Film Friday #211

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

This comedy caper follows iconic band, The Beatles, through a fictional account of a typical day in their lives at the height of Beatlemania.  To be honest with you there’s not much story line going on here. Basically the band are supposed to appear on a television show but their minders Norm (Norman Rossington) and Shake (John Junkin) have a hard time getting them to behave and stay put when all John, Paul, George and Ringo (playing themselves) want to do is flirt with girls, go to parties and have fun. If that wasn’t enough, Paul has his grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), a seasoned shit stirrer, trouble maker and general cad in tow causing trouble at every step of the way. The story isn’t really important though since this is really just a vehicle to get to know the band members a bit more and watch them exchange witty banter with each other. In many scenarios it would have been a pretty lame presence but all four members of The Beatles are so charismatic that it’s a hoot a minute. Brambell is perfection as the deliciously awful granddad, who steals almost all of his scenes including the final performance where his arrival on stage is laugh out loud funny. A Hard Day’s Night was a real family favourite in my house growing up and I am happy to say it’s still brilliant fifty years after it was made… as long as you don’t think too hard about John and Paul chatting up schoolgirls on the train… 4/5

He was a very clean man

It wasn’t easy but grandfather was proud to say he was a very clean man

How I Live Now (2013)

When disaffected American teen Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is sent to a remote British farm to stay with her cousins Eddie (George Mackay), Isaac (Tom Holland) and Piper (Harley Bird)  she is less than thrilled, feeling cut off from the world and uncomfortable in their wild messy surroundings. This only gets worse when Daisy’s aunt (Anna Chancellor), a high ranking British government official has to leave the children to go to Switzerland to deal with a burgeoning international crisis. At first Daisy feels unsettled but her undeniable attraction to  Eddie draws her out of her shell and she starts to join in her cousin’s adventures. Their peace is soon shattered by a nuclear blast and announcements of evacuations, which sends the group into hiding and a simple happy life which frees Daisy from her own endless internal criticisms. When soldiers uncover their hiding place, separate the boys from the girls and send them to work camps, Daisy knows just one thing – she and Piper must escape and make their way back to the farm to Isaac and Eddie no matter what the cost. There is no question that How I Live Now has some faults – it moves too fast, Daisy’s transformation from self-absorbed bitch to engaged and kind is a bit abrupt and you know… incest. However, the chemistry between Ronan and Mackay is electric, the nuclear war story is realistic and brutal and Daisy and Piper’s escape is filled with real tension. I liked the fact that the details of the war were sketchy since it mirrored how a teenager dealing with their own inner struggles would perceive world events. I haven’t read the book this is based on so I can’t comment on how faithful an interpretation it is but overall this is an underrated and thrilling young adult film, which deserves a watch. 3.5/5

Daisy and Eddie had just remembered that they were related

Daisy and Eddie had just remembered that they were related

Arthur Christmas (2011)

For centuries the Christmas family has been ensuring that gifts are delivered to every child around the world by morning with each Santa, succeeded by the next in line. In 2011 this delivery operation has become a finely tuned technologically advanced machine with Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) operating a sleigh that more closely resembles a spaceship than Grandsanta’s (voiced by Bill Nighy) sleigh of old. The operation is run with military precision by Santa’s oldest son and clear successor, Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie) while his other son, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) has been banished to the letter answering department because of his endless clumsiness. When a single child is missed out in the Christmas delivery run Steve encourages Santa to chalk it down to an acceptable loss but Arthur can’t accept that little Gemma’s Christmas might be ruined and convinces Grandsanta to get out the old sleigh and join him on a daring last minute adventure. Arthur Christmas has a few amusing moments but it’s mostly pretty blah and probably best aimed at under tens. 2/5

XXX

Arthur and the elves had just found out there would be strippers at the Christmas party

The Pretty One (2014)

Twins, Laurel and Audrey (both played by Zoe Kazan) couldn’t be more different. Laurel still lives in the small town they grew up in, takes care of their dad (John Carroll Lynch) and is generally a bit of a withdrawn oddball, while Audrey works as a real estate agent in a big city and lives a glamorous jetset life. When Audrey comes back home to celebrate the twins’ birthday she convinces Laurel to move in with her but before this can happen they are involved in a terrible car accident where Audrey is killed and Laurel experiences some temporary amnesia. When the doctors and family mistake Laurel for Audrey her confusion leads her to briefly believe she is Audrey, a role she decides to keep playing even when she remembers who she is. Laurel then travels back to the city to take up Audrey’s life, falling for her neighbour and tenant, Basel (Jake Johnson). But Audrey’s life is a lot more complicated than Laurel ever imagined and losing her other half far more devastating than she expected, plus how will she ever know if Basel loves her for her or just because he thinks she is Audrey? The Pretty One is a kooky little film with a somewhat bonkers premise that could have gone horribly wrong but Kazan is so charming as Laurel that it’s hard not to get sucked in by her search for her own identity. The connection between Laurel and Basel is lovely to watch and seeing how Laurel learns to understand herself and her relationships by becoming someone else is very interesting. Probably not for everyone but I loved it. 4/5

Laurel had just found out there would be strippers at the Christmas party

My top 10 movie characters of 2014 – so far

As 2014 draws to a close I am looking back at the characters that have captivated me this year. Of course as I am based in the UK there will be a series of 2014 releases that don’t drop here until 2015 so there is a chance this list will get an addendum at some point next year but this is where we are so far.

Amy Dunne

 Amy Dunne
Played by: Rosamund Pike
Film: Gone Girl
Why is she awesome: Because she’s absolutely deranged and she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants no matter how brutal or fucked up it is.
“Amy Dunne: I’m the c*nt you married! The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this c*nt might like. I’m not a quitter… I’m that c*nt.”

frank

Frank
Played by: Michael Fassbender
Film: Frank
What makes him awesome?: He’s absolutely mesmerising that you can’t help but get sucked into his weird circle of influence but at the same time he’s complicated and fragile and damaged and probably the most realistic portrayal I’ve seen of mental illness on screen.
“Frank: [singing] Stale beer. Fat fucked, smoked out. Cowpoked. Sequined mountain ladies. I love your wall. Put your arms around me. Fiddly digits, itchy britches. I love you all.”

GBH

Gustav H.
Played by: Ralph Fiennes
Film: The Grand Budapest Hotel
What makes him awesome: He’s fabulously charismatic and dignified and at the same time pure filth.
“M. Gustave: Rudeness is merely an expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”

Groot

Groot
Voiced by: Vin Diesel
Film: Guardians of the Galaxy 
What makes him awesome: He’s so innocent and loyal and funny and he manages to communicate so much in just one statement.
“Groot: I am Groot.”

Katniss

Katniss Everdeen
Played by: Jennifer Lawrence
Film: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
What makes her awesome: Katniss will always been one of my favourites. She’s one of the most well-rounded complex female characters we get on screen – strong but vulnerable, brave but damaged, selfish and selfless at the same time, heroic but humble.
“Katniss Everdeen: I have a message for President Snow: You can torture or bombed us, blasted our district to the grounds. But do you see that ? Fire Is Catching… If we burn, you burn with us!”

Lou BloomLou Bloom
Played by: Jake Gyllenhaal
Film: Nightcrawler
What makes him awesome: He is absolutely terrifying despite being generally softly spoken and his ability to manipulate others is second to none.
“Lou Bloom: What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you’d have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that’s what I’m telling you, as clearly as I can.”

Quicksilver

Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver
Played by: Evan Peters
Film: X-Men: Days of Future Past
What makes him awesome: He’s just so fricking cool and his cheeky behaviour towards Professor X and Wolverine steals the whole of DOFP.
“Logan: We need your help, Peter.
Pietro Maximoff: With what?
Logan: Breaking into a highly secured facility and get someone out.
Logan, Pietro Maximoff: Prison break? That’s illegal, you know?
Logan: [Looks around and sees the items Peter has obviously stolen] Only if you get caught.”

Rita

Rita Vrataski
Played by: Emily Blunt
Film: Edge of Tomorrow
Why is she awesome?: Because she is the baddest ass female to grace our screens in 2014
“Lt. Col. Bill Cage: [while in training] Stop! Wait, wait, wait, wait! Stop! Wait a second, wait a second! I’ve been thinking… I mean, this thing is in my blood. So maybe there’s some way I can transfer it to you.
Rita Vrataski: I’ve tried everything, it doesn’t work.
Lt. Col. Bill Cage: I mean have you tried… you know… tried ALL the options.
Rita Vrataski: Oh, you mean sex? Yeah, tried it.
Lt. Col. Bill Cage: …how many times?
Rita Vrataski: Alright…
[Cage gets hit by a spinning robot]”

Mark

Hefina
Played by: Imelda Stauton
Film: Pride
Why is she awesome: She’s bold, brave and she takes no prisoners plus it’s always fun watching the elderly swear.
“Hefina: “What in the hell do you think you’re doing? Get out there and find a gay or a lesbian right now!”
Guy: “I don’t want to give them the wrong impression.”
Hefina: “Right, cause you’re so bloody irresistible!” 

original

Augustus Waters
Played by: Ansel Elgort
Film: The Fault in Our Stars
What makes him awesome: He’s the guy that we all should have fallen for when we were teenagers, you know instead of the douchebag bad boy who had a motorbike. Plus he’s endlessly positive even in the face of total uncertainty.
“Augustus Waters: I am in love with you. And I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed. And that one day all our labor will be returned to dust. And I know that the sun will swallow the only earth we will ever have. And I am in love with you.”

Film Friday #210

Finding Nemo (2003)

After his wife is eaten, clown fish Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) vows never to let his son, Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould) come to any harm. But when Nemo is captured by divers on his first day of school Marlin must overcome his own fear of the unknown and undertake a daring mission to find him. As Nemo attempts to make friends with the somewhat unhinged inhabitants of a tank in a dentist’s office, Nemo takes on sharks, jellyfish, whales and more all accompanied by an amnesiac regal blue tang fish named Dory (voiced by Ellen Degeneres). Finding Nemo is one of my other great exceptions to general dislike of Disney. Maybe it’s the lack of princess love story or maybe it’s my fascination with the ocean but there’s something about this Pixar classic that just gels. The characters are dead on, the dialogue is hilarious and the rich marine setting makes for a spellbindingly beautiful animation experience. While there is a fun story for kids to enjoy some of the humour is definitely aimed at adults, which stops it from becoming too saccharine and the message of learning to take risks and letting your children spread their wings is heartwarming and not too heavy handed. A delight. 5/5

Did you ever get that feeling like there was a shark behind you?

Did you ever get that feeling like there was a shark behind you?

Home Alone (1990)

After Kevin McAlister (Macauley Culkin) argues with his large, rambunctious family he wishes they would disappear, which is exactly what happens when they accidentally leave him behind on a Christmas trip to Paris. Initially Kevin is thrilled with his new found freedom but when he realises a pair of burglars are targeting his house and living alone is actually pretty boring, he changes his tune. But not before he has to come up with a daring and ingenious plan to thwart the would-be intruders. There’s no question that Home Alone has some serious charm and Culkin makes up for having virtually no acting talent by being really, really cute… probably the reason his career tanked when he turned twelve. Other things are less good. The whole burglar element is quite weird and the level of violence and threat towards the end is pretty disturbing for a lighthearted kids film. Kevin’s family are also absolutely awful and their behaviour borders on child abuse. I think it might have been better for Kevin if they never came home and he was taken into care instead. Not John Hughes’ best but still good fun if you don’t take it too seriously. 3/5

Kevin had seen the future and it wasn't pretty

Kevin had seen the future and it wasn’t pretty

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Ticket collector, Lucy (Sandra Bullock) has lived a lonely life since her father died, with only her cat and her amorous neighbour for company. When a handsome stranger (Peter Gallagher) is pushed in front of the train tracks, Lucy rushes to save him. He is rushed to the hospital where he falls into a coma but Lucy’s not allowed to see him until she’s mistaken for his fiancee. The confusion continues when Peter’s family arrives and immediately embraces Lucy as one of their own. After so many years of feeling alone, Lucy finds it hard to resist the temptation to go alone with the lie, especially when she finds herself falling for Peter’s brother, Jack (Bill Pullman) but what will happen when Peter wakes  up? The premise of While You Were Sleeping is pretty standard, predictable romcom fare but somehow it really works. Quite possibly it’s because Sandra Bullock is just so charming as Lucy that you can’t help but totally fall for her. Peter’s family is also sweet and hilarious and even for someone like me who doesn’t really do romcoms it’s totally heartwarming and lovely. A bit of a forgotten classic. 3.5/5

Lucy's conversation about Twilight had bored Peter into a complete coma

Lucy’s conversation about Twilight had bored Peter into a complete coma

Just Friends (2005)

After facing a devastating rejection at the hands of his best friend and high school crush, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), dorky overweight, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) leaves his home town vowing never to come back. In LA he reinvents himself, losing weight, building a career as a successful music manager and becoming a ferocious womaniser. En route to Paris with his mental client, Samantha James (Anna Faris) Chris’ plane crashes just outside his home town, just before Christmas. Initially Chris can’t wait to leave but when he discovers Jamie is still single he decides to make another play for her. Will Chris make it out of the friendzone? Will his new skillz impress Jamie? And what’s up with the return of Jamie’s other high school suitor Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein)? I remember liking this the first time I saw it but on a second viewing it was hard to remember why. The one absolutely vital requirement of a romcom is that you want the couple to end up together but Chris is such a complete penis that it’s hard not to spend the whole film hoping that Jamie, who is actuallly very sweet, manages to escape him. On the plus side Anna Faris is hilarious as the totally self-absorbed Samantha and Chris Marquette is pretty funny as Chris’ younger brother but overall this is ultimately very skippable. 2/5

04

Film Friday #209

Pageant (2008)

Recently I have become obsessed with Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I think it might be the greatest show ever made. It has drama, humour, glamour and some of the most amazing transformations I have ever seen. I can’t stop watching it and I’m not so secretly annoyed that I will never get to be a drag queen myself. With that in mind I decided to expand my rapidly increasing interest in the drag world with it’s own amazing language by watching this documentary about the 2008 Miss Gay America pageant, where drag queens from around the USA compete for the coveted title. The film follows a group of different performers as they prepare and take part in the competition examining their motivations, exposing their trials and tribulations and show off some of their amazing skills. While Pageant is generally interesting and touching it just isn’t a patch on Drag Race. Compared to some of the magnificent creatures who compete  to be The Next Drag Superstar the Miss Gay America contestants just seem a bit… flat and uninventive. In fact Victor “Porkchop” Bowling, who appears in the documentary as a leading contestant also appeared in the first season of Drag Race and was first to be eliminated. To sum up, if you want to dip your toe into the world of drag I’d recommend checking out Drag Race rather than Pageant just don’t blame me if you lose and entire weekend! 2.5/5

XXXX

Fifi had always wanted to be the Barbie in the middle of a little girl’s birthday party cake and now she had her chance

We Are The Best (2013)

In 1980’s Stockhom everyone believes punk is dead… everyone except thirteen year old outcast best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin). When they discover that their local community centre has a rehearsal room they immediately decide to form a band and write some protest songs but unfortunately neither of them can play the instruments Klara has chosen for them. After the school talent show they make the controversial decision to invite, Christian classical guitarist Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to join their band and suddenly things start to sound a little more like music. Despite their different beliefs the three become inseparable but the addition of a third element in Klara and Bobo’s relationship soon leads to friction which is only intensified when Bobo and Klara both start fancying the same boy. This charming coming of age tale is both hilarious and very touching. Although it has been quite some time since I was a thirteen year old girl I felt like I could identify with the girls’ struggles, especially Bobo’s and it made me quite nostalgic. Lovely. 3.5/5

XXXX

Siiiinging in the snow…

Top Gun (1986)

Tom Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell a naval pilot known for breaking the rules and performing dangerous and daring outmaneuvers. When one of Maverick’s squad freezes during a routine mission he loses his position at the elite “Top Gun” flight school and his position is given to Maverick and his copilot Goose (Anthony Edwards). Now the two will need to prove not only that they deserve their place but that Maverick will be able to tell the difference between a calculated risk and a suicide mission while they compete for the accolade of best pilot. This isn’t made any easier by the fact that Maverick lives under the cloud of his father’s mysterious death during one of his own missions as a naval pilot or that his closest rival is the unflappable Iceman (Val Kilmer). And if that wasn’t complicated enough he’s got a serious hard-on for one the the civilian instructors (Kelly McGillis). While Top Gun features some impressive aerial shots as a whole it’s underwhelming and I struggled to understand why it’s such a classic. The script is flat, the story line is steeped in cliche and it’s packed with pure 80’s cheese. Although it’s obviously a product of it’s time watching it 28 years later it seems massively anachronistic that there are no female pilots in the Top Gun programme, which is part of the reason it hasn’t aged at all well for me. If you’ve missed this one, you haven’t missed much. 2/5

This is your brain on Scientology

This is your brain on Scientology

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  (1988)

Toon hating detective, Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) finds himself in a situation where he is toon, Roger Rabbit’s (voiced by Charles Fleischer) only hope when Roger is accused of the murder of Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). Long before there was CGI, there was Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a crazy concoction of live action, animation, classic noir, crime and comedy which at the time was almost unheard of. The mishmash of styles probably shouldn’t work but somehow it really does and if you peek below it’s silly face value exterior there is a strong undercurrent of darkness as well as some really subversive themes around capitalism. Hoskins gives a blistering performance where in many scenarios he is the only live actor and considering the technology it is amazing how on point he is. Unlike Top Gun it’s aged really well and Mr O and I had a whale of a time watching it… although I think he might have been more interested in Roger’s sexy wife Jessica than anything else. 4/5

XXXX

Eddie wished Roger would stop rabbiting on!

My top 10 TV psycho- and sociopaths

A few weeks ago I did a top 10 on my favourite movie psychopaths. This week I’ve decided to have a look at my most loved TV psycho- and sociopaths. In this case I have included some controversial choices, focusing on the manipulative aspect of characters with this particular pathology… hold on tight. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Master

The Master
Played by: John Simm (I’m sticking with this particular incarnation)
Show: Doctor Who (2005 – )
Psycho or socio: Definitely a psychopath
Remorse: Minimal
Killer trait: Delusions of grandeur, boldness, disinhibition
“The Master: And so it came to pass that the human race fell, and the Earth was no more. And I looked down upon my new dominion as Master of all; and I thought it good.”

t-bag

Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell
Played by: Robert Knepper
Show: Prison Break (2005 – 2009)
Psycho or socio: Total psycho
Remorse: Occasional
Killer traits: Violence, criminality and sexual deviation combined with glib charm
“Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell: That picture makes me look like a sociopath.”

Tate

Tate Langdon
Played by: Evan Peters
Show: American Horror Story (2011 – )
Socio or psycho: The psychopath next door
Remorse: Mostly faked
Killer traits: Criminal behaviour, violence, charm, lack of empathy
“Tate Langdon: I prepare for the noble war. I’m calm, I know the secret. I know whats coming and I know no one can stop me not even myself. I kill people I like. Some of them beg for their life. I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel anything. It’s a filthy world we live, in its a filthy goddamn world and honestly I feel like I’m helping to take them away from the shit and the piss and the vomit that run through the streets. I’m helping to take them to somewhere clean. There’s something about all that blood man i drown it.”

Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes
Played by: Benedict Cumberbatch
Show: Sherlock (2010 – )
Socio or psycho: Sociopath
Remorse: For a select few
Killer traits: Lack of empathy for others, heightened sense of self, disinhibition
“Sherlock Holmes: Brilliant! Yes! Ah, four serial suicides and now a note, Oh, it’s Christmas!”

Ramsay Snow

Ramsay Snow/Bolton
Played by: Iwan Rheon
Show: Game of Thrones (2011 – )
Psycho or socio: Total psycho
Remorse: Zero
Killer traits: Violence, charisma
“Ramsay Snow: But you already told me everything, remember? Your daddy was mean to you. The Starks didn’t appreciate you. One can admit, the Stark boys. They’re still alive. Wouldn’t that be a hunt to remember. You failed, but I’m a better hunter than you. Now, how about your little finger? You don’t need that for much do you? No? Good! Let’s start with that. You’ve been wondering why you’re here, how many, where you are, who I am, why I’m doing this to you. So, guess! If your right, I’ll tell you, by the old gods and the new, I swear it. You win the game if you figure out who I am and why I’m torturing you, and I win the game if you beg me to cut off your finger.”

Lily

Lily Tucker-Pritchett
Played by: Aubrey Anderson-Emmons
Psycho or socio: Little sociopath in training
Killer traits: Manipulation, lack of empathy for others, charm, meanness
Remorse: Only for personal gain
“Sal: Sorry you couldn’t come to the wedding, it was no kids.
Lily Tucker-Pritchett: It’s okay, I’ll go to your next one.
Sal: Wow.
Cameron Tucker: She just means when she’s not a kid anymore.
Lily Tucker-Pritchett: She knows what I mean.
Sal: I don’t like you.
Lily Tucker-Pritchett: [whispering] I’ll get over it.”

Joffrey

Joffrey Baratheon
Played by: Jack Gleeson
Show: Game of Thrones (2011 – )
Psycho or socio: Psychopath
Remorse: Never
Killer traits: Sexual sadism, violence, delusions of grandeur
“Joffrey Baratheon: [announcing Eddard Stark’s sentence] My mother wishes me to let Lord Eddard join the Night’s Watch. Stripped of all titles and powers, he would serve the realm in permanent exile. And my Lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father. But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Sir Ilyn, bring me his head! “

Dexter

Dexter Morgan
Played by: Michael C. Hall
Show: Dexter (2006 – 2013)
Psycho or socio: Conscious psychopath
Remorse: Constant
Killer traits: Violence, criminal behaviour, lack of empathy
“Dexter Morgan: People fake a lot of human interactions, but I feel like I fake them all, and I fake them very well. That’s my burden, I guess.”

Delphone La Laurie

Madame Delphine LaLaurie
Played by: Kathy Bates
Show: American Horror Story (2011 – )
Psycho or socio: Complete psychO
Remorse: Occasional
Killer traits: Sadism, lack of empathy, violence, disinhibition, charm
“Madame Delphine LaLaurie: I fairly swoon when I see the look of terror register on a handsome face. It makes me feel young again.” 

cartman-just-a-little-crack-south-park

Eric Cartman
Voiced by: Trey Parker
Show: South Park (1997 – )
Psycho or socio: Impressively sociopathic
Remorse: Only for benefit
Killer traits: lack of empathy, criminal behaviour, superficial charm, manipulation, disinhibition
“Eric Cartman: I… I can’t live like this. I have to find a place where they remove living souls from your body… “

Film Friday #208

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Following the events of the Quarterquell, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself living underground in District 13 where President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), supported by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are keen for her to be the face of their rebellion. Tortured by nightmares and unsure of what has happened to Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss is reluctant. But after a broadcast in which Peeta is being used as President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) mouthpiece and a visit to the now destroyed District 12, she feels compelled to play her part in bringing the districts together against the Capitol if only to save Peeta. Almost immediately it becomes apparent that Coin will use and manipulate Katniss in whatever way is necessary to achieve her goals and that the differences between the leaders of the Capitol and the leaders of the rebellion are not as great as they want their followers to believe. I went into Mockingjay with very low expectations after reading a lot of lacklustre reviews and I have to admit I was quite pleasantly surprised. Is it an overlong, obvious money grab? Absolutely. Is it boring? Well that depends on what draws your interest to The Hunger Games in the first place. If you’re all about the action then you might be bored. If you’re more interested in the political machinations and the idea of media manipulation of the news and the willingness of leaders to do whatever it takes in the pursuit of power, you’re a lot less likely to be bored. For me it has always been the latter. I can however understand how this step change from the first two films, especially after the political elements were downplayed compared to the novel, might have surprised some of the audience. As always Lawrence gives an outstanding performance, embodying the emotionally battered Katniss and she is ably supported by Moore, Hoffman, Liam Hemsworth as the ever faithful Gale and Sam Clafin as Finnick. Elizabeth Banks is also a bit of a scene stealer providing comic relief as Effie. Subdued compared to the first two but still well worth a watch. 3.5/5

Katniss was more than ready to shoot the shit out of President Snow

Katniss was more than ready to shoot the shit out of President Snow

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

This mockumentary looks at the lives of four vampires who share a flat in Wellington in the lead up to the annual Unholy Masquerade. Viago (Taika Waititi) is an eighteenth century dandy who is always telling everyone off for not washing the dishes, Vladislav (Jermaine Clement) grew up in the Middle Ages had has some interesting ideas about women and torture, Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is only 183 years old and tends to be a bit wild and Petyr (Ben Fransham), who is over 8,000 years old isn’t very good at using his words and is best left out of the flat meetings. When Deacon’s familiar, Jackie (Jackie van Beek) invites her ex-boyfriend, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) round to the vamps’ house for dinner, Petyr turns him and suddenly the four have a new friend for the first time in years. As Nick wrestles with what his new life is going to be like, the other four are dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century whether they like it or not. This quirky Kiwi comedy is the perfect antidote to the kind of Twilight-esque vampires we’ve been dealing with onscreen and its look into the practicalities of daily vampire life is absolutely hilarious. Waititi is brilliant as the dorky Viago as is Clement as the worryingly pervy, Vladislav but more often than not it’s Stuart Rutherford as Nick’s best friend, Stu who steals the scene despite the fact that he barely says anything. If you like your comedy a bit off the wall I would highly recommend taking a peek into the shadows, you won’t be disappointed. 4/5

Deacon;s erotic dance made Edward Cullen look like an amateur

Deacon’s erotic dance made Edward Cullen look like an amateur

The Drop (2014)

Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) tends the bar at Cousin Marv’s, which was once owned by his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) but is now owned by a Chechen gang who took over Marv’s patch. On occasion Cousin Marv’s acts as a “drop bar” where all the money from all the dodgy dealings in Brooklyn is held over night. Bob is a man of few words who keeps to himself, adamant that he wants to live a good quiet life away from what seems like a somewhat shady past. But when Cousin Marv’s is robbed and Bob finds an abused puppy in a trashcan a series of events unfolds that could shatter his peace permanently.  I definitely found the premise of The Drop intriguing and I really enjoyed its slow burn. Once again Tom Hardy makes his character utterly believable and compelling and his relationship not only with the puppy but with the woman whose trashcan he finds it in (Noomi Rapace) are really touching. Gandolfini is also excellent in his final role playing a man tortured by his losing what gave him his identity and desperate to regain his pride. All of this said, if you’re going to go for a slow burn you’ve got to have a good payoff and for me The Drop ended with a whimper rather than a bang and at the end although I enjoyed it I kind of wondered what the whole point actually was. Throughout the film it seemed like there was going to be some kind of message or conclusion and then there just kind of wasn’t… A good watch but it feels like there could have been so much more. 3/5

Warning: This film will make you want a puppy

Warning: This film will make you want a puppy (and Tom Hardy)

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are two monsters working as a scaring team for Monsters, Inc generating power for the city of Monstropolis by collecting the screams of terrified children. The irony is that the monsters are just as a frightened of the children, believing them to be toxic, so when Sulley accidentally lets a human child into Monstropolis his life is turned upside down. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not a great fan of Disney or Pixar but Monsters. Inc is one of my very few total exceptions. The premise of going behind the scenes of the almost universal childhood fear of “monsters under the bed/in the closet” is genius and even just seeing all the different kinds of monsters going about their daily business makes this worth watching. The relationship between lifelong friends Sulley and Mike is great fun and both characters are hilarious.  it also helps that “Boo”, as Sulley nicknames the little invader, is absolutely adorable and her barely comprehensible prattle is so sweet. An absolute classic that stands the test of time. 5/5

XXXX

Boo’s new “kitty” was a going to give the mailman a run for his money

Things I have been cooking lately #99: Penne with peas, pancetta and pesto

I am a big fan of Leon’s fresh, healthy meals and snacks and now that there’s one at the bottom of my new building I will admit to visiting it quite often for lunch. I was lucky enough to get the Leon: Fast Suppers mini recipe book, which I have been coveting, for my birthday. This is the first recipe I tried from the book and Mr O and I were both impressed by how absolutely delicious something so simple could be. A great mid-week dinner, packed with flavour.

Penne with peas, pancetta and pesto

5 cloves of garlic
2 onions
250g smoked pancetta lardons
3 tablespoons of olive oil
350g frozen peas
4o0g penne
4 tablespoons of red pesto
Salt

Put a large pot of salted water to boil over a high heat. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onions.

Fry the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a medium heat for five minutes. Add the pancetta and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the peas and stir well to coat them with the oil. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the peas are cooking add the penne to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of the cooking water. Return to the pot with the reserved water to keep it moist. Stir in the pesto and then the pea mixture. Serve immediately with a little parmesan grated over the top.

Serves 4

wpid-img_20141110_201350.jpg