Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Review: Blue Jasmine

Being a tad cheeky today. I've been so absorded in catching up with Warehouse 13 that I haven't had time to watch anything else. So, since I'm sharing some of reviews from here on PopBucket, I thought I'd share a review I did on PopBucket here. So here is my review of the latest Woody Allen film, Blue Jasmine (2013).

Blue Jasmine is an emotional drama directed that follows the once rich and rather aloof Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett, who goes to stay with her adoptive sister Ginger played by Sally Hawkins, after her life falls apart.

The film mainly focuses on Jasmine's attempts to restart her life, and flashbacks to her previous, glamourous life. But it also looks at Ginger and the relationship between the two women, who both seem to be the polar opposite of each other,  even down to their clothes. Jasmine wears chic outfits, whilst Ginger wears jean shorts and drips with bits of jewellery.
Jasmine is a complex character. Very well written and acted - and though I never felt I completely understood her, she is intriguing to watch. She has had nervous breakdown after losing everything, so she sometimes talks to herself, repeating things she said from her past. She seems cold and distant, broken up and shattered, yet at the same time she has a definite sense of pride and expectation - she is never going to stoop to bagging shopping like Ginger.  Jasmine also seems disconnected from the reality around her, like she's never quite grasping it - as she demonstrates when she tells Ginger she is broke, and then saying she flew first class. When Ginger questions this, Jasmine doesn't have an explanation, she flew first class.

The film is wonderfully shot, with a couple of particularly gorgeous scenes with San Francisco bay in the background and nice use of camera movement. I also like the contrasting colours of the sets, from Ginger's exotic, ramshackle apartment to Jasmine's elegant home old home.
The DVD includes a couple of interesting special features, which are basically interviews with the cast on the red carpet and at a conference, but a behind the scenes feature would have been nice as well.
In summary
A interesting character study of a complex, tragic woman, beautifully played by Cate Blanchett. The film has wonderful, believable performances from the rest of the cast and nice cinematography. Worth a watch once, but perhaps not a film I'd re-watch much due to the heavy subject material and tone.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Review: Warehouse 13, Season 1

I tad belated this week as I have been watching a whole TV season for a change, rather than just one film. I've just finished watching the first season of Warehouse 13, an original SyFy channel sci-fi show created byJane Espenson and Brent Mote.

Technically this is the second time I've started watching W13, as it can be neatly shortened too. The first time I watched it, which was ages ago, I got a little bored of 'find an artifacts a week' thing, which sounds silly now, as my brother pointed out - that's the point of the show! Anyway, I don't know quite what I was thinking the first time, but on this second viewing I really got into it.

The show follows two American Secret Service agents, Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), who are transferred to the mysterious Warehouse 13 - a huge warehouse full of artifacts with strange proprieties. These artifacts can not only do amazing things but can be highly dangerous, and it becomes Pete and Myka's job to locate artifacts then snag'em, tag'em and bag'em - as their new boss Artie (Saul Rubinek) explains.

What I like about this set-up is that opens up a multitude of creative possibilities, as artifacts can be anything, and doing anything. They often link artifacts to famous figures in history too, which is fun, such as Poe's pen or Harriet Tubman's thimble. Whilst the gadgets they use themselves range from the supertech of the video labels in the warehouse, to the more steampunk style video communicator's, the Farnsworths, they use on missions. 

The show also mixes in a good dose of slight absurdity and humour, which makes sense when its set in such an odd place, and the dialogue between characters - and especially from whizz-kid Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti) - has a slightly silly, quick-fire sense to it from time to time - like an odd-ball film. 

However, the show can also be serious, and alot of that comes from the character's pasts, especially Artie's - and I wasn't sure if the serious straight stuff gelled with the more goofy, fast-talking side of the show at first. Now, I've seen the whole season, I think it pulls off alright. The weighty important bits are generally allowed room to breathe before they start being funny again, and of course the humour is used to lighten the mood during a more serious situation. So, all in all it works, and it is nice to have a scif-fi show that can be dramatic but also not take itself so  seriously all the time.  

Another thing I enjoy about the show, and which attracted me to it, is that there are apparently several cameos from other sci-fi actors. Already I have seen two actors from Battlestar Galactica and Joe Flannigan from Stargate Atlantis turn up in season one. As does actor Mark Sheppard - who seems to have a habit of turning up in sci-fi shows. I have also seen him in Firefly, Star Trek and Doctor Who.

I enjoy all the characters on the show, especially Claudia and Pete, who are both funny and smart. I was a little put out by Artie, with his cuddly, professor appearance it took me a while to get my head around the fact the character was also secretive, cranky and bossy. This is not a bad thing though, as of course it gives his character not only more depth, but it also gives the first season most of its over-arcing plot and villain, as someone from Artie's past returns. 

In summary: A fun, bizarre sci-fi show that's very creative. The characters are all likable and well developed, and the setting is great. The first season gets a little slow in the middle, but does kick off once it gets going with its over-arcing storyline, and after that the stakes are raised and the twists just keep coming. Definitely recommended for sci-fi fans. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Review: Alice

Today I am reviewing one of the many Woody Allen DVDs I have in my collection, Alice (1990) starring Mia Farrow and Joe Mantegna - who as Simpson's fans will know does the voice of Fat Tony. 

I must admit, that having started off watching films in which Allen starred or appeared himself, I do find it a little odd when I watch one his movies and he isn't on screen. Nonetheless, despite not having his energetic comic presence, Alice is still a wonderfully amusing film, that feels light but has a worthwhile message of being honest with oneself, and the need for change.

The film follows Alice Tate, a typical socialite wife married to a wealthy man, who spends her days maintaining her looks, shopping and organising. She is also quietly spoken, timid and always neatly dressed, she seems almost like a shy school girl sometimes, unsure of what to do.  However, when she goes to see a Chinese herbalist, Dr Yang, about her back he discovers the real root of her trouble. Alice wishes for something more than just being a pretty prop for her husband, and she has discovered new feelings after meeting a handsome man at her kid's school. 

So, with the assistance of many magical herbs from Dr Yang, which doing everything from giving her sudden confidence, to helping her talk to ghosts and muses - and so Alice slowly begins to discover more and more about herself. 

I thought this was a rather charming little film of self-discovery. It feels slightly magical and whimsical, mostly because of the magical and fantasy elements, but also because Alice comes across as rather innocent.  

That is part of Alice's great strength in this film, that despite being a rich wife, she is sympathetic for the audience. She is not vain, uncaring, indulgent or snarky. Instead, her character comes across as simply a nice, ordinary woman that married a wealthy man - and now years down the line, finds herself not only bored by the lifestyle she is leading, but also wondering what affect it'll have on her children's values. She is basically an ordinary, average woman.

Her process of change is rather good in this film, it feels quite natural because it is slow and she is scared and doubtful. There's no montage or huge revelations, its little realisations and trying and testing. 

On the production side, I felt the film wasn't as visually interesting or striking as some of Allen's other works, but I appreciate that is due to the choice in cinematographer. In fact the most striking visuals come from the locations  - the rain pouring down the huge windows in Joe's apartment and the kiss in penguin habitat. The performances on the other hand are excellent, and I enjoyed seeing a young Joe Mategna and Alec Baldwin on screen - what you can see of Baldwin that is! 

Otherwise, this is typical Allen fare, not the strongest of his films, but a fun watch - though, I really appreciated the ending, with Alice beoming free and independent. 

In summary: Typical Allen fare, and though not the strongest of his filmography, a fun film nonetheless.