Review: Trolls

From the creators of Shrek comes the most smart, funny, irreverent animated comedy of the year, DreamWorks’ Trolls. This holiday season, enter a colourful, wondrous world populated by hilariously unforgettable characters and discover the story of the overly optimistic Trolls, with a constant song on their lips, and the comically pessimistic Bergens, who are only happy when they have trolls in their stomach. Featuring original music from Justin Timberlake, and soon-to-be classic mash-ups of songs from other popular artists, the film stars the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Russell Brand, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Ron Funches, Icona Pop, Gwen Stefani, and many more.

I will always remain to be a person that adores easy-watching family films; which is why Disney and Pixar will never cease to captivate me. I have an inital opinion that Dreamworks can be hit and miss but the fact that Anna Kendrick was amongst the cast made me optimistic about this one. Also, when someone dabbles in something you have fond childhood memories off, it can make you skeptical and for this reason, it’s safe to say that I approached this film with caution.

Within a few minutes, I was confident that even if the film was awful, I would leave with a smile on my face simply because of the catchy music, multitude of colours and the abundance of happiness. I, actually, found it incredibly cute and worthwhile watching.

Visually, it was hard not to be blown away with the incredible bright colours that, even though they could have become garish at some stage, always stayed the right side of the line. Colour makes you happy! I didn’t even realise just how much it can affect you until now! Poppy should teach a master class in scrapbooking happiness into the hearts of people – I was practically skipping out of the screen!

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake did a wonderful job as the protagonist couple and even though the ending was wonderfully predictable from the beginning, I was executed with a laugh and warm feeling inside – not an eyeroll or tut anywhere!

I liked the use of the literal “happiness is on the inside” thing with the fact that the Bergens believed they could only access happiness by digesting it and even better that there was a moral within the story as well! Children will hopefully be leaving believing that they don’t have to eat to be happy – whether that was an intention to reduce childhood obesity or not, I think it might’ve worked. On leaving the cinema, I heard a child say that he knows happiness is on the inside and eating stuff won’t help. Sure, he was probably about 5 and not craving a chocolate bar, but it was progess!

Well done, Dreamworks! My favourite in a long time! A new go-to happy film and with an amazing soundtrack!!!!!

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Review: Girl on the Train (Film)

Ultimately, I was disappointed. I really don’t think that the film lived up to the hype that it’d had for months. Also, I’m not sure that I’ve been this disappointed in a book-film adaptation in a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I did find the book a little slow. It was unique in the sense that it remained a page turner despite lacking pace. I conclude that it most likely achieved this because of the confusion that it placed on the reader; you were left continually wondering what was real and what wasn’t. I’ve always been the type of person that has unintentionally been able to predict the endings and twists to stories. It can be irritating but when I read Girl on the Train, I couldn’t see where it was going (hence the “page turner.”) And yet with every turned page, it still lacked pace, adrenaline, fervour…

The film was on a whole new level of mundane. When I thought it was because I’d read the book before, I remember my reaction to Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep – I’d read those books and I still thought the films were brilliant! Girl on the Train was advertised to be in the same league of these thrillers and it really wasn’t.

Credit where credit is due though; Emily Blunt proved herself to be quite the versatile actress. She is usually so pristine, so naturally beautiful and I can’t begin to comprehend the hours of work that she had to undergo in order to look so disheveled and rough. Although appearance can help solidify an impression of a character, the quality of the acting had a really lasting affect. Emily Blunt played it well.

I feel bad that this review is so short… but I’m really not sure what else to say. I guess if you’re reading this review before you’re going to see it I might have done you a favour – if someone had lowered my expectations this much, I may have actually found it enjoyable to watch.

It almost became a very expensive nap!

Book Review: Trust In Me

Julia had always been the friend that Livy turns to when life was difficult. United 18 years ago by grief at the brutal murder of Livy’s sister, Kara and they’ve always told each other everything =-or so Livy thought. So when Julia is found dead in her home, Livy cannot come to terms with the news that she chose to end her own life. The Julia that Livy knew was vibrant and vivacious, a far cry from the selfish neurotic that her family seem determined to paint her as. Troubled by doubt but alone in her suspicions, Livy sets out to prove that Julia was in fact murdered.

As you can probably imagine. This blurb and the tagline had me hooked from the beginning and it’s clear from early on that Sophie McKenzie has written a page turner. Usually, I read on the way to and from work but I couldn’t stop reading! I read walking, I read brushing my teeth – I just wanted to know what was happening and why.

I definitely found that after turning the last page there were still some unanswered questions but, despite that usually frustrating me, I think it increased my love for the book. I didn’t need to know it like I usually would. I was content with the ending and that says a lot in itself because as far as endings go, I’m usually quite difficult to please.

I found that the only drawback to this book was that I felt that it lacked some description. Although all characters were very three dimensional, I found that the physical descriptions of the surroundings and characters was quite lacking. I have a very vivid imagination and I did find myself filling in all of the blanks but I wonder if what I had in my head was exactly what the author would have liked. I think it’s hard to produce a good description of a location or a person without it being a bit mundane but I felt that I had to work to picture it more than I knew what Sophie would have wanted me to be imagining.

I’d recommend a read, and it’s definitely a page turner but if you struggle to put your own interpretation on things, you may struggle with this read.

Review: Finding Dory

Wow. What. A. Disappointment. I haven’t felt this let down from a Disney (all be it Pixar) film since Chicken Little. 

After waiting months for a possible time to go and see it (birthdays, work and other commitments) I managed to get tickets for a midday showing on a Sunday. Yes, it was near the end of screening time. Yes, the cinema was mostly empty bar some ladies with their children. Yes, there wasn’t the euphoric height of excitement when you’re surrounded by buzzing fans… but I wanted to enjoy it!

Leaving the screen, I desperately tried to find some positives as I didn’t want to be left with such a negative feeling towards Pixar after all – they were the people who bought us Toy Story! (Now that’s how you do a sequel!) so the three positives I could find were as follows;

  1. The animation was brilliant. Sure, you could argue that Pixar never fails in terms of producing high-quality animations or that you would hope so given how much time/money was spent… but I don’t think you should diminish the fact that the finish was so aesthetically magnificent that every time the plot was sending you to sleep, you could still find some interesting to marvel at. 
  2. I did laugh on occasions (with the “follow me” “you’re in a cup” stuff not to mention the “mummies and daddies” section), but it wasn’t as frequent as I was expecting or hoping for.
  3. Baby Dory was super cute. It’s safe to say that the flashbacks to baby Dory with her big eyes and adorable forgetfulness

I was so keen to hold on to the fact that Pixar were way above producing something so mind numbing in plot that I started to clutch at straws in a deep and meaningful way. What if the repetitive nature of the film and the perpetual loop in the plot and script was there to essentuate how Dory must act on a daily basis, I thought. What if the way that Nemo never gave up on Dory is supposed to mimic how we shouldn’t write off Pixar. What if…? What if…? What if…? Then, I came to the conclusion that if that’s what they were trying to achieve, all they did was make me empathise with the people who try not to get frustrated with Dory because they’re watching and hearing the same stuff for two hours. 

On the plus side, the Pixar short that was on just before Finding Dory was lovely and so cute. It hit only appealed to the child in me that would be attracted to cuddling small fluffy animals, it also appealed to my maternal instincts and I did just want to wrap the little bird up and keep him safe! It was wonderful – full of remarkable animation! I’ve concluded that I must watch The Good Dinosaur soon and that I hope, with all my heart, it restores my faith in Pixar. 

Review: Bridget Jones’s Baby

It’s safe to say that the general consensus on this film is that of pleasantly surprised enjoyment. I think all loyal Bridget Jones fans will, if they’re honest with themselves, admit Edge of Reason was good but certainly not on par with Bridget Jones’ Diary. The third enstallment of the series seemed to satisfy most fans. Although I would disagree that it is the “Best Jones yet” (as the tag line would suggest), it definitely exceeded expectations. (And none of the others had Emma Thompson in and she was flawless – as always)

The brilliance of the film deserves to be recognised as it had a lot to live up to. The hype of a third film had been building for years and the news that Hugh Grant had decided not to return had been a big disappointment to many that were following the news so closely. With all of this pressure, I was fearful it would be a massive let down. Most sequels are flops and I think that’s what I was preparing myself for. (Amongst all of the excitement and anticipation, of course.) As many others have, I would dub it “better than the second, by far, but not quite as good as the first.” I certainly was no  disappointed. 

My opinion varies on whether or not Hugh Grant should have made an appearance. Rumour has it that he thought that he had reached a point in his career that he thought he was better than returning to do a sequel to the film franchise that had lay dormant for years – I beg to differ, I think it was those films that helped him obtain a larger fan base and he’s rarely playing a different “type” of character than Daniel Cleaver. Don’t get me wrong, Four Weddings and a Funeral made him famous, in Notting Hill he won the hearts of many, but he definitely capitvated a lot more ladies after Bridget Jones. He’d read the script and tried for some adjustments but couldn’t seem to work with the idea of returning. I think he made a mistake for his career there, but although to begin with, I missed him, it’s clear that Hugh Grant isn’t fundamental to producing a successful Bridget Jones Film.

Patrick Dempsy’s addition was… interesting. I think he was marvellous and definitely the as dreamy, as successful and (controversially) slightly more charming competitor to rival Mark Darcy.  Yes, Patrick was amazing. His character, though…? The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a little bit contrived. His first appearance in the film brought in “Prince Charming” references and Enchanted flashbacks. I was concerned he was going to be a cliché two dimensional perfect character and, in a way, I think he might’ve been. The short scene where he went through the motions of their ideal relationship in five minutes was heartwarming. He won us over then, I think. Jealousy and competition changes people but I felt that his character was inconsistent. The nastiness that came out toward the end, and the “breathe out the pain” nonsense didn’t seem to match the logical, mathematical structure that was presented in the first half of the film. It made me wonder if the slightly cruel edge was put in to make you feel more for Mark Darcy’s situation…?

Speaking of Mark… he certainly wasn’t as “wooden” in the previous films and I find myself plagued with thoughts of how him and Bridget raising a child together just wouldn’t work. The Eton argument in film number two, his inability to do emotional declaration…etc etc etc! Every time a pivotal decision needs to be made in that boy’s future, they with have polar opposite views. I agree with Bridget when she says, “Sometimes you love someone for all the reasons they’re not like you,” but I also think that sometimes you can’t force opposites together no matter how comfortable or “like home” they feel. This would be if you were viewing this from an entirely cynical perspective! I, on the other hand, am a sucker for a story that works out alright in the end. I believe it was clear character development in Mr Darcy’s case was necessary but he showed that he was willing to make the effort to change on multiple occasions towards the end of the film. Wether it was forced or not, Mark’s ability to adapt to what Bridget and the baby needed ,accompanied by Colin Firth’s phenomenal acting skills, made the pairing suitable and pleasing.

As for Renée – other than my huge disagreement with her outright lie about not having any work done, I’d say she was perfect! In the films initial opening, I was definitely concerned about the remaining two hours. I (wrongly) judged the fact hat she was clearly thin, her lips were a completely different shape and her expressions had become less expressive. It was clear she’s had some form of Botox or something and I thought that would infringe on her ability to portray Bridget Jones. It didn’t.  I was wrong. Her mannerisms, her diction, her gate and her clumsy performance were perfect. Absolutely spot on! I’m glad she didn’t force the weight back on and I’m glad she returned for the role. No other woman would have been so outstanding.

The film successfully orchestrated a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings though out. Did I want it to be Mark’s? Did I want it to be Jack’s? I couldn’t really be sure of my own preference until almost the very end! Ultimately, It was hilarious. I even found myself laughing at bits I would’ve wanted to roll my eyes at! I have, and would even still, pay to see it again. 

Review: NT Live – Hangmen

8Stars

I really want to open with appreciation for the remarkable writing, acting and casting in this play. There were sometime moments that meant  I wasn’t fully able to appreciate these things to their entirety but I will disclose later. But, overall, I think I came away with a really great opinion of the play!

Hangmen follows Harry Wade (David Morrissey), the second most famous executioner in the country, who now works as a pub landlord in Oldham. Things begin to sour for the retired hangman and his wife Alice (Sally Rogers) when a mysterious man named Peter Mooney (Johnny Flynn) appears at the hotel.

The opening scene successfully presented us with the perfect balance of setting the scene and being humourous without detracting from the difficult nature of the scene itself (a hanging). This scene concluded with a harrowing picture of an empty noose, swinging gently – the lighting was superb and the juxtaposition of laughing one minute and silence the next as you appreciate the gravity of the situation… was mesmerising.

Johnny Flynn stole the show – I mean, my goodness! His whole demeanour was absolutely perfect. Anyone that can be that menacing and still retain a large degree of humour and humanity is clearly someone of talent! Such a versatile actor. All actors involved in Hangmen did an incredible job but Johnny Flynn was in a league of his own. I found the humour of the play to be quite slapstick occasionally and I think it’s difficult to stay on the right side of slapstick when playing someone that appears to have multiple personalities. Johnny never crossed that line – although evoking laughs it was done in such a way that left the audience more scared of what this man was capable of (if anything).

Although, it needs to be recognised that it couldn’t have been done with out such amazing writing – Martin McDonagh managed to successfully write a character who was a clear sociopath; showing signs of remorse whilst simultaneously boasting about alleged crimes. He really was menacing and definitely sent a chill down my spine.

You do come away from the play with a question unanswered; did they catch the right man? Has justice been served? And you never quite know the answer to this – which drove some people insane. Leaving the theatre people were saying “did he do it, though?” and things like that…

But just in case you missed this… I want to explain why this is even more proof of a fantastic plot; The whole play was about the abolition of the death penalty. Two people wind up dead by the end and they still don’t know 100% sure that the guy that committed the crime is dead. Sure, that’s what you want to know – but you can’t. And that’s the point! Hanging was abolished because in some cases, the police might have pieced together mountains of evidence but they still couldn’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that they’d committed the crime. That’s the rub! Someone’s life is a very definitive price to pay only to be pardoned later. It made you ask yourself… is it worth taking the risk?

Okay, so some of the humour wasn’t to my taste and the repetition of the word “cock” induced one-too-many eye-rolls. I have already commended the placement of gags in large parts of the script but I did feel at times that the sexual jokes weren’t fitting with the calibre of the rest of the play (eg, the time that Andy Nyman’s character was fishing around for the guys keys)… It did add another level to the play but one that I didn’t think was necessary. That, I know, is personal preference and call me a prude if you will!

Ultimately I came away with a real sense that the play had moved me. I was left thinking and the play had done more than enough so I would, without a doubt, recommend it to friends and family – Well done!! Outstanding!!

8/10

8Stars