Tag Archive: literature


Seventeen years ago Baz Luhrmann achieved major success with his updated version of Romeo + Juliet, a film in which he combined the old language of Shakespeare with a modern setting. The film was also responsible for thrusting a young Leonardo DiCaprio into the limelight. Now, in 2013, Luhrmann and DiCaprio reunite for a new take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, once more combining Fitzgerald’s classic literature with current hip-hop music by the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce.

While Gatsby (DiCaprio) himself remains an unknown presence throughout the first act of the film it is down to Tobey Maguire, as Nick Carraway, to draw the audience into the story and hook their attention. Nick is introduced at the beginning of the film but at the end of his story; he is depressed alcoholic staying in a sanitarium to rid himself of his alcohol addiction and recounting the tale of one man who changed his life, Jay Gatsby.

After a slow start, primarily used to introduce the main characters of the story, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who also happens to be Nick’s cousin. Once the introductions are over, however, Luhrmann takes his audience on a rip riding roller coaster full of sex and alcohol. Everything in the first act is pumped up to the max and overstated in a way that only Lurhmann could get away with. The parties are on a huge landscape, such large sets crowded with the entire population of New York City. Hearing all of the party goers talk about the mystery surrounding Gatsby just makes the character more compelling, a wonderful thing for a character not yet seen on screen.

The stories of being a German prince and mercenary are quickly put to rest when Gatsby is finally revealed. And DiCaprio keeps draws you in, forcing you to feel interested and even sympathetic at times for a man you know nothing about. His interest and sudden friendship with Nick Carraway stinks of suspicion and all of his private phone calls provoke you to ask more and more questions. Soon enough, Gatsby’s ulterior motive is revealed and the movie begins to take more twists and turns that an Argentine Tango.

Layers and layers are ripped away from Gatsby’s tragic character, wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that has to be seen. He begins at the level of very good and only continues to rise; the third act is a stand out piece of acting alone.

It may seem strange to lace a film set in the 1920s with modern hip-hop from some of music’s biggest stars but the contrast does not distract from the viewing experience at all. Lurhmann does not set out to accurately present a vision of the 1920s, this is a story for all time. A huge theme of The Great Gatsby is the idea of the boom that comes before a fall and in times of such austerity with the global financial crisis it seems the lesson is just as important now as it was back then.

This isn’t a Leonardo DiCaprio film nor is it a Tobey Maguire film, despite this being the best performance I have ever seen him put in. Gatsby, at it’s very core, is all about Baz Lurhmann, the technicalities of his directorship, the grand set designs, the striking colour pallet, everything screams Lurhmann. He brings Jay Gatsby to life in a way that only he could and he doesn’t disappoint.

My Rating: 8/10.

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Sean Bean has been killed on screen over twenty times throughout his career. I don’t want to ruin anything for you but if you’re watching a Sean Bean film, chances are that his character won’t make it to the end. Despite a large amount of films to choose from, here are my three favourite Sean Bean death scenes. Obviously, spoilers follow this although the films have been out a fair few years so is this still classed as spoilers? Who knows. anyway, you’ve been warned nonetheless.

 

 

Equilibrium (2002)

Equilibrium is set in a dystopian future after a Third World War has devastated the Earth. All emotion and artistic expression has been banned and Grammaton Clerics are hired to burn any remains of poems, literature, art etc. and punish anybody seen taking advantage of the arts. Sean Bean plays one of these Grammaton Clerics who turns against the totalitarian state and, instead of burning a book of poems, decides to keep them. Because of this, his law abiding partner (played by a really good emotionless Christian Bale) track him down and executes him. It’s not the most action packed death scene but in terms of the defiance he represents and the change in Bale’s character that it triggers it is a poignant one.

Black Death (2010)

I only watched this yesterday and it was the film that inspired this post. Black Death is set in medieval England and follows the story of a young monk (played by the wonderful Eddie Redmayne) who accompanies a group of soldiers, led by Ulric (Sean Bean), to a remote marshland untouched by the bubonic plague to track down a necromancer. When they arrive at the necromancer’s village everything goes tits up basically and Ulric’s men land themselves in a lot of trouble and a couple of them die. Soon after, Ulric (already poisoned by the black death) is tied to two horses and literally pulled apart; it makes for pretty painful watching but someone with Bean’s experience at dying on screen portrays this excellently. Unfortunately, the death scene isn’t on the available in good quality so here’s the trailer, but I fully encourage you to check out the film when you can.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

This is without a doubt, one of the greatest death scenes in movie history and for me, the best part of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Throughout Fellowship the audience are asked to question Boromir and you never really know what side he is on and who’s interests he has at heart, especially since he tries to take the ring from Frodo. But at the end of the film Boromir has a true hero’s death and goes down fighting to protect Merry and Pippin. He is shot a couple of times by Lurtz but this doesn’t stop him and he continues to fight through the pain using every last breath he has in his body. This is what makes Boromir one of the best characters from the trilogy and this scene alone makes Sean Bean’s performance one of stand out shows in an ensemble cast.

Lord of the Rings is the gold standard of trilogies; each one of the three films was an excellent adventure that had brilliant characters, glorious fight scenes and plenty of enjoyment. So with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, expectations were high and a new trilogy hinged on it’s success.

An Unexpected Journey takes place sixty years before The Fellowship of the Ring and is the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Bilbo is recruited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to accompany a team of thirteen dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest across Middle Earth to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarf’s stolen home from the dragon Smaug.

The main thing that leaps out at you as you watch An Unexpected Journey is that there has clearly been a lot of work put in to the visuals of the film; based purely on it’s aesthetics The Hobbit is a must watch, it’s just a beautiful mix of epic trailing shots over vast landscapes to the intricate creation of Rivendell, home of the elves. To be quite honest, I still find myself amazed that they can make Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and others look a good two foot shorter than Ian McKellen but every special effect looks just as perfect as they did in Lord of the Rings.

Martin Freeman has the title role and with little experience in films before it is a huge ask of him to carry the weight of such an ambitious trilogy, but it is a task that Freeman is more than a match for as he turns in a very accomplished and polished performance. He brings this really charming sense of likeability to his character and even throws in some comedic lines as well. McKellen, as you would expect, does the standard high quality acting you would expect from him so there’s no point wasting time talking about that. The main person I was looking forward to seeing was Armitage as Thorin as I have been a fan of his since his days in the BBC’s adaptation of Robin Hood. Armitage’s character carries the burden of being the rightful King of the dwarfs and has a real hatred for elves: Thorin is a more complicated character than the film chooses to recognise but Armitage’s performance brings layers to the dwarf leader. However, it was Kili, played by Being Human‘s Aidan Turner who quickly became my favourite dwarf and if there is a finer character in Middle Earth I would like to hear about it!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all this good…

Right from the off it seems that An Unexpected Journey is struggling to find it’s identity. Ian Holm and Elijah Wood are brought back to reprise their roles from the original trilogy in order to really cram the fact home that The Hobbit is the prequel trilogy, as if anybody needs telling this again. And the first act really struggles along with far too many character introductions given valuable time when the film could have been moving along with a lot more fluidity. There are several jokes that miss the mark every time (a tradition that unfortunately continues throughout the film) and it even skates around the edges of turning into a musical at one stage which, thankfully for everyone involved, it does not.

An Unexpected Journey never really finds a settled pacing and at times becomes incredibly dull and you can’t help but notice more than just a couple of pointless scenes thrown in for good measure. The biggest disappointment for me were the action scenes. Lord of the Rings brought us epic battle scenes in The Two Towers and Return of the King and the unforgettable death of Boromir in Fellowship, so if there’s one thing that Peter Jackson can do it’s battle scenes. But you wouldn’t know that from this film. Just when you think you might get to see some brilliant fight scenes it’s taken away from you either by a change of scene or by the dwarfs running away, which they seem to do a lot of to be honest. What could have been a great climatic battle once again turned in to a fleeing scene.

But I don’t want to end on a sour note. The return of Gollum was welcomed with open arms and his exchange with Bilbo is easily the best and most fun part of the movie; there was the appearance of the One Ring and the invisibility thrown in for good measure! The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘s biggest fail is that it just isn’t Lord of the Rings, but what it is is a decent story and a great block for The Desolation of Smaug to build on!

My Rating: 6/10

UK Release Date: 21st June 2013.

Stars: Marc Forster (director), Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, Eric West, David Morse.

Plot: A U.N. employee is racing against time and fate, as he travels the world trying to stop the outbreak of a deadly Zombie pandemic.

With the success of The Walking Dead bringing zombies back to the forefront of mainstream television it should come as no surprise that Hollywood is looking to take advantage and make some money from the zombie industry. World War Z has been in the works for a long time and finally we have a trailer.

There has already been a lot of negative reaction to the trailer from fans of the original book on the internet but I think that it actually looks pretty good. I like Brad Pitt and I’m sure he will do a fine job in this film. World War Z (the film, not the book) is essentially an apocalyptic-save-the-world type thing and, as far as the trailer goes it will certainly grab the attention of audiences.

The CGI is not yet fully polished and we don’t really see enough of the zombies to gauge whether they look good or not, but I have no doubts that everything will be sharpened before it’s release date in another six months. I think that the fans of the book need to stop moaning and just accept that certain themes/characters/story lines from novels always get dropped when Hollywood wants to make a film from it, that’s just how it works.

When Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy took the world by storm between 2001 and 2003 it looked certain that the group of heroes known as ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ would become massive stars in the world of films. Relatively unknown to mainstream audiences, most of the Fellowship had stayed away from Hollywood and seem to have done the same since. With a couple of characters set to return to Middle Earth in the upcoming Hobbit trilogy I decided to see what had become of everyone else who took part in one of the most loved, most successful and simply best trilogies of all time!

Elijah Wood – Frodo Baggins

Peter Jackson plucked Elijah Wood from near obscurity to helm this enormous series. Has so much pressure and weight ever been felt before by an actor? I’m not sure. The star of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Wood looked like he would have a huge career of success and with roles immediately after this trilogy in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sin City it looked as though a career at the highest level was attainable for the young actor. However, recent years have seen the majority of Wood’s work come in voicing video games and going to television series. Although, this move to television cannot be complained about as he stars in the hilarious series Wilfred. You can’t help but feel like he could have had it so different though. Wood has done voice work in films such as 9 and Happy Feet but nothing that big or that successful has come his way in the floods that he may have been expecting. Elijah Wood will be taking on the role of Frodo Baggins once more in The Hobbit trilogy.

 

Ian McKellen – Gandalf

Probably the most famous of all the actors in Lord of the Rings and one of the best actors that England has ever produced, Sir Ian McKellen is now synonymous with Middle Earth as he portrayed the magnificent wizard and good friend to Frodo Baggins, Gandalf. McKellen has had an interesting career since Lord of the Rings; he finished off the X-Men trilogy, had a brief stint in British television soap Coronation Street and leant his voice to the fantastical feature Stardust. He also starred in an unsuccessful remake of cult television hit The Prisoner alongside Jim Caviezel. His work this decade has mainly consisted of short films but McKellen will be returning to Middle Earth for The Hobbit trilogy and will play an important part in getting the story going!

Viggo Mortensen  РAragorn

Aragorn was one of the fan favourite characters in the Lord of the Rings films and for good reason. He was a very honest, strong, caring soldier and took his duties as a protector of the hobbits very seriously. Since the end of the trilogy, Mortensen has not been as prolific as some other cast members but when he has made a film it has received critical acclaim: A History of Violence, Eastern Promises (which got Viggo Mortensen a Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role), The Road and A Dangerous Method. These all cemented Mortensen as one of the best actors from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

 

Sean Astin – Samwise Gamgee

He is the best friend that everybody wants! Astin’s career probably speaks for itself when you take into consideration that if you remove the Lord of the Rings from his career his most famous film is still The Goonies. Since the conclusion of Return of the King, Astin has not appeared in too many films and has been limited to small guest roles in television series’ including Alphas and Franklin & Bash. Astin, like his on screen best friend Elijah Wood, has also done a lot of voice work starring in animated television shows such as Special Agent Oso and the recently rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles alongside Jason Biggs.

 

Orlando Bloom – Legolas

Commonly nicknamed ‘Orlando Bland’, Bloom is arguably (although this wouldn’t be a very long argument and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong) the WORST actor among the Fellowship. Yet despite this Bloom has tasted success in Hollywood in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Aside from this, Bloom has starred in the distinctly average Troy and Kingdom of Heaven as well as the ultimate flops The Three Musketeers and The Calcium Kid. The latter being a comedy mockumentary about a milkman turned boxer who ends up fighting the world champion in his hometown; having seen too much of The Calcium Kid than I would have liked it is amazing that anyone actually thought it would be a good idea. Orlando Bloom should not act anymore. Unfortunately, Legolas has been written in to The Hobbit. Jesus Christ.

John Rhys-Davies – Gimli

It’s hard to believe that the man who played short tempered dwarf Gimli is almost eighty years old! And Rhys-Davies boasts a back catalogue of projects dating all the way back to 1964! It is both ridiculously astonishing and incredibly commendable just how much work Rhys-Davies does and he is clearly a man that loves his trade. Before Lord of the Rings, he had already tasted success in a trilogy after appearing in the Indiana Jones films. Unfortunately, since the ending of the trilogy Rhys-Davies has slowed down in his acting and has not done anything of the same success and popularity.

 

Dominic Monaghan – ‘Merry’ Brandybuck

Dominic Monaghan is a very wonderful little English actor, despite being born in Germany. After his journeys in Middle Earth ended Monaghan said that he was inundated with fantasy roles but he wanted to try something else and that something else came in what would become the biggest show on television: LOST. In LOST, Monaghan played one of my favourite characters, drug addicted wannabe rock star Charlie Pace. After leaving LOST Monaghan starred in FlashForward which was unfortunately short lived and he also starred in Goodnight Burbank which didn’t go down too well.

Billy Boyd – ‘Pippin’ Took

Branded a ‘fool of a Took’ by Gandalf, along with Merry Pippin provided some much needed comic relief to a trilogy that otherwise focussed on such a serious story and dark themes. If you asked everyone who the actors were that portrayed the Fellowship on screen then Billy Boyd would probably be the one that least people thought of. This is unfortunate but I can’t imagine Boyd would be too concerned as he has not done too much acting work since Lord of the Rings.

 

Sean Bean – Boromir

Although his motives were unclear throughout The Fellowship of the Ring Boromir won the hearts of audiences the world over as he played his part in possibly the greatest death scene ever to be shot as he lost his life attempting to save Merry and Pippin. Sean Bean was already a very famous actor in England after playing Major Richard Sharpe in ITV’s television movies’. Since his Middle Earth demise Bean has continued to have a huge film and television career appearing in National Treasure, Silent Hill, Outlaw and Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief. On television Bean has starred in hit shows such as Red Riding and Game of Thrones. In it for the shortest time but arguably having the best of careers out of the Lord of the Rings alumni.

With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey out in December it looks set to launch the huge careers of Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage as well as many more!

 

It is probably the most needless remake in the history of remakes: the novels that the film were based on were only released in 2005 and the novels were turned into films in Swedish (makes sense considering the author of the novels was Swedish and the film itself takes place in Sweden) in 2009 to very positive reviews. Apparently though it is deemed impossible for people to watch a film in a foreign language and so it was remade for a larger mainstream audience with studios hoping to cash in. So how good is the remake?

Daniel Craig is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just lost his reputation in a very public court hearing. Blomkvist is then hired because of his investigative talents to take on a case of a disappearing girl that happened over 40 years ago. He works with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a very complicated girl with a dark past but is a skilled computer hacker, to delve deeper into the mystery. The pair bond as they work together to uncover hidden secrets in a dark past of the Vanger family.

Rooney Mara is brilliant as the title character; she has to put in a very very emotional performance and she goes through some very dark and brutal scenes. Mara’s dedication to the role was clear beforehand as she got several real piercings instead of opting for fake ones for her character and that dedication shows on screen. She has good chemistry with Daniel Craig who seems to be the only person in Sweden without a Swedish accent but that can be overlooked. Most people will know Daniel Craig as James Bond and playing such an iconic role it becomes difficult to distance yourself from that. It takes a really good film and a really good performance to move away from being thought of just as Bond and Craig accomplishes that here with a very assured and understated performance. Yorick van Wageningen, Christopher Plummer, Stellen Skarsgard and Joely Richardson make up part of the supporting cast in what is an all round wonderfully crafted cast.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo lasts for two and a half hours but moves at such a fast pace that this doesn’t drag at all. The opening twenty minutes as the film introduces it’s characters is a little sluggish and uninteresting but it is vital to gain backstory. Once Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist takes on this mysterious case though the film begins to roll and doesn’t waste a second to look back. There are lots of things happening at once and if you blink you may miss something important; you can’t take your eyes off the screen for a second. They mystery of who is responsible for the missing girl all them years ago is fantastic and keeps you guessing with revelation after revelation having lasting effects on the Vanger family at the centre of the film. There are parts of the film that are horrible realistic and will make you cringe at the sight of it but the sensitive issues are handled well and the brutal events are handled even better by director David Fincher. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a crime thriller deserving of the highest acclaim.

Fincher is easily one of the best directors of the past twenty years churning out Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and now this; I would say The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is second only to Fight Club and even gives that a run for its money. The suspense created throughout the feature is wonderful and the beautiful editing is what makes this such an invigorating watch. Once the mystery is solved things revert back to how they did at the beginning and the film unwinds slowly but we are too invested and curious about the characters to mind that any more.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a masterpiece.

My Rating: 9/10.

UK Release Date: 21st December 2012.

Stars: Ang Lee (director), Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tobey Maguire, Gerard Depardieu.

Plot: The story of an Indian boy named Pi, a zookeeper’s son who finds himself in the company of a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck sets them adrift in the Pacific Ocean.

Life of Pi is an upcoming fantasy adventure film based on the award winning novel written by Yann Martel which is also the character that Tobey Maguire will be playing in this film but this is just one of the things that confuses me about this trailer.

There is lots to enjoy really if you’re into animals perhaps; I mean there is a zebra, a tiger, a whale, meerkats and more so that’s good I guess? I think the problem with this trailer is that it is made for people who have read the book. I have not read it. Therefore I am left confused by the trailer and to be honest I think by next week I will have forgotten all about it. However, upon reading people’s opinions over the internet there does seem to be an air of positive feeling and anticipation surrounding the film from fans of the original book. Unfortunately, the movie industry is worth a hell of a lot more money than the world of literature so if you’re going to make a big budget film based on a book you have to make it appeal to everyone, not just the readers of that book or else that’s one huge loss you’ll be making.

Footage of this film was shown at CinemaCon and went down really well as one of the highlights of the event so there must be something to it. Unfortunately I don’t have the slightest interest in this film at the minute; the trailer was boring, it wasn’t very good and didn’t peak my interest in the slightest. Who knows, maybe I’ll read the book and come to understand the trailer more but for now that’s what I think.

The Hunger Games: Reviewed.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

The Hunger Games has been impossible to avoid over the past few weeks, maybe even months. Aside from the three big superhero films, The Hunger Games is probably the most anticipated film of the year. It has been adapted from Suzanne Collins’ worldwide best selling novel and directed by Gary Ross who is best known for The Tales of Despereaux and Seabiscuit.

The Hunger Games is set in the future; a future where teenagers are forced to compete as ‘tributes’ in ‘the Hunger Games’ where it is every man for himself and only the last man standing survives. These games are broadcast on televisions throughout each ‘district’ of the world. Katniss Everdeen is our hero and she volunteers to compete in the games in place of her sister.

The film relies a lot on the acting ability of Jennifer Lawrence who plays Katniss. Lawrence is an absolutely wonderful actress and she needs to be brilliant in this film to keep the audiences attention. Despite having a supporting cast that includes Josh Hutcherson, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson most of the scenes involve Katniss and require Jennifer Lawrence to hold the audience and she proves that she can do that.

It is a horrible world we are taken into that gives the audience a feel of the bleak future which our heroes inhabit. From the offset, even from the trailers, anyone with half a bran could predict the ending considering there are a couple more books (and probable films) to follow The Hunger Games. But it is the journey we go on that holds the audience, how everything unfolds, this is what we are interested in.

The visual elements of the film are spectacular and it is such a wide world in which events take place that the effects need to be perfect to really suck the viewers into the arena. From the fire in the forest to the spaceship flying above the district, the special effects are really powerful without distracting from other aspects of the film which is great as it the story could have easily been lost in the big wide world of The Hunger Games.

Katniss is a conflicted character in terms of film making. We are introduced to her as this strong, family kind of girl who sacrifices herself for her sister. Yet, as the film goes on, to me, she actually seemed like a weak person, completely opposite to what we were promised at the beginning. Whilst she proves that she is smart and adept with a bow and arrow, she still needs saving a couple of times and gets overruled by feelings inside the arena with a love story that really was not needed.

The poor character development is not unique to Katniss, however, and it is this that lets the film down in my opinion. Other characters are not given enough time to develop really and Josh Hutcherson’s character Peeta Mellark, I thought, was really really unlikeable and I was actually hoping that Katniss would kill him at the end of the film, but alas it was not meant to be.

The Hunger Games has proven successful with audiences already, opening to the third biggest weekend in history. It sets the foundation of the franchise and is an entertaining film, but character growth and strength of story hold back Jennifer Lawrence’s fantastic job in the lead role.

My Rating: 7/10