The Bourne Legacy

Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy

 The Bourne Legacy was always a risky venture, making a sequel with an all new cast. There’s no Matt Damon and even a new director.

But this movie is simply fantastic. Jeremy Renner has a great deal of screen charisma. Although it has a slow start, once the action begins it really kicks off. Houses get blown up, hot car chases and great fight scenes.

The chase sequences are simply superb. A great movie. I really loved it.

Rachel Weisz plays one of the doctors who is in peril when the CIA decide to terminate all operatives working in the covert lab making more “Jason Bournes”, so the advertising; ‘there was never just one’ rings true.

Jeremy plays Aaron Cross, whose Number 5 in the program. In an attempt to get more pills, he pretends he’s lost his own and goes to another operative Number 3 (Oscar Isaac). The lodge is attacked but Cross survives and realises his own superiors ordered the attack. He plans to stop them.

Interim Dr. Marta Shearing (Weisz) survives an attack, where one of her own colleagues shoots everyone. Later it’s clear she’s still a target, as they want everyone dead. She learns her colleague was modified to kill.

Can she rely on Cross to save her? He thinks she has more pills as all the ones in the lodge were destroyed. Is there something more to the pills? Could he come off them and still retain the advanced abilities he was given?

Joining forces; Marta and Cross cause chaos across the globe as they jet around looking for answers as well as staying alive. It’s a thrill a minute ride once Marta and Cross team up, the chemistry was amazing and I hope they make another movie. Matt Damon’s character Jason Bourne is mentioned throughout and is the cause of why the CIA decide to terminate the program and nearly kill everybody involved. (Although not board or office members!)

There’s few films that can carry off such suspense, emotion and a pure adrenaline rush but this ticks all three. The fight scenes remain some of the best and in one scene Cross clambers up a house. I was like – wow!

Although some of techno babble was lost on me, I was able to get the jist.

A worthy 9/10 in my book. I would see this film again.

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MotoGP 2012

Casey Stoner

The 2012 Season is heading through the halfway mark, currently on its summer break, with the lads getting in gear to return to the track and fight for the title.

Reigning Champion Stonor’s season being his last, we hoped for great power, speed and competitiveness, with the pressure of Lorenzo and Pedrosa always on his tailpack.

Stonor finishing this year was a big surprise but being a new family man, we can see why , racing can be a dangerous sport, not knowing what is round the next corner, whether the race day was going to be wet or dry, whether the bike would feel right, would the tyres have grip,  would it be your day ?

He always has a great spirit very rarely looking deflated at not winning.  You want to finish as a winner you don’t want to end your run as a runner up.  That is not the way you want to end up.  Everyone remembers a gold winner but never a silver or bronze.

Valentino Rossi

His season so far has not been stable with 4 wins out of 10, the Repsol Honda rider, has previously had Rossi on his tail they have had a good fight in past years, this year though Rossi’s ride has not been up to par, he has struggled throughout, not always even reaching the top ten with crashes, engine breakdowns and bad luck to name a few.  2013 sees him return to his old faithful Yamaha where he seemed to excel and be comfortable and be heading in the right direction.  The only downside could be the partnership alongside Lorenzo.  They both want the winning bike, and to beat the other,” can both bikes be set up to win in the same team? “  “who do the team push?”  “who will be the favourite?”

Rossi seemed the favourite but then left to join Ducati so Lorenzo had the backing, now Rossi returns what happened to Lorenzo? Teams try to express that they push all their riders but how can they be 100% behind all of them.  All riders like their bikes set up differently, how they feel to one will not feel the same to the other.

The people’s rider is of course Rossi, his following is huge.   You don’t need to be Italian to love him he is the people’s champion.  His character expresses warmth and feeling.  No other rider in the championship has his character, he is funny and a crowd pleaser.

So where will we end the 2012 Season with Stonor being the champion?  Will Lorenzo continue to race ahead of the pack out on his own?  Will Pedrosa continue to be a steady bet? Does anyone else stand a chance of catching these three, looking at the points and the fight that is unlikely.

We of course being British love an underdog, my favourite is Bautista he has had an interesting season with good and bad moments, almost reaching a podium and then accused of causing a crash and going to the back of the field.   He is the one I am backing unless there is a miracle I know he will not make the Top Three this season, but maybe a Top Three podium before the season ends .  I will keep my fingers and toes crossed.

Images reproduced from motorcyclenews.com and ultimatemotorcycling.com

Fight by Gabriella Ellis now on iTunes

You are probably familiar with Gabriella Ellis from her apperance on the popular E4 structured reality TV show Made in Chelsea which portrayed her relationship and eventual break-up from Ollie Locke.

The very public break-up and alledged extreme editing from producers resulted in Gabriella coming across as bitchy especially in her exchanges to Ollie’s best freind Cheska Hull.

However, away from the cameras, Gabriella is a talented singer and her brand of electro-pop is influenced by Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera. Gabriella Ellis is half-Greek and had a number one is Greece with the song Hit The Road Jack.

Her relationship with Ollie Locke inspired Gabriella to write the song Fight. The music video was released at the end of 2011 and the song is now available to buy on iTunes.

Here at City Connect, we are a big fan of Gabriella and look forward to a successful start to her music career in the UK.

Click here to purchase Fight from iTunes and see the music video below.

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Review of “The Magdalene Sisters”

This week, Bianca Lorena reviews “The Magdalane Sisters”

Directed By Peter Mullan, Released in 2002, 119 minutes Running Time

Cast- Eileen Walsh as Crispina, Dorothy Duffy as Rose/Patricia, Nora Jane-Noone as Bernadette, Anne-Marie Duff as Margaret, and Geraldine McEwan as Sister Bridget.

The Magdalene Sisters is a powerful and emotional yet poignant story that follows the lives of four young Irish women growing up in a Magdalene asylum in 1960’s Ireland.  The four girls endure years of torture and abuse at the hands of the corrupt sisters who run the convent. The story is based on true events that really happened in the asylums in Ireland.

Crispina, Patricia (real name Rose), Bernadette, and Margaret are sent to live in the Magdalene asylum after being cast out by their families and society. Crispina after having a child young, Patricia for getting pregnant young, Bernadette for being a wayward orphan, and Margaret for becoming pregnant after being raped by her cousin.

The four girls all live and work in the prison like ‘laundries’ together, become friends and form a bond through the hard and long hours they work. While discovering the only way out of the convent is to escape.

We see that the girls placed in these convents endure physical and mental pain by the sisters running the asylum. Bernadette’s head is shaved and she is graphically beaten senseless by the sisters when caught escaping. The mental pain that the girls are put through is also shown when the girls are lined up naked after a communal shower, and are humiliated about their bodies while the sisters relish this moment. Crispina is also seen to be giving disturbing sexual favours to the corrupt priest, who is taking advantage of her vulnerability as a girl of the convent.

Although emotionally powerful The Magdalene Sisters is, as an audience we still see a cleverly witty side from the girls. Bernadette (Nora Jane-Noone) is right on form as the crazed outcast, who though she hates the asylum still tries to make the most of being there.

She escapes to meet boys and also steels. Nora Jane-Noone plays her with true determination, and her portrayal of her hostile ‘fallen’ character is witty with her Irish charm shining through. Even though she is the most rebellious girl, you can’t help but grow to love her.

Geraldine McEwan portrays the merciless Sister Bridget with raw drive and gives no compassion as her character throughout the film. Although an Old Catholic woman, and a woman of god, she still beats the girls unfairly. Her main aim of her role in the convent is to keep the girls there as long as possible and corrupt them during their stay there.

Eventually Margaret is allowed to leave by her brother, while Crispina is wrongly moved into a mental institution to spend the rest of her days. Triumphantly Bernadette and Patricia escape the asylum after they can no longer take it when Bernadette sees an older woman in her sixties die there. The woman has been there most of her life and this prompts the girls for change. They steal a key from Sister Bridget’s office and escape for good, but not before a last confrontation with her.

Bernadette and Patricia are then seen running far away from the asylum and finding a job and lodgings in the local town, by someone who offers them help. Weeks pass and we see Patricia boarding a coach for a ferry to Liverpool to go and find her son who was taken away from her. While Bernadette informs us that she will stay in the town as a trainee hairdresser and the sisters will not be able to touch her because she has a ‘respectable job.’  This final piece is powerful as we see the two girls really did escape, and make a better life for themselves outside the convent. They tell each other they will keep in touch.

However the best is yet to come when after Bernadette walks away down the street it starts to pour down with rain, and she runs into two of the sisters from the convent under a dreary walkway. She recognises them, and they her, and flashes back to images from the beginning of the film where the nuns are abusing her. Music to accompany this scene in its performance comes in, and it adds an eerie but essential hand at creating the final picture. Flashing images and cross cutting shoots back to what happened at the convent and Bernadette itches her head in irritation to what is happening. She itches her hair so much in frustration that her trendy hairstyle falls loose and she is soaking wet with rain and make up down her face. The final piece of the puzzle ends with Bernadette giving the nuns one last powerful glance back at them as she is walking away. This shows us she has moved on from the convent but what happened there will always stay in her mind. The powerful image is the last image inflicted in our minds that stays with us about the film.

The final epilogue shows us the outcome of what happened to the girls from The Magdalene convent. We find out that Crispina died of anorexia at twenty four in the mental institute she was sent to. Margaret went on to become a primary school teacher in Scotland, Bernadette opened a hair salon and married three times, and Patricia married and had two more children and eventually found her son who was taken away from her after thirty three years.

The true events that happened were the base of the inspiration for The Magdalene Sisters, although not all of these women’s stories were factual. The director Peter Mullan recalls that the real women’s stories were his inspiration to put together this film, and he built the rest on that. Although much worse things were have said to have happened in these asylums. Peter Mullan’s wanted to make this film to help the women that suffered this terrible injustice and abuse to get closure from what had happened.

The last Magdalene asylum closed in 1996. But not before 30,000 were detained there over the years.

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Does Cinema Need Remakes? – Part 2

The comparisons made in Part 1 of this article are reminiscent of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I personally watched the 2011 American re-make first, and visually it was mind blowing. From the opening titles alone with its incredible graphics and the pulsing beat of “Immigrant song”, a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic, the audience attention is thrust upon the screen. This intensity is kept throughout the film which unfortunately ruined the suspense of the story and made some scenes unbearable to watch. The American film also added in animal the plot simply to add more violence as it had no impact on the story itself and could have easily been left out. The film as a whole though is a worthwhile watch the acting is strong particularly with the lead Rooney Mara whose portrayal of “Lisbeth” is comparison-able to that of Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish film. Another positive factor of the re-make is the attention given to flash back scenes, though there are commendable efforts in the original the Americans have down to an art building up the tension for the big reveal. Yet the big reveal itself was lacking due to the fact many details had been skimmed over throughout the film and though the end was good it was not satisfying.

The original covers a lot more ground with the story and with the characters. The opening scene of a heartbroken old man crying over a flower created questions and empathy whereas the American version just created confusion. This importance of details is keep up within the film and develops interesting characters as well as some sinister fore-shadowing which the re-make lacks. Paired with the slow sleepy atmosphere of the filming it produces a wonderful suspense highlighted in places by more violent scenes. The ending of the two films differ completely the American version and a confusing character change whereas as the Swedish is more positive suggesting a continuation with an intriguing insight to Lisbeth’s past only briefly mentioned in the re-make. Though films are spectacular to watch the Swedish version trumps the American with the story telling allowing the later film only to considered nothing more than a re-make.

It’s not just foreign films however that receives the Hollywood re-make treatment even its own films are often re-branded for a modern audience. One example of this is “Fright Night”, last year Hollywood delivered us a re-make of the 1985 original which was nothing like the former film. Though marketed as an 18 the original film is more comedy than horror though it does make you jump in places. The true horror of the original is the torment of the viewer knowing that geeky lead “Charley” is right about the vampire next door and will probably end up dead before anyone believes him. However in the modern version it is Ed that is the laughed at nerd rather than his eccentric outcast of the original whilst Charley is a hot former geek, because we couldn’t possibly have a unattractive lead who believes in vampires. This change of dynamic completely ruined the film for me as well lengthening it as first we had to wait for Charley to believe Ed and then the rest of the characters. Colin Farrels “Jerry” was sexed up rugged tradesman next door rather than the aristocratic commanding presence of Chris Sarandon in the original. The new Jerry also acted more psychopath than vampire and it wasn’t until almost the end of the film that I believed he was a mystical beast rather than a lunatic who just happened to bite people. In all the re-make was a disappointing product that was blasphemous to the original with sexed up characters all over the place.

Personally I see no need for remakes, if you loved the original then don’t hurt yourself by watching a reproduction of it, no matter how good it is you’ll always be able to find something you preferred in the original film. Yet American cinema is miles ahead in visual effects and if they could retain the story telling of the former films I believe in future they can create some fantastic re-makes. Still if Hollywood had enough decent screen writers than it wouldn’t need remakes at all.

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Film Review: Step Up 4 – Miami Heat

Step Up 4 – Miami Heat was a great movie. I really loved it.

Ryan Guzman is great as Sean. I think he’s got a great career ahead of him. He was warm, witty and a great dancer.

The choreography simply blew me away. There are several excellent sequences especially in an art gallery. It was new and a great addition to the Step Up universe.

The gang were warm and likeable. You could imagine them hanging out where they did. The organisation that they put into the performances in the venues they chose, were fantastic.

Kathryn McCormick (from ‘So you think you can dance‘ series) shone as Emily. I felt her struggle as she wanted to dance but her dad wants her to be in business. Her auditions don’t go well due to her lack of confidence. She meets Sean who agrees to help her learn new dance movements. He’s also part of ‘The Mob’ a dance group that stages huge dance routines in public places, they do this to the unsuspecting public to get ‘YouTube’ hits.

The trouble starts when Emily’s dad wants to build a new development where Sean and his crew live. Will she help them or her father?

The only complaints I have are:

1. Moose from Step Up 2 & 3 only appears towards the end.

He doesn’t speak to any of the other dancers nor do any of them appear to acknowledge him. (Even Jason who called him and knows him from film 3!). Moose has one dance routine then he converses with Emily’s father. I would have liked to have seen him celebrate with the main group. He disappeared afterwards.

2. The secrecy of the ‘The Mob’ doesn’t make sense.

When Sean brings Emily in, there’s a huge amount of fuss from Eddie. ‘We’re top secret’. Nobody is supposed to know who they are. Sean then tells Emily who does what and how each member came into ‘The Mob‘. On the first meeting! And only Eddie really objects. The others don’t seem fussed and badger Eddie to accept her. Weakening the impression it was supposed to be super top secret. The group can call a large amount of dancers at short notice (even in a couple of hours in one case!). These dancers aren’t in the group. And if ‘The Mob’ is top secret then how can these dancers know them? How do they know the moves as each routine is different? (They don’t train with ‘The Mob’.) Even if they learn one routine with them what about afterwards? Does this group simply allow people to come and go?

Why imply a secret gang if they aren’t? It had a ‘Blue Peter’ feel of “Oh and here’s some dancers I made friends with earlier! All super trustworthy with no vetting needed! Taking secrets to the grave comes as standard!”

3. Another thing is that the costumes don’t hide everyone’s identity.

Ryan wore a hoodie at the beginning. Emily only wore a black hat in one and as they all get filmed and get on the news as well as You Tube – it was not real that no-one, anywhere, wouldn’t recognise any of them. So the whole; who is ’The Mob’? question was weakened.

The end dancing with three groups is simply breathtaking. All in time and flawless. I was spellbound. Nothing could spoil my enjoyment and the music was hip hop and toe tapping. A very enjoyable movie with great dance routines. 8/10 from me!

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Technology, Time and Ageing

The question that many polymaths, scientists, technology-enthusiasts and intellectuals have been curious about ever since educational institutions were introduced is- will the world reach the period where the length of human life can be expanded? Many individuals in the global society have wished to look younger when their facial characteristics started aging and do surgical procedures as well as use cosmetics as a feature of the extended human phenotype to fulfill their desires. Technology has extended the phenotype of man to unprecedented heights. Human technologies differ from animal technologies in their inventiveness, multiplicity and sophistication. Noted experts throughout the ages have searched for the formula to the miraculous phenomenon: “Can one turn back the clock of time?” Although time travel has been a traditional plot device in science fiction since the late 19th century and the theories of special and general relativity allow methods for forms of one-way travel into the future via time dilation, it is currently unrevealed whether the laws of physics would permit time travel into the past.

Some theories, most notably special and general relativity, propose that suitable geometries of spacetime, or specific types of motion in space, might allow time travel into the past and future if these geometries or motions are possible. In technical papers, physicists generally avoid the commonplace language of “moving” or “traveling” through time (“movement” normally refers only to an adjustment in spatial position as the time coordinate is varied), and instead discuss the potentiality of closed timelike curves, which are world lines that form closed loops in spacetime, allowing objects to return to their own past. There are known to be solutions to the equations of general relativity that describe spacetimes which contain closed timelike curves (such as Gödel spacetime), but the physical plausibility of these solutions is uncertain.

Many in the scientific community believe that backwards time travel is highly implausible. Any theory that would allow time travel would require that problems of causality be resolved. The classic example of a problem involving causality is the “grandfather paradox”: what if one were to go back in time and kill one’s own grandfather before one’s father was conceived? However, some scientists believe that paradoxes can be avoided, by appealing either to the Novikov self-consistency principle or to the notion of branching parallel universes.

Nevertheless, the theory of general relativity does suggest a scientific basis for the possibility of backwards time travel in certain unusual scenarios, although arguments from semiclassical gravity suggest that when quantum effects are incorporated into general relativity, these loopholes may be closed. These semiclassical arguments led theoretical physicists to formulate the chronology protection conjecture, suggesting that the fundamental laws of nature prevent time travel, but physicists cannot come to a definite judgment on the issue without a theory of quantum gravity to join quantum mechanics and general relativity into a completely unified theory.

Dr. Bill Andrews has spent two decades solving the molecular mechanisms of aging. His mission is to extend the human life span to 150 years or die trying. In the 1990s, as the director of molecular biology at the Bay Area biotech firm Geron, Andrews supported a team of researchers that, in alliance with a laboratory at the University of Colorado, just barely beat out the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a furious, near-decade-long race to identify the human telomerase gene. This basic science took on the trappings of a hysterical Great Race is a testament to the biological preciousness of telomerase, an enzyme that maintains the ends of our cells’ chromosomes, called telomeres.

Telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides, and when they get too short the cell can no longer make fresh copies of itself. If humans live long enough, the tissues and organ systems that count on continued cell replication begin to falter: The skin sags, the internal organs grow slack, the immune-system response weakens such that the next chest flu could be the last. Telomerase was first discovered by Professor Elizabeth Blackburn and Molecular Biologist Carol W. Greider who were both awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for this work. Though, what if bodies could be induced to express more Telomerase? That is what Dr. Andrews intends to do in order to prolong human life which would demonstrate one of the greatest breakthroughs on planet earth.

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Cricket: Long Marston Vs Twyford

Long Marston 1st XI

A cloudy Saturday at Marlins resulted in Long Marston 1st XI suffering their second heavy defeat in as many weeks at the hands of early pace setters Twyford at home. With key players coming back and a stronger team out than the week before, Australian captain Peter Toovey once again lost at the toss and Twyford decided to bat on what looked a damp wicket and could provide some early help for the bowlers.

A solid start from in form opener Matthew Wareham and Peter Toovey was broken whenWareham (9) edged behind to first slip. Two balls later and Long Marston were in real trouble when James Beesley (0) lost his off stump and Rory Miscampbell (1) was to be dismissed in similar fashion seven balls later. Long Marston losing three wickets in the space of ten balls.

A brief stage of rebuilding was ended when Peter Toovey (23) mistimed a square cut and offered up a simple catch to Mid-On. Matthew Storey (0) was to follow for a second ball duck moments later. For Long Marston this then sparked another mini collapse as Chris Slade (1) and Richard Adams (0) both lost their wickets cheaply in quick succession. First team debutant Chris West (14) was making his first appearance since joining from Reading stayed with Mike Lyons (21) as Long Marston tried to rebuild their innings, however once their partnership was broken the last two wickets fell quickly again with Waleed Ali and Simon McLeman both being removed without scoring.

Twyford bowler Kumbar Hussain finished with outstanding figures of 6-39 after showing his skills by moving the ball both in and away off the seam. Long Marston eventually posting a well below par score of 83. Despite a strong start to the Twyford innings, with Peter Toovey picking up a wicket with the second ball of the innings by removing the stump and sending it flying 10 yards back, and again in similar fashion a few overs later.

Twyford attacked the Long Marston bowling attack and made short work of the small target with a couple of dropped catches proving very costly with such a low score. With Zaheer Hussain and Tariq Hussain both ending up 37*, it took just over 15 overs for Long Marston to be put out of their misery and Twyford to win by 8 wickets. After suffering their fourth defeat from six match’s things are becoming tough especially after another disappointing performance both in the field and with the bat.

Having now only scored over One Hundred & Twenty twice in the first six games the batting needs to improve rapidly with the next three fixtures all against teams in the thick of promotion. Long Marston need to get a  victory at home to struggling Sandford St Martin next week to propel themselves back up the table, and if we do not find some form in the next few weeks we are looking at a long hard fight against relegation for the remaining weeks of the season.

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Film Review – The Lorax

The main problem with this film I found, was that I kept asking what exactly IS a Lorax???

I’m going to get the book as this film lacked big explanations. It was a nice adventure but it did lack something extra. It’s basically about the environment. Thneedville has no real trees. They’re all plastic plug in with light bulbs.

Cue a great scene though from the mom, one tree changes lights for the seasons, green for summer and spring, white for winter, orange for autumn and DISCO! That was cool.

The trees outside have all been chopped down to make stuff with. Bottled air is what keeps the town’s air going. (Let’s hope they recycle those bottles!)

The use of flashbacks were the main reason this film was long. For young kids, two hours is quite a length. What could’ve been done in one scene was stretched out over three. Three LONG scenes. Yes, our hero has to go back to listen to the tale of how the trees were lost – THREE LONG times.

Another problem was the songs were forgettable. I don’t remember a single one, unlike Shrek and Toy Story. (Now you should all remember at least one song from these movies – if not more!) The characters were simplistic and could’ve come from any other movie.

What did they want the kids to do? To learn from this? Ask their parents for a tree??? This is going to be a problem. “Can we plant a tree mommy? Can we? Please? Just one, I‘ll be good!”. Or if there’s an apple tree that needs to come down, there’ll be “No, you’ll summon the Lorax Daddy. You can’t chop it down! MOMMY he‘s chopping down the tree!”
I don’t think most parents will be amused!

Now some plot holes I noticed. What air are they breathing if there’s no trees? The air provided is in bottles (like mineral water), but then they would be gulping every second – it wasn’t explained how the people were breathing in between ‘bottle breaks’. And if they didn’t actually need the bottled air, why was no one noticing they lived when they weren’t ‘drinking’?

I didn’t like the villain. He was made too silly to be a real threat. You can’t be scary AND silly. You can be funny and scary but never silly. Who would like a Lex Luthor as a clumsy clot? Or Darth Vader being Mr. Bean?

Now to The Lorax himself. What creature is he? Where does he come from? The sky??? His importance is also sketchy. Why do the other animals listen to him? How did they recognise him if he’s never appeared before? And why are all the animals young? If the Lorax came before how do any of them recognise him? Did a tree get chopped down before?!

The character voiced by Danny DeVito lacked authority and any real powers. If he didn’t do something, he just said, ‘That’s not the way it works’. To me that’s a cop out.

If he was on performance related pay as a forest guardian – he would be sacked. The entire grove got flattened! I was expecting Princess Fiona from Shrek to pop up and say, “You didn’t save the forest?!” “It was on my to do list!”

It was like Superman without any powers. Albus Dumbledore without any magic. How can he protect/speak for the trees then? Also he didn’t encourage replanting or teach the people how to manage the trees. They simply couldn’t chop ANY trees down, which is just not viable.
Buzz Lightyear has retractable wings, a laser and a cool helmet. The Lorax is just… orange. If I were a kid I know which toy I’d get.

Another point is that the studio must have used massive amounts of paper and electricity to make the cartoon, so to preach about waste was rather hypocritical.

The character ‘The Onester’ was another problem. I didn’t like him. He was stupid. Where did all his money go? Why did he shut himself away in a shack? Surely being so rich he should have had a mansion? I got the self imposed solitary confinement but not the total missing wealth. Also he waited until the very last moment to realise he was in trouble. Also rather than try to correct something he did wrong – he did… nothing!

Also in one scene he uses an axe to break his window, then uses he the door to get out. What was that about???

The animals were fantastic and they should have been used a lot more. They’re funny and had real personality. I loved the singing goldfish and the bears.

Zac Efron voiced our hero, Ted. He was listed third in the credits which I didn‘t like. Who was the man who was second???

Taylor Swift was the heroine. Her digital character actually resembled her. Was that intentional?

They were both okay but again, the parts lacked any real pizzazz. ‘Textbook landing’ as they say in the airport control tower – but it’s not wowza!

Betty White (Golden Girls) was the real surprise as grandma. She was very funny. She doesn’t get much screen time till the end. I would have preferred her in it more, she had some golden moments and she sounded like she was having fun.

I can only give this movie 4/10. Giving eco messages is always risky, especially in a kids movie.

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Film Review: The Flowers of War

Given that we have now bid a fond farewell to the London 2012 Olympics, it somehow seems the perfect time for the release of the latest film by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His new film The Flowers of War is probably the most accessible film he’s done to date. Filmed with English dialogue, and with the biggest budget Chinese cinema has ever seen, this is Yimou returning to period epics, which made him one of the best of China’s Fifth Generation directors.

The Flowers of War is set in Nanking during the 1937 siege, when the invading Japanese massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians, and woman were forced into sex slavery. John Miller (Christian Bale) is an American lout, drunkenly stumbling around Nanking and looting in the wreckage left by the Japanese invaders. However, when he himself takes refuge in a Catholic cathedral, he finds a group of convent schoolgirls and prostitutes also hiding out from the massacre. Upon finding them, Miller becomes their reluctant protector as he poses as a priest to try and find a way to get them and himself out of Nanking.

This is Zhang Yimou returning to the epic heroism films that made him great, and with the biggest budget in the history of Chinese cinema (a reported $94 million) he makes every penny count. The action and battle scenes are thrillingly crafted, and are often made to look like a graphic novel adaptation. Yimou certainly knows how to create a beautiful image, and with a running time of over two hours it’s very impressive that he’s able to make every other shot in the film a memorable one.

The only fault with the film though is the rather clumsily constructed characters. Christian Bale’s John Miller goes from being a drunken idiot to the defender of schoolgirls and prostitutes in a heartbeat, without even a little transition or convincing debate. Christian Bale though is able to take all this in his stride and craft a rather convincing performance out of the flimsy script.

Similarly to Bale’s other Summer film The Dark Knight Rises, you do worry at one point that the film is getting carried away and will tumble off the rails at any moment, but Yimou and co. are able to craft a thrilling and beautiful epic, and with the English dialogue this surely will only widen Yimou’s appeal.

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Does Cinema Need Remakes? – Part 1

2012 in film, the year of re-releases, squeals, prequels and re-makes. It begs the question, “has Hollywood lost all originality?” With classic films being re-marketed as 3D despite the technological gap and franchises such as Ice Age reaching its fourth instalment it does make you wonder about the future of film. I can however forgive these examples in the wake of my pet hate, the re-make.

In 2002 Tobey Maguire entertained us with the loveable nerd which is Peter Parker in the original Spider-man trilogy. Yet, just a mere five years after the last part was released, Hollywood have already thrown upon us a re-make “The Amazing Spiderman”. Though the title is certainly different the film itself does not stray too far from the original plot and a lot of the scenes in the two films are remarkably similar. You may point this is due to the fact the new series is a re-make. However with marketing promising us the “untold origins of Spiderman” I was hoping for new information in the plot, though fans of the comic have informed me it does stay true to the real story not enough has changed to warrant me essentially watching the same film twice.

I can’t slate the new film entirely though Andrew Garfield is a brilliant Parker and adds more dimension to the character than his predecessor, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy trumps Mary-Jane with her hard-ass attitude and independence compared to the former leading lady who was indecisive and whiny. Visually the film is stunning with some of the scenes looking like pieces of art adding the comic book essence to every scene of the film, however their are places in which this perfection is too much, reminding the viewer this is fiction. Whereas in the original the humdrum film quality added the sense of this could actually happen.

One factor in the new film I really deplore is the villain Curt Conner, played by the fantastic Rhys Ifans, his soft nature and rounded features gives him good guy connotations that remains for the whole of the film and has no where near the sinister effect of the green goblin in the original.

If Amazing Spiderman had been released another twenty years down the line I could easily see the appeal but the speed of which the remake has preceded the original with no dramatic improvement other than the visuals it leaves me thinking what is the point of remakes?

Hollywood seems obsessed with this genre of film, there are hundreds of them, most common place are Asian or European cinema re-made to appeal to the western culture. The appeal of Hollywood re makes is the big budgets behind them and the most advanced technical processes, however this leads to plots being watered down in an attempt to focus on the visual impacts on the film.

Take for example the 2010 film Let Me In released just two years after the original Swedish film Let The Right One In. In mind of special effects and camera angles the American film is superior with a crisp finished quality, however the actual story seems forced in places and doesn’t flow naturally, allowing for confusion in some places and too much information in others. This is a problem in a lot of American remakes the story is both vague, missing out essential scenes, and far too obvious with certain plot points which ruins the suspense and excitement of the viewer figuring out the mystery themselves. Though the two young leads do a brilliant job in Let Me In, the chemistry between them is non existent and they do not reach the close bond as the Owen & Abby in the original film. The Swedish version gives more screen time to developing the relationships between all characters key to the plot allowing the story progress realisticly. It also has an poetic nature with each scene being eerily beautiful and artistically shot, holding an innocence of the two young leads allowing the viewers to get into their mindsets. What really works with this soft style is the contrast to the sudden violence in the last scene shocking the system of the viewers and creating a film that stays in the mind long after leaving the cinema.

Read Part 2 of Rebecca Fortuin’s article on Thursday 23 August 2012

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Film Review: Ted

If you were part of the young generation that first saw Toy Story hit cinema screens, you will have wondered if your toys came to life whenever you left the room. Perhaps you wished they would come to life, talk to you, and be your friends forever. Seth MacFarlane’s debut film Ted shows you the main reason why that would be a very bad idea – because one day you have to grow up. At least you’re supposed to.

It’s 1985, and an eight-year-old John Bennett is shunned by the rest of the kids in his community in a suburban area of Boston. When one Christmas his parents buy him a brand new teddy bear, he cherishes it and talks to it like it’s his best friend. One night he wishes that Ted would really come to life, and lo and behold the next morning Ted is alive and kicking. Fast forward 25 years with a well-crafted montage and a now adult John (Marc Wahlberg) still has his trusty friend Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) by his side, as well as a beautiful girlfriend (Mila Kunis).

Making his directorial debut, Seth MacFarlane manages to demolish the main obstacle he was facing, and that was steering himself away from Family Guy. There was always the risk that Ted would come across like an overextended TV show, but MacFarlane clearly has a keen eye for cinematic storytelling. He’s able to craft a solid, if occasionally misjudged story that feels like a movie without giving up on laughs. And boy, are there plenty of laughs to be had; Ted is packed with so many crass and silly jokes it almost makes you dizzy.

Mark Wahlberg gives a superb comedy performance, his first since the rather underrated The Other Guys. He’s proving to be one of Hollywood’s leading versatile actors, as one particular scene when he rhymes off names without taking a breath demonstrates. Mila Kunis is able to make the best of her role as John Bennett’s girlfriend. She’s a very likeable and occasionally funny character, already elevating her above the traditional female roles in rather blokey comedies. Patrick Stewart even puts on his best reading voice as the film’s narrator, providing the prefect humorous antidote to the bad fairy-tale movies we’ve had this year.

It should come as no surprise though that the real stand-out performance comes from Seth MacFarlane’s Ted. MacFarlane is able to make Ted a convincing central character without giving up on any of his charm. It’s probably in some way sacrilegious to make this comparison, but just in the same way you forget that The Simpsons are yellow and goofy looking, you forget that Ted is just a stuffed bear. Having said that, because Ted is a child’s toy he is able to say rather offensive and risky things that only he could really get away with. If you are Asian, Muslim, a woman from Boston, or a woman with what might be described as a “white trash name” then brace yourself. The rest of you, sit back and enjoy the best comedy of the year.

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Finding it Hard to Wake Up in the Morning?

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about waking up energised in the morning. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Thank you for your question regarding the fact that you find it difficult to wake up in the morning. I often hear my clients say they got out of bed the wrong side that morning and they ask how to wake up full of positivity, joy and gratitude ready to embrace the day ahead of them.

There is no one easy answer. Different things will help different types of people, for example if you are an S (Sensory) type personality practising simple morning rituals may help set an elevated mood for the day ahead. By setting out these morning tasks – be it a skincare routine, a leisurely breakfast, morning meditation or yoga – we are telling ourselves that we are important and that we matter. For those N (Intuitive) type people, the concept is still the same but with a little more sponteniety. It is still important to do something spiritually, emotionally or physically important to us before we get carried away with the daily necessities of life and get swept up into our schedule of tasks.

Tony Robbins, a well-known NLP practitioner amongst other things developed the Hour of Power, since then there have been many adaptations to this power hour but the overall end aim is the same. Some divide the hour into three chunks of twenty minutes, be it for meditation, exercise, learning, growth, beauty and health whereas others use it for improving sports performance perhaps running or even rowing. Whatever you decide to do, using this power hour for positive affirmations is an amazing way to start the day. It is my suggestion to spend fifty minutes doing such and the last 10 minutes being grateful for what you have already received the previous day.

However most people reading this are busy professionals and it seems practically impossible to take a whole hour out of your day especially in the morning to give time to yourself. Understanding this, it is a good idea to give yourself five minutes each day and maybe even stretch that to ten or fifteen minutes. Even by adding a few minutes each day you can take extra time for yourself before your heavy workload begins. In five minutes you can do some stretches; in ten minutes you can journal; some people even use their time to make a smoothie in the morning to give them that extra boost of energy and all those antioxidants which are great for the skin.

Whatever you choose to spend time on in your first hour, even if you have to use it commuting, remember this hour sets the tone for the next 23 hours before us and what we do daily can become part of who we are. Perhaps on your commute reading inspirational material will help create positivity in your life. Those who live closer to work could perhaps leave ten minutes early and walk to work instead of taking the bus or another mode of transport.

The morning is a wonderful time to write lists, especially if you are goal-orientated in personality type. It allows your Reticular Activating System to remember that the day is full of potential and will start seeking out ways for you to achieve not only that which you desire but also deserve. There is no one set rule to creating the perfect morning for you but when you next get ten minutes to yourself perhaps look at these questions:

1. What would I need to do to get my day off to the best possible start?

2. What would my body need me to do to enable it to not only look its best but feel its best?

3. What do I need to do to increase my positivity in the morning?

4. What do I find exciting and/or inspiring to do on a daily basis that only takes 5/10/15/20 minutes (or whatever time you have been able to make available for yourself)?

If whatever you have been doing in the past has not been working for you then the best thing to do is break the pattern – be your own pattern interrupt and do something totally different with your physiology. For example, if you normally exercise in the morning perhaps look at cutting down and including fruit smoothies or a nice herbal green tea or even journaling in the morning.

Alternatively, if you have quite a sedate morning full of positive affirmations and gratitude perhaps intersperse this with exercise or taking up a new hobby – be that yoga or meditation indoors or perhaps something outdoors during the summer months like running and or even power walking with a friend.

A good morning can only be as good as the night before, therefore make sure that you get a good night’s sleep and do not drink too much alcohol for your body – and if you do break either of these that you some sort of remedy in the morning be it a natural supplement like milk thistle to detoxify your liver or a pick-me-up in the form of a nice strong coffee if that’s what you desire after a late night.

Whatever you choose to do to feel more energised to embrace the day ahead, remember to take it slowly, step by step, and little by little and these changes will eventually become part of your daily routine and help you feel better about yourself.

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Film Review: Undefeated

If you weren’t aware that Undefeated was a documentary beforehand, then you could be forgiven for thinking this is just another American sports movie. You may be sat watching for a while, waiting for Kevin Costner to show up. But he doesn’t. Instead Undefeated demonstrates rather sublimely why it won the 2011 Oscar for Best Documentary.

Undefeated documents the 2009 season for the Manassas High School football team, nicknamed The Tigers. In their entire 110-year history, they have never advanced to the end of season play-offs. Already this is starting to sound like a bad sports movie, and when it comes to the clichés of the genre, Undefeated is packed to the rafters with them. You’ve got the obligatory comebacks, team mates fighting amongst themselves of the training field, and one storyline which is almost exactly the same as the plot from Sandra Bullock’s Oscar winning football movie The Blind Side. The directors Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin do a good job of combining fictional style with non-fiction storytelling, but at times it does feel like the truth is struggling to break through, or even getting in the way of the drama.

When Lindsay and Martin do focus on the heart of the story though, they are able to tap into some genuine emotion that makes you forget about all the story clichés. While most of these movies would try and preach that football builds character, this is a film that shows that it actually reveals who these high school students really are. The true star of the film, as is quite often the case, is the coach of the team Bill Courtney. He works on a voluntary basis, but when we hear his passion and his belief in his team of young athletes you feel someone should be trying to pay him instantly. He’s very much a father figure for many of the team, and one particular scene when he shows one of the players how to put on cologne, it’s hard not to let the poignancy completely take over. And because we’ve seen everything he has been through, when things go wrong you can’t help but share the frustration he feels.

In comparison to documentaries such as Senna which was horrifically overlooked at last year’s Oscars, Undefeated doesn’t really match up. Having said that, it is probably one of the most emotionally satisfying documentaries you’ll see in a long time. It may prefer to focus on emotions instead of analysing things, but its universal nature will even bring the severest critics of American Football round and make them pay attention.

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Film Review: Killer Joe

Just when you think nothing in cinema can shock you anymore, William Friedkin shows up and does something so horrifying that it beggars belief. His latest film Killer Joe contains such a scene. Let’s just say it involves Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken leg. If you’re a big lover of KFC, you should be prepared to be put off for a long time.

Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is a drug-addicted, alcoholic redneck who soon finds himself in trouble with some local goons. He owes them a lot of money, something he and his lowlife family, including his father (Thomas Haden Church) and his step mother (Gina Gershon) certainly don’t have. The only solution anyone can think of is to bump off Chris’s mother in order to get insurance money. They decide to hire the infamous Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey), a police officer who’s a hired gun on the side. The only problem is, Chris and the rest of his clan can’t afford the upfront fee that he requires, so Joe decides to take something else as collateral – Chris’s younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple).

This is the second film in a row by William Friedkin that is based on a stage play, and in this case it is rather noticeable. Quite a few moments feel rather stagey, with plenty of dialogue and actors breaking into monologues. Friedkin deserves credit then for not allowing these scenes to take anything away from the cinematic effect of the film, instead using the monologues to show just how good the cast he’s brought together really is. You would call it sophisticated it the film’s content wasn’t so barbaric.

Friedkin is as unflinching as ever when it comes to what he shows us on screen, but on this occasion his great sense of purpose will make many despise watching this. It’s filled with extremely dark humour that makes you feel terrible for even thinking of raising a smile; this includes the aforementioned scene with a chicken leg. It is a truly chilling and disturbing scene, mainly because the humiliation that Friedkin is showing us is intended to make us laugh. That is a catastrophic misjudgement on Friedkin’s part.

In the UK it has received an 18 certificate, while in the US it has received the infamous NC-17 rating, something some filmmakers aim for. If Friedkin has released this as an NC-17 back in the 90s it probably would have become a cult hit during the “video nasty” era. It earns this rating and then some with its scenes of violence, sex, violent sex, and violent sex related simulation. It all borders very closely on misogyny and many will not forgive the film for this.

The title role though is occupied by someone who gives the stellar performance it deserves. Matthew McConaughey gives a terrific performance, creating a sense of dread whenever he is on screen with his vile demeanour, which often leads to the film’s funnier moments. Killer Joe is rather compelling, but it’s unflinching and brutal nature will leave you squirming all the way home to take a shower.

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Film Review: Take This Waltz

It was five years ago when Sarah Polley made a great first impression with her debut feature film Away From Her. Her very subtle and touching film about a person suffering from Alzheimer’s earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. This year she brings us Take This Waltz, a film which quite possibly could earn Polley her second Oscar nomination.

Michelle Williams plays Margot, who while on a business trip in Nova Scotia meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a handsome artist. The two flirt with each other, and as they talk they learn that they are both from Toronto. It is only when they share a taxi home from the airport that they realise they even live on the same street. It is only when Margot arrives home that we learn she is already married to cook book writer Lou (Seth Rogen). They have a rather comfortable marriage, but now that Daniel is in Margot’s life, their relationship starts to break down.

Margot and Lou’s problems don’t just arise overnight though. This isn’t a film where characters make decisions just because it suits the story. Sarah Polley really takes her time, and allows the characters to decide what way the story goes while avoiding the temptation of using cliché or cutting corners. When Polley does bring in more eccentric and humorous scenes, she still manages to keep things truthful and involving. The most impressive thing though about Polley’s approach is that she asks the audience to do something that most directors wouldn’t, and that’s to accept the idea of an extramarital affair.

It goes without saying that this film contains rather sensitive material, but Polley does well to keep it under control. She is aided along the way by a couple of stellar performances from the main cast. Michelle Williams goes back to the realms of the brutal romance, just like when she starred in the superb Blue Valentine, for which she received an Oscar nomination. On this occasion however she dives into a performance which may well be her most complex yet. Seth Rogen is surprisingly sombre as Lou, the husband who you get the feeling knew something was wrong in his marriage sooner than he lets on. Polley of course doesn’t constantly try to make him look like a victim, but Rogen’s performance does provide some of the film’s more emotional moments.

What separates this from the majority of films about infidelity is that Polley isn’t able to dive under the skin of the characters, no matter what we will find. And at its heart it has a simple but tragic message that no matter who we are with, we will always be alone. It’s very risky, but it’s subtle observations make this a masterfully told story.

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Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Last week Eric Wood reviewed the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. This week Erzi Paris gives us his take on the finale to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

On the whole The Dark Knight Rises was good. I won’t give too much away. An action movie to please, this film ticks most boxes. I just loved ‘The Bat’ flyer. Now that is one cool plane!

The action was set like something out of a computer game like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, with a holocaust feel as Gotham comes under siege by super villain Bane. No comic book or TV ‘POW’ or ‘KA-WHACK’ signs here. It’s real brutal fighting. Some of the violence was strong for a 12A (Bane was ruthless), but I suppose most kids have seen worse on computer games above!

Batman himself used very little machinery, once or twice but he preferred to beat up the criminals. He was nearly always on the ground. Batman’s theme of using his fists continued to Bane. Despite the fact Bane has a huge mask on that might as well flash ‘HIT THIS TO WIN!’ Batman ignored it to smack everywhere else. D’oh! I wanted to phone him and yell ‘Hit the mask Batman! And then give him the chair too!’

Christian Bale did look very tired and rarely smiled. The only time he seemed to come alive, was attempting escape from a jail Bruce was placed in. (But his room mate was played by Tom Conti, more than enough cause to scrabble up the wall like a demented spider to get away!) He had to jump a gap, and this is one of the many battles Bruce must win as he’s worn down. Can our hero overcome the trials to defeat Bane and save Gotham City???

Michael Caine was Alfred. Mean, MEAN Alfred! That man is mean. I hope you’ll agree when you see it.

Tom Hardy plays Bane, it can’t be good for him to bulk up to something like the Hulk. Also the Darth Vader mask made him sound creepy rather than evil. Why is it so BIG??? How does Bane eat? How exactly does it keep him alive? Tom hasn’t heard of CGI obviously. They can create a T-Rex for Jurassic Park, I’m sure they could have made a Bane and he just voiced it. That extra weight is really going to hurt and I read a news report that he’s suffering already.

Ann Hathaway as Catwoman was uninspiring and the only main complaint of the film. All she does is mostly swing/punch men around. No back story to her or anything and who was that woman she was living with??? One scene implied they were a couple??? Catwoman’s alliance to Bane isn’t followed at all. They don’t even appear in the same scene at all. It’s simply hinted she works for him. Why hints at these things?

There were some plot holes, (I won’t go into too much detail) but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment.

It was absence of Bat-a-rangs, Bat gadgets (and still no Batmobile!) made me think there were there budget cuts. Is that why there’s more physical fighting and no Bat gizmos? Why Batman was frequently on the ground when his vehicles could’ve taken on Bane’s motley army. Why Batman only uses two vehicles? Why Batman only blew up a solitary gun on one of Bane’s tanks but left the rest to shoot at the police approaching? Or did he think ‘D’oh!’

The ending though was good and once again the theme of whether Batman is a symbol of hope rather than just a crime fighter is explored. And you’ll love one of Batman’s new Bat-signals.

All in all 8/10 as some of the effects were so cool. I want a ‘Bat Flyer’ for Xmas!

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Film Review: Ice Age 4

You should always remember the old adage, never judge a movie by its trailer! When I agreed to see this film I was excited as I love this type of animation. Shrek and Toy Story are among my favourites.

I’m one of those people who don’t need to need films in order. I saw Toy Story 2 first. Likewise I’ve been interested in this franchise but haven’t gotten around to viewing any of the previous films. (you know the thing most of us do – I’ll do it tomorrow) I will definitely get them now.
I’m an Ice Age fan. Wooo!

Some of the trailers made me tense as they cast the film as very one dimensional with as much thought to plots as a 90210 story. (Where you know what’s going to happen before the actors have even finished).

However the actual movie was far far better. In this edition Manny, Diego and Sid are separated from the group when the ground begins to split and tear apart! They are left adrift on an iceberg which they use like a ship. Great action begins as they battle to find a way home.

Scrat and his quest for the perfect acorn was amusing. He just cannot resist them at all. The adventure on the high seas was excellent and I loved how it all falls together, just like an well made cake.

Sid’s granny is just a hoot. Lots of character interaction and good dialogue. The voice talent alone was outstanding; Ray Romano and Jennifer Lopez to name but two of the astounding cast were brilliant. It all makes sense. Some jokes and gags you can see a mile off but they’re still funny. That’s down to the cast, who gel very well. (I wonder if they hung out afterwards or were in the studio together as usually they read lines by themselves.) There was a lot of warmth and emotion that made the digital characters more real.

A family movie with something for everyone.

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