time soon. The mystery is getting so much deeper, with new characters popping up left, right and centre that are only creating more and more suspects for this super complex murder conspiracy. But at the heart of it is this really great teen drama, too; there are some really sweet love stories brewing, great family tension being unravelled, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’ve also realised that’s why I like Riverdale so much: I’ve seen terrible versions of this type of show, with series like Pretty Little Liars really falling flat and becoming convoluted and cheesy, but Riverdale successfully weaves so many plotlines together, combines drama with humour and mystery, and gives us lovable characters that allow us to actually get invested in the story.  The next episode can’t come fast enough.
8/10.

16/3: Captain America: The First Avenger
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An actual movie! The original Captain America is by far the weakest of the three, and possibly one of the weakest of the whole franchise, only really serving to pave the way for the Avengers. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to love. This first movie sets up a beautiful character arc throughout the entire franchise: here we see Steve Rogers, military man, a soldier with such faith in the government that he is willing to sacrifice himself for it. This all changes as the franchise progresses, and Steve becomes more questioning and rebellious, but this movie sets him up as such a tragic character, a man lost in time, losing everyone he loves. It breaks my heart. Thankfully, we have Hayley Atwell and Tommy Lee Jones to inject a little fire and life into the story, and a fantastic villainous turn from Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, and a little insight into Bucky Barnes, a small character no one could have known would become so important.
7/10.

17/3: Aladdin
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Aladdin is easily my favourite Disney movie for many reasons, so watching it last week was a no brainer. I find Aladdin the most relatable of Disney characters: he’s not a prince, just a kid trying to get by, and his love for Jasmine is so sweet and pure that it warms my heart every time. But it’s his relationship with the Genie that steals the show: not only is this my favourite Robin Williams performance, but their friendship is so fun and caring, and takes the movie over the edge to become a classic. The music is brilliant, the animation is astounding, and Jafar as a villain is actually terrifying, and Aladdin is just such a fun romp that I’m so glad I re-watched.
8/10

18/3: The Office US
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I originally started this show just for Jim and Pam, but I stayed for everyone else. The Office totally lives up to its reputation as one of the best TV shows ever; the first season is a little forgettable, but by the end of season 2 I was hooked on all the characters, from Michael’s well-meaning buffoonery to Dwight’s antics, uptight Angela and the love-to-hate-him Ryan. Of course, Jim and Pam are still my favourite part of the show – their relationship is just so real, so heartfelt, and its brilliance didn’t stop once they finally got together. I cried all the way through their wedding. Even now in season eight, the show is still wonderful (not quite as good after Steve Carell left), and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
9/10.

19/3: The Lion King
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I’m sure I saw the Lion King a million times when I was a kid, but before Sunday night I hadn’t seen it in years and years, so much so that I’d forgotten how awesome it is. It’s not quite as light-hearted as I remembered, but it’s magnificent, from the score to the animation to the deep, soothing tones of James Earl Jones’ Mufasa. Of course, it was still lots of fun: the toe-tapping soundtrack is the best of any Disney movie to date (ever), and Timon and Pumbaa are possibly Disney’s best sidekicks as well, reminding me of why I saw this movie so much as a kid.
9/10.

20/3: Roman Holiday
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Audrey Hepburn movies have always been some of my favourite classic movies, and I like Roman Holiday best of them all. Watching Roman Holiday is like a fairy-tale: a princess (Hepburn) runs away from the demands of her royal life and explores one of the most romantic cities in the world with her handsome tour guide, American journalist Joe Bradley (the dashing Gregory Peck). Winning four Oscars, including Best Actress and Best Screenplay, Roman Holiday is like a dazzling daydream, all gorgeous scenery and sweet romance, but also has a lot of humour, as our two main characters hide their secret identities and cause trouble. Breakfast at Tiffany’s might be Audrey’s best-known film, but Roman Holiday will always be the best.
8/10.

21/3: YouTube
I don’t watch a wide variety of YouTube channels, but I still manage to watch a LOT of YouTube these days, and when I don’t have time to watch a movie, I tend to supplement with movie-related YouTube. For those who are interested in getting their fill of movie-Tube, I watch Screen Junkies and Screen Junkies News; the former is the channel that does Honest Trailers, which are some of the funniest videos on YouTube, but they also do a themed weekly Screen Junkies Show, and a long movie-debate show called Movie Fights (which I listen to as a podcast from iTunes). Screen Junkies News is run by the same people, but they do daily videos based on entertainment news, so on one day they could cover news about Disney, James Cameron and DC Comics, as well as a heap of reviews of new releases, with some great experts and interesting hosts and recurring guests. It’s just a great way to get insight on the latest news and see what other people are saying about the newest movies. Other than them, I also like people like Alicia Malone, a great YouTuber who loves Indie films, and SchmoesKnow, who do a great movie trivia contest.

Well, I hope I have better news to report next week on the last week of Movie March! Until then…

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5420376/mediaviewer/rm1410478592
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458339/mediaviewer/rm3293165824
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103639/mediaviewer/rm175432960
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386676/mediaviewer/rm880518656
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