Article: What makes a good adaptation?

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So I’ve written my first article for the incomparable Little White Lies, I talked to David Nicholls about his adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd for Thomas Vinterberg and what makes a good adaptation.

Take a look over at the Little White Lies site.

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Film Review: The Voices (2014)

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Welcome to the wonderfully kitsch world of Jerry (Ryan Reynolds). Working in baby pink overalls, packaging bathtubs in a friendly factory with a host of likably kooky colleagues Jerry’s world resembles a slightly grotty Wes Anderson creation. The quiet town of Milton swims in 50s Americana hues as we follow Jerry on his daily life, to his court appointed psychiatrists meetings, dates with the “accounting chicks” and home to his abrasive cat Mr Whiskers and his doleful buddy Bosco the dog. The magic realism that arrives with the voices of Mr Whiskers and Bosco seems strangely unproblematic in the nostalgic and slightly ethereal setting of Milton.

As the extent of Jerry’s own mental health issues and troubled past comes to light, the kooky talking animals take on a more sinister tone as we begin to understand the full extent of his psychosis. Ignoring the pleas of Dr Warren, played by the brilliantly concerned Jacki Weaver, Jerry continues to skip his medication, choosing to live in the airbrushed world he has created for himself.

The Voices cleverly plays with the audiences expectations, presented with the nostalgic all-American setting we choose to accept and live the fiction along with Jerry, accepting the conceit as it is presented to us. It is only once Jerry, consumed by his guilt about ‘inadvertent’ murder of Fiona (Gemma Arterton), starts taking his medication that the veneer drops and the audience is allowed to see the truth behind the unmediated glow of Jerry’s life. Gone are the soft pastels and mid-century furniture, replaced with overflowing bin bags, animal faeces and Tupperware filled with human remains.

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Faced with the revelation that we have been living in the delusion of our unreliable protagonist, The Voices does well to tread the difficult line of dark comedy. Reynolds’ brilliantly naïve portrayal of a man ruled by his angel dog and devil cat is pitched perfectly. He is able to maintain Jerry’s affable innocence, even while he chats to the growing collection of heads in his fridge. The violence with which Jerry dismembers his victims is almost comical in and of itself, while the liberal application of gore retains the power to wrinkle the most desensitised of noses.

With a stellar supporting cast The Voices had the potential to over play its hand. With the likes of Anna Kendrick (Lisa), Gemma Arterton (Fiona) and Jacki Weaver (Dr Warren) there is always the potential to overuse famous faces, but the generous scattering of stars is used wisely. While Reynolds steals the show with his faultlessly innocent performance, Arterton completely hits the mark with her mixture of aloof flirtation and vaguely inappropriate post mortem perkiness.

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The Voices has a lot to owe to Sightseers (2012), Ben Wheatley’s thoroughly underrated tale of a murderous caravan trip across Britain. Where similarly offbeat characters murder their way through the plot, with a distinctive lack of empathy fuelling the dark murderous comedy. Here, Michael Perry’s script capitalises on Jerry’s a childlike understanding of his own actions combined with a complete lack of sympathy for his victims – creating a character who is both compelling to watch and impossible to save.

Under Marjane Satrapi’s direction, and through the use of comic book framing, The Voices effortlessly combines the comically hyperbolic and the dark reality of mental illness in a twisted mixture that will leave you both disgusted and thoroughly entertained.

UK release date: 20th March 2015

Film Review: Her directed by Spike Jones 

Love: “It’s a socially acceptable form of insanity” quips Amy (Amy Adams) friend and confident of Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) a man in the depths of an all-consuming love affair with his computer. Set in an undated future where retro fashion prevails, books are a rarity and computers are wooden Theodore encounters a new form of computer operating system: OS One. This is no ordinary OS update, this is an OS with a soul. While computers with personalities have never been far from the minds of sci-fi writers, with Eddy in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy basically having a nervous breakdown, Her looks deeper than the gimmick at an all together more disturbing possibility. What if man and computer could form a real and deep connection? What if they could fall in love? 

With Scarlet Johansson voicing Theodore’s “girlfriend” Samantha, this sentient computer is all but human, she can learn and evolve according to her experiences and importantly she sounds throughly human. Sentient computers have always had a habit of appearing creepy or manipulative, Kevin Spacey’s GERTY in Moon is a great example of how dehumanising adding a human voice to an inanimate object can be. Her avoids this by focusing not on the computer but on the voice that Theodore hears and interacts with, by removing the computer screen almost entirely from their relationship it can at times feel like Theodore and Samantha are simply communicating over the phone.       

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DVD Releases I Missed This Week

Everyone drops the ball now and the then, but this week was particularly impressive. Not 1 but FOUR amazing films released on DVD and I only write about one of them?! Not good! So here are the other three …

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1. The Paperboy. Featured in my Top 5 Films of the Year so Far (here) this dark, swampy thriller is perhaps one of the most underrated releases this year. Starring Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Zac Efron it’s well worth a watch.

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2. The Place Beyond The Pines. Also found in my Top 5 List (here) The Place Beyond The Pines has been one of the most confusing films I’ve seen this year – Perfect through two thirds of its epic story and then thoroughly disappointing for the rest. Definitely worth renting though, even if you turn it off when the “10 years later” screen appears.

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3. Side Effects. Not the best film released this year but by no means the worst. An entertaining thriller with a confused and rushed ending that will leaving you going “huh?!” and not necessarily in a good way. I wouldn’t rush back to see this movie again but worth a watch on a rainy night in.

Want to read more on each film? Click the title to be transported across the web to my original reviews!

Film Review: Trance dir. Danny Boyle

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The question everyone has for Danny Boyle is HOW? How and when did he have time to make a film amidst Olympic preparations and promotion? The answer – the man is not normal!

While many critics have been unsure about his latest offering, Trance, there is no denying the sheer style and class of the film. With trademark monologue scenes, to-camera delivery and a fantastic soundtrack Trance certainly is a cut above most mobster/heist movies.

The psychological insecurity of all the characters is an overriding theme throughout the whole film, leaving the audience wondering who is in control and what is the ‘reality’ of the situation in which we find Simon (James McAvoy). While the dark undertones of the film creep through more and more as time goes on, Boyle has called Trance the dark cousin of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. Leaving behind the redemptive features to focus more on the dark side of human nature.

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The deterioration of the film from simple art heist to psychological thriller is intense and brilliantly paced. As the plot progresses our sympathies towards Simon slowly melt away as we see all is not as it first appeared. In contrast mob boss Franck (Vincent Cassel) changes from hard criminal to a much more complex character. This change in our perceptions of the main characters gives the film a depth that differentiates it from your run-of-the-mill mob movie. The empathetic nature of all the characters confuses the audience about how we are meant to feel about the events playing out in front of us. And as actions and motives become increasingly more uncertain, your taken deeper and deeper into a maze of reality and implanted ideas.

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The performances from Cassel and McAvoy steal the show, but Rosario Dawson as Elizabeth Lamb gives an engaging performance as the catalyst of the uncertainty.

Trance is not one of Danny Boyle best films, but to compare his back catalogue is to enter a bizarre world where the normal rules of film don’t apply. From any other director this film would be a triumph, the twists and turns are reflected perfectly by the erratic, dream-like nature of the shots, but unfortunately it is likely to fall behind the likes of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later when the history of Danny Boyle is written. But as a film in it’s own right it is brilliant.

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To view trailer click here.

Currently on general release in the UK.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 cleans up at the Razzies

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The conclusion to one of the biggest franchise in the world walked away with 7 Razzies last night at the antidote to the oscars.

Their awards included:
Worst Picture prize – for which it beat off Battleship, AThousand Wordsand That’s My Boy.
Worst Actress (Kristen Stewart),
Worst Supporting actor (Taylor Lautner),
Worst Screen Couple (Lautner and Mackenzie Foy as Jacob and Renesmee),
Worst Screen Ensemble,
Worst Remake/Rip-Off or Sequel
and Worst Director (Bill Condon).

A pretty impressive haul, but also walking away with prizes were Adam Sandler (Worst Actor – That’s My Boy) and Rihanna (Worst Supporting Actress – Batteship)

The Razzies may be irreverent, but lets face it they do hit the nail on the head.

Oscar predictions

Ok, so I’m on the train to Edinburgh, delayed of course, so I thought I set my Oscar predictions ahead of tonight’s ceremony:

Best picture: It’s a toss up between Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook for me. Although Silver Linings was a heartwarming story, brilliantly put together I think Life of Pi’s epic nature will pull it ahead.

Best Actor: It’s not controversial just to put Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln in here – no contest.

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence proved herself a brilliant actress in Silver Linings Playbook bring a wonderful balance between manic and endearing . . . well deserving of the award.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christopher Waltz, hands down. His dark comic timing in Django Unchained made the film, although Leonardo di Caprio’s performance seems to have sadly gone unnoticed.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Ann Hathaway in Les Mis really shone, and made the film for many people.

Animated Film: I may be a little biased as I saw this just before moving to Scotland but Brave was my favourite animation of the year, a new Disney Classic.

Best Director: Ang Lee for Life of Pi, he took what could have been a worthy story about life and religion and turned it into something truly magical. He is the only director since James Cameron to truly harness 3D and reveal it’s true potential.

There’s too many awards to go through them all but I have to single out one
Production Design: Anna Karenina, simple one of the most innovative and beautiful films to watch this year. The set is beautiful and I think Joe Wright was looked over in the Best Director category.