Friday, 30 December 2011

Favourites of the year

In my 17 years of existence, 2011 hasn't been a bad film year for me (even though for others I have heard a different opinion). Either way, it's the time of the year to look back at your favourite films. Sadly, the scale of films I've seen this year for the first time is not quite as huge as those of official critics and film personnel's. However as I spent my cinema year of 2011 reviewing each new film I've seen, I thought I'd create my own favourites list (that, and the fact I just want to). I'm very interested in knowing other peoples favourites, so if you have your own list and would like to share it, please send me a link or write them in a comment below!

There are many films I missed out on seeing this year (such as Drive, Midnight In Paris, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Tyrannosaur, Melancholia, Kill List) which I will hopefully catch on DVD. In particular, I have yet to see many critics film of the year, The Artist, as it has a late UK release. So my 2011 review is based on a much smaller selection of films (54 to be precise). So without anymore rambling here are my favourites of 2011:

My Top 10 films of 2011

10. Source Code (review here)
After the success of Moon, Source Code had a high bar to impress and for me it did. I admit it's not as extraordinary as Moon, but it still left me completely bewildered. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a more emotional role than I expected, but Source Code got to me like Moon. I found the concept of it exciting and at first a little confusing but that was what I found most fascinating. I left the cinema having seen Source Code, feeling more than content and I just really enjoyed it which is all you can really ask for.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 (mini review here)
Most people have come to the conclusion the last two films of the Harry Potter series are the best, which I agree with. I saw the final part at the cinema twice and shed a tear each time because it felt like my childhood was ending. Having read the books, the last film is definitely most similar as it had the time duration to do that. For people who hadn't read the books, a lot of surprises occurred which shocked people and even the people who knew how it ended still felt the surprise. The performances were certainly the best from the golden trio and the other cast members as they gave the series a well deserved, fantastic end. It's really hard to explain as this choice for my top 10 is more of a childhood fan choice but I don't have to explain myself! The last Harry Potter film was an incredible, emotional, epic send off to a truly fantastic series of films.

8. Attack The Block (review here)
Having only seen the trailer for the film a few months prior to it's release, Attack The Block appeared out of nowhere but has since become very popular across the UK and the US. I love alien films but Attack The Block is a mix of a street, comedy, sci-fi and a little bit of horror in jumps and that's why I enjoyed it so much. At times I laughed a lot and at others I shamefully admit I got scared. The aliens were very well created and visually looked astonishing. But I know I walked out of the cinema having had an absolute blast watching it which is what Joe Cornish and the cast wanted.

7. Bridesmaids (review here)
With the disappointing Hangover part II, Bridesmaids gave everyone the laughs they wanted this year. It proved that a comedy film doesn't need an all male main cast to be funny and that women can be just as sick and disgusting as the boys from The Hangover. Kristen Wiig is my all time favourite female comedic actress and her character in Bridesmaids had me in stitches. That's second to the brilliant Melissa McCarthy who nearly had me on the floor laughing. I saw the film with a friend and at parts me and her were crying into each other because jokes in Bridesmaids on a first viewing come out of nowhere and it is so cleverly written.

6. Tangled (review here)
Being a massive Disney fan I'm probably biased but, Tangled is one of the best Disney animations for a few years. Even though it was not the classic 2D animation that The Princess and the Frog was a year before, it still contained all the elements of a classic Disney princess story but included more. More humour, more action and a much more exciting storyline for the 21st century. It included traditional Disney princess songs which were beautiful, sang by the talents of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi and it simply is a lot of fun. I'm still a child at heart and there is nothing I like more than seeing a film that is fun, innocent and charming and Tangled ticked all of them boxes.

5. The Tree Of Life (review here)
The Tree Of Life isn't for everyone and I went into the cinema thinking I knew what to expect. I didn't. Having not seen a Terrance Malick film before, I had nothing to prepare me apart from the raving reviews it had. The Tree Of Life is one of them films that I adored for it's beauty and the fact that it's different from the norm- especially some of the rubbish that is made nowadays. The two brothers in the narrative really give the film an emotional tug which I liked and the performance from Brad Pitt is brutal but very strong. Jessica Chastain really stands out in the film and is sure to get recognition now we are nearing awards season. The other side of the film, where people start to get confused, with masses of glorious effects and fantastic music, questions life. It's not what I am used to seeing but I really did enjoy it. It is absolutely stunning and a little tedious for some, but I loved it.

4. Hugo (review here)
Hugo is a recent cinema viewing but it stands out as one of the most charming films I've seen this year. Even though it's a cheesy thing to say, Hugo is filled me with complete warmth because of it's very sweet main characters, magical story and enchanting insight into some of the first ever films. Though there are parts where black and white films are shown, I think the magic is still there in the wonderful score for children and I still adored the homage to cinema. It's one of the best family films, which rightfully targets both adults and children, I have seen in a very long time. Hugo was enchanting and definitely topped off the year for me.

3. X-Men: First Class (review here) 
This was probably one of my most anticipated films because of my love for the film franchise and the fact I knew it just had to be better than Wolverine. With a year full of prequels and sequels, X-Men First Class was one of the better superhero films because of the leading cast of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy and a ray of fine young talent in Jennifer Lawrence, Nichols Hoult, Lucas Till, Caleb Landry Jones and many others. Matthew Vaughn really grasped the right idea with X-Men: First Class with Charles and Erik, they were the best of friends and they helped each other through a lot. I was surprised by how much was included in the story of X-Men by the explaining entirely why Charles and Erik became enemies and gave you some stuff to question when next watching the originals, such as Mystique being Charles' best friend as a child. The cameo was very smart and overall X-Men: First Class is one of the better blockbusters of the year.

2. True Grit (review here)
Technically, the Coen Brothers' True Grit was released in 2010, but it's UK release date was very early 2011 so it can technically count as my favourite of the year. Not being the biggest fan of westerns, I wanted to see True Grit based upon the reviews it acclaimed but I ended up finding a favourite film. The film is incredible for many different reasons. The Oscar nominated performances by Jeff Bridges and the very talented Hailee Steinfeld are so empowering that their chemistry in the film is very lovely to watch. Then there is the cinematography which is absolutely beautiful. The score and story are other reasons why I fell in love with the film, because it's very heart warming but slightly brutal at the same time. It's story about a young girl becoming a woman because of her determination to avenge her fathers blood- not quite as glamorous as an modern day film. I have since watched True Grit a few times and still feel the exact same way I did when I first saw it.

1. Super 8 (review here)
Since seeing it at the cinema I have re-watched Super 8 to check if it's my favourite of the year. It was tough to pick, but I could be here for another year thinking of another film to top it. Super 8 was not what I expected at all. When I walked out of the cinema, I felt the way I did when I first saw Stand By Me, E.T and The Goonies. Super 8 feels like an 80s film but with the technology of 2011 it's even better. At parts I was on the edge of my seat and at other parts my hands were covering my eyes because of the tension the film held. Super 8 is full of J.J Abrams lens flares as well as beautiful shots and colours which gave me comfort when watching. It's not a film about any big names, the cast is solely the children with the exception of Kyle Chandler. The kids, or rather young actors, must have had an absolute blast making the film as it's a lot of fun to watch. The 'thing' is a bit disappointing but the rest of the film makes up for it. It's a film which pays homage to Speilberg and other great Sci-Fi adventures but at the same time it's a simply story of a group of friends spending their Summer making a film. It's sweet, compelling and an absolute joy to watch.

3 Honourable mentions: Thor (review), Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (review), The Adventures of Tintin (review)

This year it's not only the film that has taken my interest, I'm also very fascinated by trailers and have more of an opinion on what makes a good and what makes a bad trailer. Here are my favourite trailers of the year

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Never mind that I haven't seen the film, the trailer is insane. It's great because of the soundtrack and the cuts to the beat. If you haven't seen it then please watch above. Also check out the Muppets Spoof of it here which is very entertaining.

The Amazing Spider-man teaser 
Though it's not out for another half a year, the first trailer for The Amazing Spider-man is incredible! You'd think by it's length it's given a lot away but I still believe there is more for us to see. I much like the last part of the trailer where you are spidey. This trailer in 3D is fantastic.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows trailer 2
The only reason this made it into my favourites is because of the scene in the forest. I love the music and the slow motion which helps the cuts to the beat with the soundtrack. It's just very clever.

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy trailer 1
Like the other trailers I have mentioned, this trailer was particularly entertaining because of the tension the music brought to the audience.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 trailer 1
I love the beginning of this trailer as if uses the theme from the Harry Potter films in a slower mode as it fits with glimpses of the film. Then it's much more of an epic ride as lots of footage is put together one after the other at a very high continuum. Goosebumps!

That's it. My favourites of the year. As you can see it's not as sophisticated as other lists, but these are all my own favourites. Like I said above, I am interested in hearing other peoples favourites! Please let me know! Did you agree with some of my choices or was your favourite something not on my list and something I didn't see this year? Tell me!

I will probably make another post in the next few days to start off 2012, but until then...Happy New Year's everyone!
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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011)

Running Time: 129 mins
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James
Screenplay: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney
UK Release Date: 16th December 2011 - UK

Quick Plot: Following a number of mysterious deaths, Sherlock Holmes suspects Professor Moriarty is set to strike again. After meeting a fortune teller, at Dr Watson's stag night, who is involved with Moriarty's next killing, he begins the adventure to save Moriarty's victims.

Review: After the success of the terrific Sherlock Holmes back in 2009, I was over the moon when it was announced there would be a sequel. Though the film obviously plays on being as sequel instead of trying to be singular, the second installment keeps to the exact same format of action, fun and fighting.

The film begins with an exciting cold opening which brings us back into the ways of the fantastic Sherlock Holmes. Showing us the way Holmes' mind plans in working out the opponents next move so that he can correlate with his is a lot of fun. This technique which is reprised from the first, is used a lot more in A Game Of Shadows but with a few twists in the end of Holmes' fight. The first part of the film was very enjoyable as it sees the return of Rachel McAdams as the ever so beautiful and very conniving Irene Adler whose small appearance in the film breathes a sense familiarity to the first film but at the same time feels unique and different. The film could have continued in this manner with McAdams in the story, but she isn't around for long and the film moves onto new things.

There is a huge amount of love for Robert Downey Jr as the ever pleasing Sherlock Holmes because he is quite simply perfect. In his body language, tone and sense of witty charm alongside the other characters, Downey Jr makes up half of the delight you feel when you watch either of the Sherlock Holmes films. The character himself is half a comedian and half an unlikely superhero and Downey Jr nails it. Another part of the films that people adore is the bromance between Law's Dr Watson and Holmes which in the sequel is more entertaining than ever!
There is ongoing banter throughout the film between the pair and some real laugh out loud moments which makes A Game Of Shadows really enjoyable. Jared Harris as the enemy, professor Moriarty is just as cunning and intelligent as Holmes and gives the two leads a real run for their money because he is superb. He definitely plays the part well as I thought Mark Strong's Lord Blackwood could not be beaten as far as villains go but he has be matched. In a few very funny scenes, Stephen Fry steals a lot of laughs among audiences as Shirley's older brother who is a great add to the ensemble.

It's obvious that Ritchie loves his slow mo's and A Game Of Shadows is full of them but surprisingly, you don't get bored of them and they definitely give the film a theme along with Hans Zimmer's score. I loved the slow motion bullet changing and big gun scene (which featured in one of my favourite trailers of the year- below) in the woods which occurs in the latter of the film and I was not disappointed with it in full. If you took out the slow motion, the duration of the whole film would probably loose around 10 minutes but for me, they are a Sherlock Holmes must.

The only real problem A Game Of Shadows has is underusing Noomi Rapace who should have had plenty more dialogue and a lot more action. I previously mentioned McAdams who features at the beginning, who is a fantastic contrast to Holmes in the first film and you want Rapace to be the same. Not entirely the identical, but to have something edgier and darker but altogether she hardly does anything. In her first English speaking role she does the best she can but apart from a few chases, Rapace is extremely underused and needed more action!

Sticking to a lot of similarity to the first, you'd expect A Game Of Shadows to drag but that's not the case as it's just as exciting, fun and full of action and Guy Ritchie slow mo's.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Running Time: 97 mins
Directed By: Sarah Smith
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen
Screenplay: Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
UK Release Date: 11th November 2011 - UK

Quick Plot: When a little girl’s present is accidentally lost within the operation Santa Claus system, can Santa’s son, Arthur, successfully deliver the girl’s present in time before Christmas morning?

Review: Having seen a clip from Arthur Christmas back in August, I have been dying to see Arthur. And with 5 days to go till Christmas, I finally have!

Though this type of animation is not the usual Aardman handmade craft, the charm and witty script is still pure Aardman fun. The story is based on the annual mission that Santa Claus takes every year, delivering presents to children all over the world. Writer and director Sarah Smith has modernised this original story into the 21st century with the S-1 sleigh which lacks reindeer, the GPS tracker and various other technology and electronics to help speed up the process taken on Christmas eve. There’s Santa, his wife Margaret, father Grandsanta and two sons. The eldest, Steve, who is set to take over the Santa throne and Arthur, our hero of the film. Each character is structured for kids to like them because of their individuality and their humane voices. Including the sweet little, but unconventional, Elves. The elves are the important factor for helping Santa deliver all the presents in just one night and in a very funny scene, we are shown just how that is done. In lots of quick movements, the elves delve into a house in a mission impossible manner with lots of high tech gadgets and harness which is sure to bring laughter to children. Though it's highly planned out and not as traditional as the tale of Santa goes, this take on delivering the presents has an effect on children. After seeing the film with my  4 year old cousin, he told me that he's going to have to look very closely for the elves when they visit him on Christmas eve because they are very quick and smart. Personal story aside, this scene in particular is superb.

The voice talents are ideal as McAvoy gives a Arthur a real dorky yet lovable voice while Laurie makes Steve real stern and proper. Broadbent and Staunton are great as the Mr and Mrs, but it’s Nighy as the hilarious, all smoked out traditional Grandsanta who grabs all the laughs. Although most of his oral jokes are written to fly straight over children’s heads his psychical jokes such as his teeth are fun for all ages. That’s what makes Arthur Christmas so charming- the script. It’s written to give some jokes for the adults and for the kids but stays true to the spirit of Christmas overall.

In the manner of a road trip, the film takes off as Arthur is accompanied by Grandsanta, an elf, an a very old reindeer to try and reach the house of the little girl before sunrise. A lot of things go wrong but in a typical Christmas roadtrip movie, you know all will end well. In the middle, it seems to drag down in a little repetition (they get lost..again?!) but this is mere because of the magical and traditional Christmas ending which unexpectedly touched my heart. I’m sure that in a few years to come, Arthur Christmas will be known as a Christmas classic.

Full of absolute charm and traditional Christmas spirit, Arthur Christmas is one of the better Christmas films in a long time. Don’t be put off by the bright colours and animation, the film’s for adults too!

Arthur Christmas trailer
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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Top Christmas films

With Christmas just around the corner, it's time to whip out the Christmas movies! I've already watched a few of my annual Christmas routine films and I decided to blog about them. After much thought I have concluded my top 10 Christmas film list! Some of them are not exactly legendary but after watching them for years they have fallen into a must watch at this time of year help me get into the mood for Christmas! So without further a do, here are my top 10 Christmas films

10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992, dir. Brian Henson)

 Everyone loves The Muppets and Christmas so The Muppets Christmas Carol is so much fun to watch! I have it on VHS and use to watch it every year when I was little. It's got songs and the narration by the Charles Dickens ('s Gonzo), but it's the traditional tale of A Christmas Carol. A more comedic tale, but with Michael Caine, Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang, it's just so great!

9. Little Women (1994, dir. Gillian Armstrong)

It's not strictly a Christmas film, but based on Lousia May Alcott's novel, the film begins at Christmas with the March family and another time throughout it's Christmas again. There are pretty scenes involving a young, handsome Christian Bale in the snow with the beautiful Winona Ryder as Jo March and the rest of the March girls. It's one of my most cherished films and I completely adore the story, characters, cast and setting. If it snows, it's my favourite film to curl up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and watch.

8. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, dir. Chris Columbus)

 The Home Alone films are a must for Christmas. Whether you prefer the first or the second (let's not talk about the rest), John Hughes story is hilarious to watch. It's not as good as the first and there are a million reasons why, but a little cute Macaulay Culkin reprising Kevin McCallister looking after himself in New York is one of them.

7. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

It's not the most popular, but when I was 5 I was given this to watch before Christmas and I've watched it every year in December ever since. It's three different stories of Christmas for Mickey and Minnie, Huey, Duey and Louie and Goofy and Max. It's short and sweet and it's a routine watch for me. It's narrated by Kelsey Grammer which fascinates me. Disney can definitely 'do' Christmas as I use to watch tons of Mickey Christmas specials as a youngster, but this one stood out for me.

6. Love Actually (2003, dir. Richard Curtis)

Cheesy but oh, so good right?! The scene with Hugh Grant dancing to 'jump', Bill Nighy promoting drugs with Any and Dec and lots and lots of Christmas love. Some of the cast are true talents with Neeson, Nighy, Grant, Firth, Thompson and so on. Love Actually is such a heart warming film for Christmas and you can't help but adore it! Line up of pure British goodness.

5. The Santa Clause (1994, dir. John Pasquin)

I hate to love the entire Santa Clause trilogy. If this was a top 15, the other two would probably have just made it because I adore them. They're children friendly
fun and I remember seeing the last two in the cinema, laughing at Tim Allen a lot. The first is the best though. Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin who becomes the next Santa Clause by accidentally killing the current one. Calvin is a humbug and he finds the role of Santa Clause very complicated and hard. There are many child actors in the film as the elves and Calvin's son, Charlie, so the film does feel quite young for me but it's still got magic to it! (as cheesy that that sounds)

4. It's a Wonderful Life (1946, dir. Frank Capra)

No Christmas film list is complete until It's A Wonderful Life is featured! Mr Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey, a man who at first believes his life is no longer worth living. Then a guardian angel comes along and helps George realise the lives he has touched and the good things he brought to the community, his family and friends. It's absolutely fantastic and a must watch in any list, but for Christmas it's a definite. It's the type of Christmas film you watch with your family. For me, it's one of my favourite James Stewart films and the ending always brings a smile to my face.

3. Elf (2003, dir. Jon Favreau)

My favourite Will Ferrell film of all time has got to be Elf where he is Buddy, a human who grew up at the north pole thinking he was an elf. It's a film that everyone watches at Christmas and there's a reason! To sound like a bad advertiser, Elf is fun for all the family because of the slick screenplay in using both jokes for children and lines for adults. Will Ferrel is hilarious as Buddy who's happiness and warmth is an enjoyment to watch on screen and as soon as it starts you instantly feel the Christmas mood. Elf features one of my favourite covers of Baby It's Cold Outside by the lovely Zooey Deschannel which could be half the reason I love it so much.

2. The Holiday (2006, dir. Nancy Meyers)

I tried hard but could not, not put The Holiday as my second favourite Christmas film ever. I'm not even ashamed. It's not the greatest chick flick about but it's certainly one of the best Christmas chick flicks. I adore Kate Winslet as Iris in The Holiday and Jack Black is kind of cute in it which is odd! It's so sweet and I adore the references to classic Hollywood and can confidently admit cute little Eli Wallach makes my heart swell. It's completely adorable to how both Diaz and Winslet's story's pan out and it's a film I watch every year without question.

1. Home Alone (1990, dir. Chris Columbus)

Finding my #1 film was hard but after much thought, I came to the conclusion that nothing, in my eye, beats Home Alone. Like I mentioned with Home Alone 2, it's John Hughes' story that makes me love it so much. Macaulay Culkin towers over everyone in the film as the best because he is so innocent and perfectly timed. 'I made my family disappear...I made my family dissapear' is just one of my favourite lines from young Mac but there are plenty more. I cry with laughter every time he's seen walking down the street with his shopping bags and they split and even more when 'Fuller' (young Kieran Culkin) gets squashed behind a chair.  It's so great that a family as big as the McCallister's can forget a member at home! Though the film is mostly a lot of laughs, the ending is still sweet and shows the true meaning of Christmas. The sad thing with Home Alone is that I can watch it any time of the year, but when it's played in December, Christmas has officially begun for me.

I have to include a 'Honourable mentions' because this list was torture to finalise!
The Chronicle Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, The Grinch and Nightmare Before Christmas are other great Christmas films I like to watch. Narnia isn't exactly Christmassy, but the first film is mostly set in snow and Father Christmas features! The Grinch is self explanatory, it's great, funny and I love a good Dr Seuss film! Jim Carrey as The Grinch is fabulous and it's wickedly hilarious. Nightmare Before Christmas is the best mid November film because Halloween has just ended and everyone is getting ready for Christmas. One of my favourite Burton films, The Nightmare Before Christmas is another film I watch every year but it doesn't quite make it into my top 10.

This year I have National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Bad Santa on DVD and Arthur Christmas in cinema to watch for the first time so who knows...maybe they'll make their way into my favourites!

This isn't about me though, I want to know what yours are!  Maybe The Snowman makes it way into your top list. Do you prefer Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands over Nightmare Before Christmas? Maybe your ultimate favourite is simply It's A Wonderful Life. Or maybe, your favourite Christmas film isn't a traditional Christmassy film but it's still a tradition for you to watch it near Christmas?

Leave a comment below or on my facebook of your favourite Christmas films!
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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Hugo (2011)

Running Time: 126 mins
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Emily Mortimer
Screenplay: John Logan
UK Release Date:
2nd December 20111 - UK

Quick Plot: After his father passes away, young Hugo Cabret lives in a railway station in Paris and is constantly running and hiding from the stationmaster who wants to send him to an orphanage. After meeting Isabelle, Hugo soon realises that their meeting cannot have been coincidence after her key mysteriously fits the automaton his father left him. And then the adventure begins..

Review: It's been a while since a family film has included an enjoyable storyline, lovable characters, beautiful colours and a great sense of companionship. For a film to have had all of these, it's a surprise it's come from an iconic director like Martin Scorsese. With no blood, guns, violence or sinister characters, Hugo has a very different audience to some of Scorsese's other films. But even without the blood, violence and so forth, Hugo is the same as other Scorsese films because it has aspects which refer to legendary films as well as being a legendary film.

There is no doubt about it that Hugo is beautiful. It's cold opening is completely enchanting as it introduces a stunning 1913 Paris train station where the film takes place while also introducing young Hugo's life. A young orphan who lives in a train station as the secret clock master, watching people every day as they fall in love, play music and sell croissants. The Paris setting is fascinating not only for the younger generation but for older people too because of the rich colours and believable atmosphere. Even before the story gets underway, it's clear Hugo thrives upon films from before the talkies because of it's classic film aroma.

The first 45 minutes is an adventure of Hugo's daily life and mishaps in Paris with a flashback to Hugo and his father which causes a small pinch of emotion that draws the audience to the protagonist while seeing Jude Law in his small role.
After the 45 minutes, the film focuses a little too much on 'a history of cinema' that may or may not cause younger people to drift away from the Hugo. Though it's still magical and because the cinema story is brought to life by Scorsese, it's interesting while it adds to the beauty of the film. Adapted from the book 'The Invention Of Hugo Cabret' by Brian Selznick, the film mostly looks at the life and films of Georges Méliès. As Hugo continues to repair the automaton his father was trying to fix up, comes the mystery of the film. At first it's fun to see what the automaton writes when working and what connection it has to Isabelle (Moretz), but after, the discovery element is lost among the praise to cinema. Luckily for us, the flashbacks to films and Méliès life are interesting and very realistic so we can forgive the film for not being as 'discovery' as the trailer misleads. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why critics are calling Hugo Scorsese's 'love letter' to cinema.

Though Hugo will primarily be known for it's beautiful setting and Scorsese's homage to cinema, the performances should not be forgotten. As a fan of her work, Chloë Grace Moretz never fails to deliver and for her age she has got an incredible list of roles to her name. As young Isabelle, Moretz is the standout of the film as she brings a sweet warmth every time she is on screen and aids Butterfield to gives his breakout performance. Isabelle entices the audience into the life of Hugo Cabret and the pair begin a wonderful friendship. Sacha Baron Cohen, as the wicked station master determined to capture Hugo and whisk him off to the orphanage, is marvellous and completes the film. Cohen gives Hugo it's humour while Moretz gives Hugo its charm. Then there is Kingsley who is fantastic, as always, who brings the story back to earth with his character, the famous Georges Méliès.

Hugo is a massive adventure which is sure to bring fun and light for any family out there. With a beautiful homage and stories of old cinema, Scorsese has adapted a masterpiece with beautiful visuals and enchanting tales. Though it could have done with more discovery, Hugo is enjoyable, sweet and charming.

Hugo trailer
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Saturday, 26 November 2011

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

Running Time: 99 mins
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper, Julia Ormond
Screenplay: Adrian Hodges
UK Release Date:
25th November 20111 - UK

Quick Plot: In 1956, the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe arrives in the UK to shoot The Prince And The Showgirl, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier. A young production assistant, Colin Clark, gets a life changing week when he becomes a close friend of Miss Monroe.

Review: For me, I was always interested in seeing My Week With Marilyn as I am a huge fan of Michelle Williams and the lady herself, Marilyn Monroe. I can't say I've seen enough Monroe films for my liking, but I've seen enough to know what a talent and inspiration she was and still is.

Based upon two memoirs by Colin Clark, the film centres around Monroe's insecurities behind the camera and her relationships during 1956. Sir Larry soon realises that asking Marilyn Monroe to star in his film was a mistake after she is constantly late on set, incredibly dependent on her acting coach and highly prone to sick days. As expected, Branagh nails his performances as Sir Laurence Olivier who at first hopes to woo the gorgeous showgirl but instead is aggravated by her and her acting coach. With a few outbursts both funny ('but why can't you get here on time for the love of fuck!') and not so much, he gives a remarkable performance and is sure to wrap up a nomination for two in a few months time.

Without the press that circulated films back in the 50s compared to today, it's not fully certain what is and what isn't true about Marilyn Monroe's career and life style, so for some, My Week With Marilyn is heartbreaking discovery about one of the most famous actresses ever. Absolutely perfect casting was done for Williams as Monroe because not only does she look the part, she plays is beautifully. By going all out into perfecting each character inside the woman, Williams successfully wins over the audiences in the film and us with the glamorous, passionate actress and the lonely, frightened little girl Marilyn was. Michelle Williams obviously set out to faithfully portray the role but she also added her own charm Monroe. Meanwhile, Eddie Redmayne isn't necessarily a stand out performance in My Week With Marilyn, but he should not be forgotten as he has come a long way for his role Colin Clark. Clark's innocence begins to disappear when he falls in love with the show girl, but of course, the naivety is still there and Redmayne's portrayal of Clark is magnificent.Other British talents such as Dench, Ormond and an American Cooper give as great a job as always as well as Watson's small, pretty appearance in a few scenes.

One of the memoirs cleverly titled 'The prince, the showgirl and me' is proof alone that the relationship between Clark and Monroe was something similar to a fairytale. It's a tragic love story. It's a true account but it's something a lot of films storyline are based on. Unknown man/lady...big Hollywood actor/actress and a love affair. There are no sex scenes, but the passion shown between Monroe and Clark's affair is enough for the film to be a believable, true, love story. Williams and Redmayne's chemistry helps push the beauty of this relationship onto the screen and in the end it falls into a heartbreak.

It's not spectacular and nothing major happens as most things are either well known or seen coming but the performances are all extremely charming and keep you interested. It's definitely a film for critics and film lovers and it's going to have a lot of award nominations in the next few months. No doubt for Branagh and Williams.

Stunning performances which draw you into a very complicated yet important part of Marilyn Monroe's life and career.

My Week With Marilyn trailer
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Monday, 21 November 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

Running Time: 117 mins
Directed By: Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattison, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, Michael Sheen, Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg
UK Release Date:
18th November 20111 - UK

Quick Plot: The penultimate installment of the Twilight Saga and Bella and Edward have got married. After a night of passion, Bella finds herself pregnant with a half-human-half-vampire baby; but it's killing her from the inside as Bella's body can't cope with the strong fetus.

Review: I admit, it wasn't so long ago when I could have qualified as a Twi-hard. I have read the books, owned a poster or two, constantly had battles with myself over team Edward or Jacob; but then after the hype of the films got out of hand, I tried to distance myself from the franchise. It helped that I didn't like the film for Eclipse. However, I find myself moving back towards my twi-hard days after seeing Breaking Dawn.

I had such low expectations of Breaking Dawn because of the awful reviews it has received over the past week, so I really was expecting a laugh out loud fest. But because of my low expectations, I think I enjoyed it! The first 30 to 45 minutes anyway. I have no shame in saying that the wedding scene is stunning and that I could now probably count it in one of my favourite wedding scenes ever. Then after that, it's purely a romance film with Bella and Edward; which I think is why I liked it. The pair certainly have chemistry and it was an absolute delight to see them together.

With the exception of Taylor Lautner, most of the cast in Breaking Dawn are all really great actors and they did their best with what they had been given in the script. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson deserve a lot more credit than they are given for their roles as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen because it's not their fault that the characters are badly written. Pattinson, in my opinion, played Edward the best he ever has out of all four films. He's made him more than just an uncomfortable stare and really given him a lot of emotion in Edward this time round. As most critics have mentioned, Stewart's Breaking Dawn Bella is more sophisticated this time round and the lip biting has finally stopped! She deserves a lot more recognition for this film out of the four films too. It's a shame that actors such as the lovely Anna Kendrick and Billy Burke didn't get as much screen time as we all probably would have wanted, but I guess they're not important in this story. Nevertheless, the pair definitely owned most of the laughs at the beginning with their wedding speeches.

Breaking Dawn was always going to be silly because the whole concept of the book is silly. This is probably more of a criticism for the book but the film still went along with the stupid, intense build up to nothing that the book had. I completely hated the ending of Breaking Dawn and will forever hold a grudge against Stephenie Meyer for ruining the series for me. This is why I can't say I'm looking forward to the final part, even though I so badly want to be excited. Unless the whole ending is changed, then yes, I might look forward to seeing it but the only reason for me to see it is because of the actors who deserve it.
Other parts I enjoyed were the sweet flashbacks and references of the previous films, especially Twilight. It may have been my twi-hard phase but I straight away noticed the two or three tracks of the soundtrack that were brought back from some of the most memorable scenes from Twilight. It was quite heart warming to feel the same feelings I felt when seeing Twilight for the first time. Even though I like Breaking Dawn for trying very hard with the visual effects, this film is probably the worst for the wolf effects. I couldn't help but laugh at a scene between the wolf pack where they can hear each other's thoughts but instead can only growl. There are other visual effects that I understand have to have been used to show a certain part of Bella's body working, but it all felt too different from the others and stood out as quite uncomfortable and prolonged.

Breaking Dawn isn't half bad at all. It's .5 better. Not the worst one but not the best. Just enjoy it.

Breaking Dawn trailer
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Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Rum Diary (2011)

Running Time: 109 mins
Directed By: Bruce Robinson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Rispoli
Screenplay: Bruce Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson
UK Release Date:
11th November 20111 - UK

Quick Plot:
Journalist Paul Kemp decides to move from New York to the island of Puerto Rico where he writes for the local newspaper and begins a flirtatious relationship with Chenault, the fiancée of a pompous business man Sanderson. It's not long before Kemp realises that Puerto Rico isn't what he had expected.

The Rum Diary was worth the wait. It has taken nearly 50 years to get published, adapted and then filmed and it's certainly worth that time. But although it is great to finally see it, I can't help but feel let down with it. Johnny Depp is ideal for the lead role of Paul Kemp and, even though the character is fairly younger than Depp's real age, he can pull it off. We've seen him in enough different roles for Kemp to be an easy character (compared to the likes of Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, etc...).
However, acting wise it's Ribisi who gives the best performance in The Rum Diary as Moburg, another reporter for the newspaper. With his wacky enthusiasm and obvious drink problem, he adds the humour even if it is a little deficient. Amber Heard is merely used for her appearance and, although it works, when watching her in play Chenault you kind of want her to have more of a input to the story.

The Rum Diary does have a funny hint to it which is mostly the situations Kemp and his friends get into. With a very witty script, the characters have fantastic come backs for their situations which makes the film likable. Most of the jokes centre around Kemp and other characters drinking habits but the big laugh out loud moment is the car scene, which I'm sure everyone has heard of by now. There are a few more creepier scenes involving voodoo and cock fighting, but there's not enough focus on them to give them anything more than laughs. 
The 120 run time was definitely noticeable as the film seemed to go on for a longer time than that. It takes it's time to really hit off and become fun which is all down to Heard and Ribisi's entrances, then closer to the end, the film starts to fall down again. Though if you stick with it, I'm sure it's enjoyable but it's certainly not for everyone.

Funny and entertaining. At one point you'll feel as if it's dragged, whether at the beginning or end. Depp delivers what he usually does and, for that reason, the film works great.

The Rum Diary trailer
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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Tower Heist (2011)

Running Time: 104 mins
Directed By: Brett Ratner
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Michael Peña, Alan Alda
Screenplay: Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson
UK Release Date: 2nd November 2011

Quick Plot: After the downfall of 'business' man Ponzi, the pension and money of hard workers of a high rise block in New York are lost. Josh Kovas, fellow workers and a squatter team up with a criminal in order to get back what is rightfully theirs.

Review: With a very 'cool' cast, Tower Heist should evidently be a cool film. Sadly, this is not the case.
Though the cast are great themselves, Tower Heist doesn't give any room for them to adapt to give a funny atmosphere for the audience to be in. Instead, they work very well with what they've got to give the best they can and overall there are probably about 4 or 5 funny moments with only about 1 or 2 really funny moments. Before you start thinking that this means Tower Heist is rubbish- read on. The terrific cast saves it, because of their charisma (Affleck and Broderick mostly) and overall it's not a bad film at all.
Until Stiller has the heist idea, the film is moderately slow and painful to watch with the exception of a very funny Peña (who's part in 30 Minutes Or Less earlier this year had me in stitches). Then a very angry Stiller has a little scramble with Steve McQueen’s sports car and a golf club, which is probably one of the best scenes in the film, and not because it's funny. Tower Heist then moves slowly again until Murphy is picked up and with his foul mouth and hilarious character. That being said, Murphy does not get anywhere near as much time on screen as he should and therefore the film is at a lost cause.
Once the action does pick up it's obvious that the laughs are coming from Affleck and Broderick- like I mentioned. Affleck providing most of the jokes without his character meaning to and Broderick being pretty normal though effective. Alan Alda is also funny with his attitude in the mischievous character Ponzi - it's very easy to hate him.
This isn't a film of performances though. Just a regular film and it lacks any wit in the script and any charm in the characters themselves meaning it's just basic.
Though it seems extremely fun once into the story, the feeling is lost quickly after. Technically it's saved by the cast, but even they can't win it over fully. Yes you'll have fun watching it and every now and then you'll chuckle. But from some of the comedy brilliance 2011 has shown, Tower Heist is forgettable.

Tower Heist was never going to be fantastic and that being said, it's pretty average. It's a shame the actors aren't given more to work with. Though at the times it seems fun, it's easily forgettable 10 minutes after it's finished.

Tower Heist trailer
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Monday, 31 October 2011

October Poll- Out of these 15 summer 'blockbusters', which one did you most enjoy?

I still can't quite believe 116 people voted on the poll! I forgot to vote myself as I was going to be one of the last but I didn't get a chance but still with 116 people I couldn't be more happy. So thank you very much to everyone who voted.

What a surprise! Everyone loved Harry Potter. Though I really am surprised at Thor coming second. I thought it was fantastic and know a lot of people loved it but I thought this year a lot of people would have preferred some of the 'funnier' films.
Top 5 that people enjoyed this Summer are; Harry Potter, Thor, X-Men, Captain America and Super 8.
No surprise Green Lantern got no votes and that Pirates and Cowboys and Aliens got only one vote each.

Though it's had it's flaws with a few films over the Summer, 2011 has been a good year with lots of action, superheros, sequels and lots of laughs.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 1 (0%)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes 6 (5%)
Cowboys & Aliens 1 (0%)
Captain America: The First Avenger 9 (7%)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 4 (3%)
The Inbetweeners Movie 1 (0%)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 43 (37%)
Kung Fu Panda 2 2 (1%)
Super 8 7 (6%)
Bridesmaids 6 (5%)
Thor 18 (15%)
The Hangover Part II 5 (4%)
Cars 2 1 (0%)
Green Lantern 0 (0%)
X-Men: First Class 12 (10%)
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Monday, 24 October 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Running Time: 107 mins
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Mackensie Crook, Gad Elmaleh
Screenplay: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish
UK Release Date: 24th October 2011 - UK

Quick Plot: After young journalist Tintin buys a boat at a market he finds that it's a lot more special than he first thought. With his trusted dog Snowy, he embarks on a quest into the mystery of the Secret of the Unicorn.

Review: If a film has glowing signs saying 'Directed by Speilberg' and 'Proudced by Jackson'; you know full well that the film is going to be good. Then with a brilliant lead cast, you know it could be even better than that. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a whirlwind ride of a film, with excitement persisting throughout, it's pretty much what you expect from those glowing words.
After a stunning title sequence which includes a nice little intro to the man himself and a funky 60s style soundtrack, it's obvious that the film is going to be nice to look at. Parts of the titles and other references in the film's first scene include some of Hergé's original Tintin art, which fans of the comic and TV shows will enjoy. Then, throughout the film I'm sure fans will notice other little references and easter eggs, which have no doubt flew right over my head, but the other people I saw the film with did touch upon it after the viewing. Beautiful 30s Paris is the first location of Tintin, which gives an even better introduction to our protagonist. Straight away I felt happy with Tintin's voice because if you exclude the TV series, Tintin is a mute character who's voice is practically your own or how to invent it to be. I admit I haven't read the comics, but from my experience with seeing images, I feel as if Bell is the perfect Tintin voice choice. Making him British, Tintin has charm in his voice but also sophistication and determination in his flow of words and then the words themselves which is from the minds of the screenplay. Craig's evil character, Ivanovich Sakharine, first features in Tintin earlier than you would think for the baddie of the film and again his voice is ideal. You can tell Craig worked on making Sakharine wicked; and it works. Pal duo Frost and Pegg make a great duo Thompson and Thomson, with a few funny scenes here and there they just about steal a quarter of the laughs. Both are one of the disappointments in the extravagant build up that Tintin has received but this is saved by one very special actor and character. Serkis can never seem to do wrong - I mean, playing one monkey and stealing the whole film is an accomplishment to some, but for Serkis it's just another day. The almost constantly drunk Captain Haddock, is single handily the best part of the film. In my own view, I feel as if the film is greatly casted, but Serkis more because of his obvious connection with Haddock. With the realistic feel the performance capture and 3D let through the screen, it's as if Serkis is fully on screen, being as indulgently fantastic as always. Having the rest of the laughs in the film he is the one character in the film everyone will love, even the kids. The chemistry between Bell and Serkis definitely bounces off one another in their voices and lines and thankfully this helps The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn have a likability factor.
Despite the very believable human feel the character in Tintin possess, it's Tintin's lovable side kick Snowy who will no doubt steal all the fun in the film for the kids and most probably the adults too. With no voice, his actions are enough to cause laughter for the audience. Not only does his very cute appearance attract attention, (the visual effects in film make him look ever so fluffy), but also the devotion to his master, which most of the time gets him out of trouble, makes him especially entertaining.
Even though the script writers are some of the best minds in Britain, I can't help but feel as if it was lacking in a heart warming family kind of way. Although Snowy and Tintin's friendship and Haddock and Tintin's growing friendship is charming, the rest of the film felt as if it was looking for more jokes than was needed
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed watching Tintin, I don't believe this is the ironically epic film of 2011 that everyone will have hoped for. But it's one of the best family, animation, adventure films in a long while and it's utterly exhilarating to watch.

At first glance, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a different type of film for Speilberg and Jackson, but after seeing 10 minutes of it, you realise it's not that different. Fun, exciting and completely beautiful, Tintin is not the epic 2011 film people would have wished for, instead it is the first film of an anticipated trilogy.


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn teaser
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Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Friend Catcher (2011)

By: lucycampbell
Synopsis: A surreal story about a lunchbox adventure.

Review: We often look back at our childhood exlaiming they were the best years of our lives because of the fun we had, the fact we didn't judge pre-judge people in our classes and the feeling we had of doing whatever we wanted. All this is true, but could we only behave this way when we were children? The Friend Catcher is an exquisite short film looking at one of the less obvious concepts of children- our mind. As kids, without knowing it, we could open our mind to whatever we wanted to, with no limits or boundaries- we had adventures. This is the beauty that The Friend Catcher portrays to us; how our minds worked as children.
The film starts as if it is an advert for Persil, kids rushing around, getting into trouble, lots of noise - we remember it like it was yesterday. As soon as the title appears, the soundtrack changes and you realise this film is going to be a lot more than that. Echoed is the squabble of kids voices, crashing of chairs and lunchboxes on tables which is realistic enough for anyone to relate to. It's lunchtime. Kids freedom in a school day.
After a sudden silence, as an audience member you feel alienated because of the big impact the muted soundtrack has and then with voices surrounding one particular school boy, you feel his fear as the rest of the hall turns and starts whispering to one another. The soundtrack includes the conversations and thoughts between all the school kids in a giant, vicious echo which is enough to drag the audience down into remembering the bad part of being a child.
This is where the team (lucycampbell) completely changes the grounds of The Friend Catcher and introduces the ingenious idea of the children's lunchboxes revealing the child's imagination. With fantastic use of 'dings', nature sounds, voices of angry adults in the audio effects and a great deal of creativity in the props such as a bandanna and a pet or two; it's bizarre that these scenes don't seem odd. In fact, it all feels quite natural and believable. Then as the main pupil looks around, more and more marvellous things are revealed from the children's lunchboxes. One decorated in space ships, another made out of grass and so on; it's simply glorious to see the young actors and actresses open their boxes to let loose the wonders that their mind holds. The range of different angles and shots, the camera conveys the random sense which is so apparent in the mind of the children.
The Friend Catcher then pushes deeper into the minds of the children, with the last part of the film entering a visual, new world. In only a matter of seconds, the children crowd round a particular lunchbox and the enter it. After the soundtrack of laughs and cheers has faded, you feel yourself smile at the thought of travelling with them into their imagination. In what a journey, The Friend Catcher is a sweet tale of fun and children's naivety- something we have all had once. Lucycampbell forces the audience to reminisce the 'good days' of being young with a group of very talented actors, beautifully mastered angles and a soundtrack that holds the film together.

I began this review saying that we could only open our mind to wonders as children. But that's not really true, is it?
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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Contagion (2011)

Running Time: 106 mins
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Ehle
Screenplay: Scott Z Burns
UK Release Date: 21st October 2011 - UK

Quick Plot: After a lethal virus outbreaks across the world, it's a race against time to find the source of the deadly disease and a vaccine to cure it.

Review: Like Real Steel, I got the chance to see a sequence from Contagion at the Big Screen event back in August but little did I know that it was in fact the opening scene. With an opening close up shot of Gwyneth Paltrow's character, quite like a documentary style shot, the audience already starts picking up on small details Soderbergh hasn't made obvious. Instead, he's very cleverly structured the length and angles of the first part of the film in a regular manner because you are automatically watching what everyone is touching, breathing onto, walking past, coming in contact with. Because you know what the film consists of (a virus) you're trying to out run it, even though it's fictional, you're doing it without realising. You're trying to work out who it's infected and who will die. Contagion is not your usual horror/sci fi, but to put it simply, it is. It's not a film where everything is made clear either, you're left with a few unanswered questions which is what makes the film so intriguing. As we are taken to the big and infected cities across the globe, the titles make clear the effect this virus is having on human kind. The more centralised characters, Damon, Cotillard and Winslet, each have their different roles in successfully causing us fear from having a member of the family die because of the virus to them self being infected and dying. The thrill of this horror is that people are continually dying and they are not miraculously coming back because they are 'one of the main characters'. It's unpredictable in a who dies sense, but as it's Soderbergh, you know the film isn't going to get pleasant.
With no blood, extreme language or sex, the film has a moderately low audience rating but that doesn't mean Contagion isn't one of the most frightening films of the year. With quotes from the film that were used in the fabulous trailer, 'Don't talk to anyone, don't touch anyone', 'it's figuring us out faster than we're figuring it out' and the not-so-scary-until-you-think-about-it 'the average person touches their face 3-5 times every waking minute...' this is not a completely fictional film. Then with the truly terrifying scenes of panic erupting across the globe, in supermarkets, pharmacies, burglaries, Contagion could easily be a news reel we see at home. The brilliant tag line 'No one is immune to fear' shows the society we live in today. As soon as a big impact on our every day occurs that cannot be explained, people panic, evidently worsening the effects.
There's no surprise that the all star cast show their full talent on screen and it could be argued at that with the number of big names and thought out concept of Contagion that there is never enough screen time for any of the actors. Arguing back, there is enough for the film to be great based on their acting. As a regular joe, Damon doesn't have to fight, run away or kill anyone just as Winslet doesn't have to jump off a boat, fall in love or anything to show the extent that their acting can reach. The whole cast have individual roles in the world as the virus spreads, so they are each having to show different emotions and the dramatic impacts the virus has caused them. All as great as always, Winslet especially portrays the horrific truth about the virus, but it's the elegant Cotillard who steals it for me. Again, not having enough time as you hope for on screen, her character pieces together through CCTV (for us, flashbacks) of where the virus started and how it has travelled. She gracefully opens up your mind into the seriousness of the panic that is the world later on in the film and it scares you. Law and Fishburne have interesting roles and again make you realise how it's not only the virus that spreads quick, it's the fear.

With an undeniable fantastic ensemble, thought out concept and sense of realism, Contagion is frightening and powerfully captivating.

Contagion trailer
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