Important Announcement: Popcorn Pictures is Moving House!

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Hello to anyone out there still reading/receiving updates to this blog. I have decided to merge Popcorn Pictures in with my book blog at The Book Coop seeing as my activity here is a little sparse and so it seems a little pointless to maintain two blogs rather than just expanding the one I originally started and am most active on.

I confess I’m not the best blogger (books or films) as I am a rather quiet person and tend to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself – most of the time. I only decided to have a separate film blog because I like keeping certain things apart. I wanted my book blog to be about books, but now that it has turned into a “ramble about running” blog in the last year the division between books and other things has lessened.

So, random readers – all film reviews will now be posted in The Book Coop. If you’re still interested, please follow me over there.

Thanks so much to all of you who have read my film reviews  and I hope to see you again in a different setting!

Film Review: Aftermath (2004)

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Director: Paprika Steen

Actors: Sofie Gråbøl, Mikael Birkkjær and Søren Pilmark

Britt and Claes have recently lost their teenage daughter and they are struggling to come to terms with their grief as they try to return to work and regain some semblance of normal life.

I thought this film was going to be a lot sadder then it actually was, but as with many Danish films I have seen the story is small but focused on the individual characters. The film does not tell you directly what happened to their daughter – an only child. You learn briefly about it later but it is unimportant.

The focus is their grief – not their immediate grief, but how things are five months later. So it is not all tear wallowing – it is quiet, intense and complicated. They try to go back to their normal lives – but everything is different now. Their friends and work colleagues do not know what to say or how to treat them.

There is a lot unsaid – what has gone on between the characters before is left very much to the viewer’s own imagination. I prefer films like these – which do not answer every question you may have about the characters or the story. There was a whole life that happened before this film started, the story does not necessarily have to start at the beginning of the movie.

However, saying this there did seem to be something lacking – some kind of umph or passion. The story of their grief seemed a little predictable – but then again maybe this is just true to life. A good story doesn’t have to be overly dramatic after all. However,  I do think it did lack a little bit in character development or succeed in making these characters feel unique.

The acting was of course very good – Sofie Gråbøl can convey so much with a mere twitch of the eye. Mikael Birkkjær who says very little and remains stiff and staunch throughout still manages to show his internal pain whilst hardly physically expressing anything. Claes is filled with anger where as Britt is driven by maternal longing.

Out of all the Danish films I have seen, this one is not among my favourites but I would still say I enjoyed it.

Film Review: Arrietty (2010)

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The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family’s residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered. (IMDB)

I love Studio Ghibli productions (Spirited Away, Nausicaa), I pretty much like or love all the ones I have seen and I think Arrietty is one that I really like, although it is by far not the most unique or imaginative of the SG films I have seen.

As a child I read all of The Borrower books by Mary Norton after seeing the BBC mini-series in 1992. I have always loved the story of Arrietty, Pod and Homily and so when I found out that Hayao Miyazaki was going to turn this into a Studio Ghibli production I felt very excited because I trust these guys to do a good job, even if they make changes to it.

It’s been re-made several times actually, at least once as a film which I didn’t like and another time as a one part TV drama sometime last year which I didn’t get around to watching. It seems such a simple story but it has obviously captured the imagination of many people, across many generations and even different cultures.

Despite the fact that the story has been transported to Japan – sliding doors, shoes off when entering the house, chop sticks, Shiso tea, it actually retains almost the whole original story and its essence.

As with all SG films, the drawings are so beautiful and detailed – each like a piece of art, perhaps more so in this film with the beautiful garden, the flowers and the little details that allow you as a viewer to see the world from a borrower’s point of view.

I wish there had been more time perhaps to build and develop the characters and the adventures of each of the characters. Pod in this film is more distant and uncommunicative than I remember imagining him (maybe somewhat influenced by Ian Holm) and I wish we had had more of an introduction to Spiller, rather then him just appearing like that.

The soundtrack felt a little boring and lacked something – originality maybe? At least it did not stand out so much as those from the other films, relying more on a song that travelled throughout the story.

Perhaps the decision to follow the original story so closely meant that it lost some uniqueness that can be found in other SG films. Howl’s Moving Castle, for instance is adapted from Diana Wynne Jones’ fabulous novel but there were changes made to the storyline and look – but they seemed to fit in and work well. Perhaps DWJ’s imagination is just quirky enough to fit in with Studio Ghibli productions.

Despite these small criticisms, I really, really enjoyed Arrietty. It’s charming and lovely story. Sometimes the best stories are not always the biggest ones, they are the ones that stay with us.

 

Part of Caroline’s World Series 2012 Challenge and Richard’s Foreign Film Festival 2012 Challenge. Filed under Japanese.

Film Review: Glorious 39 (2009)

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Director: Stephen Poliakoff

Starring: Romola Garai, Eddie Redmayne and Bill Nighy

 

 

 

The adopted daughter of a privileged British politician uncovers a family secret in the weeks leading up to World War II. (IMDB)

I’ve been wanting to watch this film for a while, mainly due to Romola Garai being one of my favourite actresses and I like this time period – pre-war England.

It starts in the modern day – a young man going to question his old family about what happened to Anne Keyes. I rarely like this kind of set-up as usually if you just cut these bits out it would make absolutely no difference to the story whatsoever. It didn’t add a hint of mystery or suspension. The only thing that these scenes had going for it was Christopher Lee.

After this boy with a Justin Beiber haircut comes out and goes away, the film disappears back into the past. Anne is the adopted eldest daughter of the family and to begin with everything seems very normal until someone who came to her father’s birthday dinner party is discovered dead.

Towards the middle Anne became very confused and the film entered an almost dream-like stage. What was real, who was in on the conspiracy… was there even a conspiracy (worth caring about)? It was quite effective in making you, the viewer, feel suddenly ostracised and unsure what is really going on.

Like with many conspiracy thriller storylines, the main character, in this case Anne, becomes very suspicious. Only I’m not sure quite how believable this is as she seems a little… well not really politically interested despite being a politicians daughter. All in all the conspiracy felt very contrived and clichéd.

It was as if Stephen Poliakoff (who is also the writer) merely wanted to tell a conspiracy story set in wartime England. He plucked out the scenario that some people at the time did not want another war in England and wanted to broker a deal with Hitler. So he killed a few people and got someone in a pretty dress all suspicious and hysterical.

It all felt like the same old period drama people dragged out of the cupboard, dusted off and made to play the same old thing. Jeremy Northam, for example who played the mysterious and shifty Balcombe, who would have made anyone suspicious. In fact this film seemed to be filled with just about every English actor available – I’m surprised at the time of filming there were any left elsewhere in the world.

Lots of good acting talent however cannot disguise a weak story and a poor script. A pity really as I know Stephen Poliakoff is capable of much better. One of my favourite two part television dramas is The Lost Prince, which he also wrote and directed.

Whilst not boring enough to turn off, there are by far better more original films out there. It does however make England look gloriously beautiful with all the glorious  sun… surely a special effect?

Film Review: Persepolis (2007)

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Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux

 

 

The story of a young girl growing up in Tehran who witnesses the overthrowing of the Shah during the Islamic revolution and sees the way of life in Iran changing under the force of religious fundamentalism. (IMDB)

Based on the graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is an autobiographical story of what it was like growing up in Iran in the 1970’s into the 1990’s.

I enjoyed the graphic novels, the first one more then the second but they were never anything more then ‘okay’ in my opinion. I haven’t read many graphic novels and I think my judgement was slightly impaired by the fact that I’d read Maus by Art Spigelman shortly before so I could not help but compare the two in terms of absorption and enjoyment. Maus captivated me whereas Persepolis did not.

The film I actually liked slightly more then the books themselves – the animation doesn’t deviate much at all from the artwork in the  graphic novel. It is original and doesn’t feel like I’m just watching a film based on the book, it felt more like I was actually watching the book itself.

It’s a good ‘story’ if you can call a memoir a story – of life growing up in Iran and the transition from being relatively free to becoming restricted and stifled by the growing religious fundamentalism which sees women having to wear head scarfs and their opinions repressed. People held secret parties and drank illicit alcohol – despite the restrictions placed by the new government, beneath the head scarfs and new beards, people were still the same.

However, the story is told from Marjane’s perspective – a child’s eye view, growing up into that of a young adult. I usually like these ‘points of view’ because although they are simplified, they give you a different, more personal perspective. Yet I found it hard really to warm to Marjane’s narrative. I liked that she was very honest, portraying herself as opinionated and strong minded, but as someone who has gone through life, failed at things and struggled with her beliefs, sense of identity and what she wants to be. I liked this but I still felt that there was something kind of lacking in both book and film.

I’m not sure what that was. In the end I enjoyed the film, I think it’s a good story, I like Marjane and yet I didn’t warm to her. Maybe it is that I don’t really feel like I ever got a real sense of who she was. When I read Maus, I felt like I knew Art Spigelman’s father, the main ‘character’ in the novel. He felt like a real person even though he was portrayed as a mouse. Whereas Marjane feels like she is just a drawn out character on a page.

Despite that I don’t want to end on a negative note. I did enjoy the film, I enjoyed the book – just not as much as others. I’d still recommend them both to those who enjoy graphic novels. If you have read the book and enjoyed it – you will I think enjoy this film.

Part of Caroline’s World Series 2012 Challenge and Richard’s Foreign Film Festival 2012 Challenge. Filed under French.

Film Review: Shutter (2004)

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Directors: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Starring: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee and Achita Sikamana
 
 
A young photographer and his girlfriend discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after a tragic accident. They soon learn that you can not escape your past.

Once you get past the creepy violins, rattling doors, and spooky dripping noises, this Thai horror flick is actually a pretty good film.

I’m not well versed in horror, all those that I have seen seem to contain things that go bang when you don’t expect it, blood, mutilated corpses wandering around and people backing slowly away from things they can’t see. Usually I get bored and turn them off, but I enjoyed Shutter for all that.

Part of this is probably nothing to do with the actual film, but just enjoying seeing a different culture in a different country. My family has origins from Myanmar/Burma which borders Thailand and I enjoyed seeing the Buddhist monks which reminded me of my father.

I will also admit that this did keep me up a bit at night. I watched about two thirds one night and the rest today so maybe it was just that it was hot and I couldn’t sleep anyway – but these ghostly spirits inhabiting photographs haunted my thoughts that night.

It is a rather slow moving story, which is good – and it is not all banging and clanking with people screaming. It’s more subtle then that and holds the tension quite well throughout. There are a few twists and turns that keep you in suspense. Parts of it are a little predictable, but there are still some interesting surprises.

Overall a solid good film with some good performances from the cast – especially Ananda Everingham. (Everingham sounds like someone out of a Jane Austen novel!) Maybe not the most scary or shocking of horror films, but to a newbie like me an enjoyable 93 minutes spent.

Part of Caroline’s World Series 2012 Challenge and Richard’s Foreign Film Festival 2012 Challenge. Filed under Thai.

Film Review: Happy Together (1997)

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Original Title: Chun gwong cha sit
Director: Kar Wai Wong
Starring:
Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Chen Chang

 

 

 

Lai Yiu-Fai and Ho Po-Wing came to Argentina on holiday with dreams of going to see the Iguazu Falls but they never make it. Their money runs out and they split up. Lai finds work as a doorman and one day comes across Ho, once again sleeping around and getting into trouble. Ho gets himself injured and lands on his ex-boyfriend’s doorstep. Lai takes him in and looks after him and their old jealousies and insecurities reignite between them.

After enjoying In the Mood for Love so much by directer Kar Wai Wong, I wanted to see something else he directed and this one came through my door. Once again, I loved it.

It tells a story of two tempestuous lovers who are far from “happy together”. Ho Po Wing is a useless scrounger and layabout,whilst Lai Yiu Fai wants nothing more then to dote after Ho, look after and clean up despite getting very little in return. It seems to have been a pattern in their relationship: Lai knew very well that Ho was not good for him and could not make him happy, but driven by some compulsion of love Lai traps himself into this miserable life.

I love the use of colour that Kar Wai Wong uses to heighten the mood and feelings of Lai . It begins in black and white and as soon as Ho comes back and white and then changes to highly saturated colour, moving slowly into more sombre colours and lighting that feel more real.

As with In the Mood for Love Kar Wai uses music to accentuate parts of the storyline and bring out the unspoken feelings between the two characters. The scenes are segmented and so much more is told through Lai’s facial expressions, the lighting and the music, then through dialogue.

Tony Leung Chui Wai is such a wonderful actor and his performances in both In the Mood for Love and Happy Together are understated and full of feeling. He does not even have to say anything – more can be said with his eyes then with words.

Both films are simply beautiful and extremely well told stories of love. They are both so sensual and atmospheric in the way they are told. My heart still burns thinking of this film now. I can’t wait to see more of Kar Wai Wong’s work.

So long, but not farewell…

I haven’t posted here in a long time but that’s because I haven’t been watching many movies. I haven’t been much in the mood for films really… well I did watch The Mummy if that counts. I’ve already seen the first two films and recently bought myself the trilogy box set but I haven’t got around to watching the second and third.

Instead I’ve been watching Buffy with a friend (Carin from A Little Bookish) who in exchange got me to watch Firefly (shiny!) and now we are watching Veronica Mars. Maybe I will talk about Firefly later.

I’m sorry to have left this blog so dormant for so long. I’m a terrible film-watcher but then I never claimed to be a movie buff. Anyway, here I am again, like it or not and there will be another review coming up shortly.

I finally watched Happy Together and I will tell you what I think about it later.

Film Review: In the Mood for Love (2000)

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Original Title: Fa yeung nin wa

Director: Kar Wai Wong

Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung and Ping Lam Siu

 

 

 

 

A man and a woman move in to neighbouring Hong Kong apartments and form a bond when they both suspect their spouses of extra-marital activities. (IMDB)

I can’t remember why I added this to my film queue, maybe someone recommended it or maybe it was just random as I wanted to watch some Chinese films. Either way, I got this through my letter box and wasn’t quite in the mood for it. I’ve been watching things like George of the Jungle and Sweet Home Alabama instead because I’ve just been wanting no-brainer feel-good films as of late. Anyway, I thought I may as well whilst I had it and I really enjoyed it.

It is a simple and understated story set in 1962 about two people in the same situation who find themselves drawn together. The cinematography of each scene is simply beautiful and it certainly creates the mood that carries this film.

It is not so much about what you see, but what is going on behind the scenes and from within each character. The soundtrack that accompanies the film enhances that sense of romance, despite the restraint of both characters.

They are just two people who live close to each other, whose daily movements pass by each other and who eventually get to know each other. There are no love scenes in the typical sense, but the way Mrs Chan walks sensually through corridors, her hands brushing against the walls portray more in the sense of love and romance then another film of a different type.

This is one of the best films I have seen on the subject of love. It is so beautifully and sensually shot that it made me feel such a deep sense of longing. It is slow but each scene carries you on through to the next scene to see where their relationship takes them.

 

 

Part of Caroline’s World Series 2012 Challenge and Richard’s Foreign Film Festival 2012 Challenge. Filed under Chinese.

Titanic 3D (1997)

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Director: James Cameron

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Billy Zane

 

 

A boy and a girl from differing social backgrounds meet during the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. (IMDB)

Back in 1997 when I was 12, like everyone else I went to see Titanic and my 12 year old self of course had a massive crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh how things have changed.

I went to see this in 3D (it was my Dad’s idea, not mine) and considering my mood at the moment is for complete mush, I actually enjoyed it in all it’s cheesy overblown romantic glory.

It’s the first film in 3D I have seen. Yes, I’m a little behind the times and I don’t like forking out all that money to go and sit on a dirty seat to watch a film 3D or not 3D. I had to brush crumbs off the seats in the cinema today. Aren’t people supposed to tidy up these places between viewings? The VIP seats I think were spotless. I suppose us lower class people, much like on the Titanic, just have to put up with living in filth.

After a while I completely forgot that it was in 3D – some of it was impressive and I do think it did benefit a little from being given that extra visual depth. The effects were always pretty good in the Titanic anyway.

Now that I’m older, I am more interested in the Titanic then I am the overblown love story between Rose and Jack. I think the visual effects of the sinking, the panic and the people are more interesting and visually, very well done.

I understand that Cameron did change some things for the sake of drama rather then historical accuracy, which I find a little strange considering the amount of effort he apparently went to make it real and all the research he apparently did. Certain real historical people were made to look bad or worse when it wasn’t necessary. I can’t say I now too much about the history so I can’t comment in any detail.

The sinking of the Titanic you would have thought carried enough drama as it was, without having to pile on more Hollywood hyperbole. Take for example Rose’s fiancé, Cal and his psychopath of a henchman who surprise, surprise is English like all evil henchmen are supposed to be. What was the point precisely of having Cal chasing after Rose and Jack firing his gun off whilst the Titanic was sinking all around them?

The dialogue is occasionally clunky and the whole romance story just a little cliché and over-baked. Cameron would have made a far better film had he concentrated on the actual events and people on the ship. What I did enjoy was the scenes with people panicking and trying to get on the lifeboats, the band which continued to play, the bravery of many people who helped their women and children and resigned themselves to a watery graves. The terrible elitism between the first and third class passengers.

I liked that Ioan Grufford played Howe, the only man to take his lifeboat back to look for survivors. It was like seeing Hornblower reincarnated. I knew I always liked him. I wish they’d shown Mrs Brown not taking any of Quartermaster Hitchen’s rubbish. Unlike in the film when she just sat down and shut up after he shouted her down, she’d taken control of the boat and kept the spirits up of the passengers on board as well as trying to go back to look for survivors.

Despite these criticisms, it is still an enjoyable film. It really does make you feel as if you are there on the ship as it sinks and since watching it the film has haunted me for days. I can’t stop thinking about all those poor people screaming and struggling to stay alive until the last possible second. It also inspired me to look up the real stories of people on board.

I’d say it is worth going to see it in 3D, if you feel like sitting through a 3 hour cheesy love story whilst wearing clunky 3D glasses. It keeps you awake at least and James Horner’s soundtrack always hits my mushy spot.