Top 10 Films of 2013

Another year has gone by, and what a year of movies it was. A lot of franchise movies and big blockbuster hits in the summer, but also some niches films that really shone. Here’s my top 10 picks of the movies of 2013.

10. Fast and the Furious 6

The latest instalment of the Fast and the Furious franchise is my number 10 pick; it’s fast-paced, action-packed, but is also personal and family orientated with the reintroduction of Michelle Rodriguez’s character. The ending left the movie series in a fantastic place, still riding high at box offices, and bringing in Jason Statham as the next villain. However, due to the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker fans have to wait a little longer for Fast 7 and this will remain Walker’s last completed movie for the franchise.

9. Prisoners

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this crime drama which sees the kidnapping of two children on a Thanksgiving weekend. This is a brilliant psychological drama in which Jackman’s character Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands kidnapping and torturing a man whom he believes is involved in the kidnappings. The film presents a man who blurs the lines of what is right and what is wrong, and the audience is forced to question the moral correctness of what is happening. A tense and gripping drama.

8. Much Ado About Nothing

So during post production of Marvel’s big comic book movie collaboration Avengers Assemble, what does Joss Whedon do? Oh he shoots a black and white movie in his own home helped by his alumni cast members from his shows. After a year, it finally made it to selected theatres and it was such a treat – Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedict were a great match for each other, and it was lovely to see that chemistry resurrect itself from the days of Angel. The black and white look of the film gives the film an edge and just makes it all the more beautiful. Long may the genius of Joss Whedon live.

7. Frozen

The only animated movie on this list, it sneaked in with its December release, but this was such a joyous and fun-filled Disney film I couldn’t leave it off. It centres around two sisters, who have been living mostly separate lives despite living and growing up together. Elsa (Idina Menzel) has magical powers and through her parents well-meant but certainly wrong advice she locks herself away from her younger sister Anna. When Elsa unleashes a winter on her kingdom, it is up to her sister to save her. It’s a truly delightful film, with a brilliant soundtrack including the stand out ‘Let It Go’ sung by Menzel and a twist that will certainly shock you (heck it did for me!)

6. Thor 2: The Dark World

Marvel’s second film in its Phase 2 plan, the sequel for its Asgardian God Thor reunites Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Marvel’s secret weapon Tom Hiddleston in a film that is certainly better than its first outing. The brotherly banter between Thor and Loki is one of the high points of the film, with Hemsworth and Hiddleston’s chemistry shining through.

5. Gravity

The Oscar nominated film took the box office by storm at the back end of last year. This 90 minute thrill ride was both visually beautiful and thematically, exploring the notions of life, death and also rebirth. It fully deserves the attention its getting and is so worth a watch.

4. Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The middle film in the Hobbit trilogy helmed again by Peter Jackson is action-packed, adventurous and flows a lot better than the first outing. I was never bored during this film, something that I felt at times during the first Hobbit film. Martin Freeman again flourishes as Bilbo, and with the addition of Evangeline Lily, Luke Evans and the return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas the film takes off and becomes a blockbuster of a movie.

3. Star Trek: Into Darkness

The much awaited sequel to JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek found its way into cinemas last May and what a treat it ended up being – like many things Abrams does it was shrouded in secrecy, but that didn’t stop fans speculating about villain Benedict Cumberbatch’s role in the movie (if you want to find out whether he is in fact Khan, go check out the movie). It was an adrenaline ride and definitely one of the early hits of the summer.

2. Iron Man 3

The third (and possibly final) stand alone Iron Man film probably saved the best until last, with more laughs, but also more humanity and anguish for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark who spends much of this film still dealing with the aftermath of the battle of New York from Avengers Assemble. Iron Man 3 kicked off Marvel’s Phase 2 campaign and was a banker in terms of money, but a risk with Shane Black stepping in to direct. However, it took off like a rocket, and the ending felt like a nice closed chapter point for the character.

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

After looking at everything I’d seen that had came out in 2013, the second instalment of The Hunger Games, clinched everything; it was a blockbuster movie that had blockbuster performances, a fantastic pace, and a disquieting theme.  When I walked out the cinema I wanted to turn around and watch it all again (which I did a week later). Even though it does verge on the over-running borders, the action and the tension is ramped up through every scene and all the elements come together to make this my number 1 film of last year.

 

Peeta: You have to live. For them.

Katniss: What about you?

Peeta: Nobody needs me.

Katniss: I do. I need you.

Advertisements

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence has had an incredible couple of years; after landing the lead role in The Hunger Games franchise as Catniss Everdeen, she led the film to serious box office success. She then went on to join the X-Men franchise as a young Mystique and starred in Silver Linings Playbook, a movie that would change her life and see her become one of the youngest actresses to win a Best Actress Oscar. J-Law as she’s now affectionately known is one of Hollywood’s hottest young stars (and a brilliant role-model) and she returns to the role of Catniss in this next instalment Catching Fire which sees Catniss having to deal with the choices she made in the previous Games.

The film opens with Catniss back in District 12, she and her family may have moved into a better life in the victory village, however life in 12 is still hard and wearisome, and she hasn’t forgotten her roots, hunting with love interest no.1 Gale (Liam Hemsworth). As her and love interest no.2 Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are due to go on a tour of the Districts, it’s apparent that the two of them are not on good terms, Peeta finding her deceit about her feelings toward him difficult to take. As the trip gets underway though, the two come to an understanding and start to re-bond over their shared experience. Lawrence has an easy chemistry with both men, but it’s her scenes with Hutcherson that I love the most; it’s easy to see that Katniss is trying to kid herself that she doesn’t have feelings for Peeta, but at the same time they both convey the care and love they feel for one another.

The stakes are much higher in this film, particularly politically for Katniss as she faces pressure from President Snow (played brilliantly by Donald Sutherland) to keep a rising rebellion forming in some of the districts. Katniss and Peeta are forced to put on a show during their trip, and continue to act out a lie. When they think it’s over Snow announces that the next Games will feature those that have already won past games, in an effort to try and eliminate the threat of Katniss. Katniss and Peeta must then forget everything they learnt in the last games as they must align themselves with other tributes in order to stay alive and survive the games.

Jennifer Lawrence carries this movie effortlessly, with beautiful poise and elegance at times but she’s also not afraid to show Katniss’ vulnerability. It does beg the question how would these movies have fared with another actress in the leading role but thankfully this never has to be questioned with Lawrence. The PTSD that Katniss is clearly suffering from after the games is highlighted by Lawrence in certain moments, particularly the way she reacts to finding out she will have to face the Games once more. With Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, the franchise has three young actors with a brilliant chemistry and unity, making it the success that it has become.

Of course the other supporting cast members also have a role to play and there’s certainly a few standout performances; Woody Harrelson returns once again as Hamich in a role I adore him in. He’s hardened by what he has seen and knows how to play the game, coming across as direct; he really does care about his two new charges, particularly Katniss. There’s almost a fatherly bond he develops with the two, but he never doubts them, simply telling them both to ‘stay alive’. Elizabeth Banks plays Effie with a lot more emotional charge during this film as the character too has bonded mores so with these two tributes; behind the affluent costumes, hair and make-up that Banks has to contend with, there is a heartbreaking performance. Donald Sutherland is also able to develop Snow much more so in this film as he’s further portrayed as the patriarch of all people, but underneath is a dark side, fuelled by his need for power and dominance. Of the new cast, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant as the new games maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who all along has a secret agenda to help Katniss become the leader of a rebellion that Snow has feared all along. Two of the new tributes also stand out in the forms of Sam Claflin as Finnick and Jena Malone as Johanna, each aligning themselves with our lovers from District 12. Claflin brings a sense of distrust to his character, the audience never completely sure to believe that he wants to help but also bringing his sheer loyalty to the surface with his connection to a fellow tribute as he refuses to leave her. Malone takes whatever she is given and completely runs with it, with her character becoming an instant standout.

The franchise has perhaps performed so well in the box office and gained critical success not only because of the acting bones behind it but also due to its subject matter; the concept of a Battle Royale style future where children are forced to kill one another in a reality show concept is quite a grim subject matter. The filmmakers don’t water the concept down as well to reach younger audiences as several moments in the film are hard to watch. When a man is taken from the crowd and shot in front of hundreds of horrified faces; when Gale is whipped viciously in the centre of a square and when Stanley Tucci’s Caesar announces that after tonight all but one competitor will never be seen again (an albeit harsh fact), but then breaks into hysterical laughter, a grin and applause is a complete juxtaposition. It can perhaps all be summed up when Katniss glances at her younger sibling, taking charge of Gales wounds after he has been beaten by the Capitol’s version of the police – she realises she has had to grow up extremely quickly because of the life they live in.

As well as the overall theme of the movie, the action sequences of the games are just as intense as the last movie; it’s not so much about the hiding in these games but about the obstacles that are put in their way. Deathly fog, killer monkeys, blood rain are just the tip of these games and they offer an intense, adrenaline ride for the second half of the movie. New director Francis Lawrence picks up the reigns of the franchise and gives us a movie to remember which flows brilliantly thanks to its well-gauged pacing, which could have easily felt dragged thanks to its impressive running time. As the movie closes, the larger scale plan emerges with the simple phrase ‘Remember who the real enemy is’. That lasting image of Lawrence’s face morphing into a steely determination summons the final instalment Mockingjay which follows the pattern of many film franchises and is splitting the book into two films. What’s clear is that The Hunger Games train isn’t de-railing any time soon, and with Jennifer Lawrence at the helm, it is in safe hands.

Hamich: This trip doesn’t end when you get back home, you never get off this train. (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert UK Tour

The stage show UK tour of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert had a stop off at the theatre near me so I thought it rude to not go and see it. I’d never seen the stage version of the show or even seen the film, but the premise of three drag queens having a road trip across Australia on a bus they nickname Priscilla sounded brilliant.

The show itself was brilliant – full of life, energy a great vibe and at its core a great message about acceptance. The soundtrack was filled with well-known pop songs and the theatre was alive when the cast launched into number after number. The costumes were also a huge standout point for me – flamboyant, colourful and beautiful. The three main cast members as well looked great together, a nice chemistry and flow between the three and more importantly all three men looked comfortable in heels.

The cast was led by Jason Donovan who has been in and out of the West End version of this show; he was great with the acting side, hamming it up well, but also showing the emotional side of his character as he struggles with his fears of meeting his son. However, certainly during the first half he sometimes seemed a bit awkward with the dance moves whilst his fellow leads were putting a lot more effort into it. Whether this was done to a personal choice to portray the character like this, or because he’d had a few days off I’m not sure, but he seemed more comfortable in the second act.

Priscilla is still touring the UK and if it’s coming to a theatre near you, then I’d highly recommend this show – it’s a guaranteed feel-good night as I certainly left the show with a huge smile on my face.

Criminal Minds 9×14 ‘200’

Criminal Minds reached the brilliant milestone of its 200th episode earlier this month and this under-appreciated series showed exactly why it’s lasted 9 seasons. Focusing on the character of Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau (A.J. Cook), it reveals just what her character got up to during her year out of the BAU during season 6. Throughout the season, her secret has been teased and tantalised and after her kidnapping at the end of the previous episode, fans were promised an explosive 200th episode celebration, which also brought back an old fan favourite.

I can still remember watching the 100th episode of this series and weeping as I did; it was emotionally wrought, not least because of what happened to Hotch, but also it showed just how close the team of characters had become. It was a fantastic showing of the series and so I was hugely excited for what the 200th would bring.

It turns out JJ wasn’t technically at the state department; instead she was mostly in Afghanistan, helping out an information hunt for Osama Bin Laden. She went through a lot out there, foiled missions, interrogations, and an inside man feeding information to the bad guys. Whilst all this was going on we also learned that during this time, JJ found out she was pregnant; this was cruelly taken away from her after an attack on a convoy. It was heartbreaking to learn this, and A.J. Cook puts in an amazing performance, showcasing her talent and also the mechanics of how JJ returned stronger and more resilient than ever, allowing her to become the profiler she is today.

This episode also showed us how well the team interact, work and care for each other; as it becomes apparent that JJ is in even more danger, the battle stations are firmly in place as they work their way around the profile, digging up the clues of JJ’s past. We also see plenty of familiar faces such as Jayne Atkinson’s Chief Strauss which was great to see; Nicholas Brendon’s Kevin and JJ’s fabulous husband Will played by Josh Stewart. The best of all these cameos however was having Paget Brewster reprise her role as Emily Prentiss.  When Brewster joined the show in the middle of series 2 she became a firm fan favourite and her exit from the show at the end of season 7 was a sad loss for the show. Her reappearance for this episode though was very much welcomed and also organic and not forced. It was great seeing her back in the fold profiling and interacting with the characters again.

The episode had a happy ending with the team finding JJ, defeating the bad guy and saving the day and it was a lovely sight having the family all in the bar together celebrating. A perfect ending to a brilliant 200thepisode of Criminal Minds.

Morgan: They just locked us out. Are the state doing anything to find JJ and Cruz?

Hotch: No.

Morgan: So what are we going to do?

Hotch: We call in reinforcements.  (Criminal Minds, 9×14 ‘200’)

Coriolanus

Gone are the days where you could only watch West End theatre in person; now with the art of digital downloads theatre is so much more accessible. National Theatre live are taking the process of bringing people closer to theatre by bringing it into cinemas. Across the UK and worldwide, various operas and stage shows have been available in the cinemas and my first venture into this new genre of theatre in a cinema was to see the Donmar Warehouse production of the William Shakespeare play Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role with support from Mark Gatiss.

The production itself was absolutely fantastic – with such a small theatre space it was utilised to its full potential, keeping the set quite minimal and using only a small array of props (chairs were very well used, and I enjoyed the Brechtian style of having the company sit across the back wall for most of the play). The company itself were great, with several of them having dual roles; Hiddleston was the main reason I wanted to see this production and he didn’t disappoint. The Shakespearean language rolls of his tongue as if he were born to say it, bringing wit and comedy but also passion, anger and Coriolanus’ ignorance to the role.

There was some stand out moments in the production; it was quite physical at times, particularly an early fight scene between Coriolanus and Aufidius which was quite complex. The end scene between Coriolanus, his wife, his son and his mother was really beautiful to watch; you could feel the emotion pouring from all of the actors, with genuine tears from Tom Hiddleston. The end which sees Hiddleston stringed up with blood dripping from his throat is powerful and signals the end of a power driven play.

As well as the actual production being amazing, another element to consider in this review is the element of live theatre steamed into a cinema. It of course made it slightly less authentic, having carefully placed cameras surrounding the theatre space, but it also made the audience feel as if they were there. A movie experience but with live theatre – you wouldn’t have seen facial expressions that close up, everything’s a lot bigger, more focused. However that doesn’t mean to say at time there were some awkwardness; there was one moment which caused a small commotion in the cinema when the gay overtones in the play were explored in which Aufidius kisses Coriolanus. Of course this wouldn’t have been allowed in the theatre (or at least you would have got some dirty looks off fellow theatregoers). We also wouldn’t have had the annoying lady introducing the play and the constant promos for other plays but that’s just an outside aspect.

The thing that stuck out the most was the very end; the curtain call. Of course you want to show your appreciation, and there are only a few occasions I’ve wanted to clap or have at the end of a film in the cinema but this was live theatre – do you clap? They won’t be able to hear you so what’s the point? Nonetheless I clapped, and so did others, but it wasn’t sustained or particularly enthusiastic despite the brilliant performance. Perhaps this is where the notion of theatre in cinemas falls down – the live appreciation is lost.

A fabulous production, however and I left with an invigorated love for Tom Hiddleston (who has the most beautiful blue eyes)

Mojo

I love theatre. As a former drama student, I live for live theatre, be that plays or musicals. When you realise you haven’t seen any live theatre for 6 months, something must be done about it. When I heard that Rupert Grint (Ron from the Harry Potter series) was going to be making his west end theatre debut, and what’s more be appearing alongside 4 other brilliant British actors from stage TV and film, I knew I wanted to go see it. The play had just been extended and I jumped at the opportunity to get tickets.

Mojo is a play by Jez Butterworth and is set in the 50’s entirely in a sleazy club, around a 24 hour period. When club owner Ezra is murdered, his son Baby (Ben Whishaw) and club workers struggle to remain calm after drink and drug infused partying. The play really highlights the power plays between the group, as they panic between themselves.

As I said above, the cast really are absolutely fantastic in this, and the show is certainly one of the best ensemble cast performances I’ve seen for ages. As well as Grint who gives a brilliant performance as Sweets, a man that tends to follow the crowd and who gets freaked out easily. The comedy flair he showed in the Potter films flourishes in this role and he bounces off Daniel Mays who plays Potts brilliantly. Daniel Mays has a flair about his performance and gets some brilliant gags in the play. Colin Morgan (best known as the title role in Merlin) plays Skinny usually calm but constantly being abused by Baby. At one point Morgan is tied to a record player with his trousers down as Whishaw’s Baby brandishes a sword at him. For me, Whishaw gives a powerhouse performance and steals every scene he’s in. Baby is quite unhinged, and Whishaw is amazing in the role, and what’s more he sings and dances. Rounding off the cast is Brendon Coyle as Mickey, the calmest of the bunch, he self-appoints himself as the leader and remains quite menacing throughout.

The conclusion of the play is a shock but is performed wonderfully; Baby discovers that it was Mickey that helped kill his father and in an argument with Skinny he shoots him. Despite trying to help and calm him down, Skinny dies and the group disperse, Sweets and Potts running into the night; and Mickey breaking down in despair. The final member of the cast is relative newcomer Tom Rhys Harries as Silver Johnny – it’s a shame the character didn’t have a bigger role as even though he is mentioned throughout he’s only in two scenes. Helping to uncover the mystery of Ezra’s death, he and Baby disappear into the night.

The play was absolutely fantastic and a brilliant ensemble cast. The show ends its run this week, but I’m so glad I saw this play – a funny comedy but with a stellar cast that managed to make every moment count.

Awards Season 2014

So it was the Golden Globes this past weekend thus starting the official run of Awards Season – quite possibly my favourite time of year. Although there have already been several film critics’ awards, the Globes marks the start of the heavyweight ceremonies, leading up the King of them all – the Oscars. Most years I’ve paid attention during awards season but last year I got quite involved in the run up and this year I’ve made it my mission to watch many of them, so look out for my reviews of them in the next few months. So here is my rundown of what films to watch out for over the next few months and why.

American Hustle

David O’Russell reunites Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from last year’s triumph Silver Linings Playbook and Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter and creates a fantastic ensemble drama with some stellar powerhouse performances which could see each of the four names above being nominated in the respective acting categories. The film performed really well at the Globes last night, with 3 acting wins and the best picture in a comedy/musical. O’Russell will probably get directing nominations and I could see it getting make-up and hair noms for its fantastic 70’s do’s.

12 Years a Slave

The true story of a man who is sold into slavery in America has been gaining momentum since the summer, and going into awards season is the frontrunner for Best Film. Chiwetel Ejiofo is also looking like a strong contender for Best Actor (for keen geeks, recognise him from Serenity?), and director Steve McQueen is looking good for a best director nomination.

Dallas Buyers Club

 

Matthew McConaughey further cements his place in serious acting roles with his turn as an AIDS sufferer in the movie, where he famously dropped a tonne of wait for the role – I’m sure he’ll pop up for acting nominations, but faces stiff competition. We can also expect Jared Leto to be in the running for Best Supporting Actor.

Frozen

This animated movie is certain for a nod for Best Original Song and Best Animated movie – it’s a magical movie and beautifully made.

 

Blue is the Warmest Colour

After it gained huge success at the Cannes Film Festival, surely this is one of the frontrunners for Best Foreign Film?

August Osage County

This ensemble cast is led by powerhouses Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep and deals with a dysfunctional family unit. It’s an outsider in terms of the frontrunners, but it looks like a great movie!

Philomena

 

This heart-warming true story could see a fair few acting nominations for Judi Dench who gives a stellar performance.

Her

 

Spike Jones’ film is gaining in its popularity and could see it being nominated for best film but also for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as a man who falls in love with a computerised voice.

Inside Llewyn Davies

 

A film about a young country singer is the dark horse in this year’s awards films; with the film coming from the pot of the Coen brothers, anything is possible. Best Director(s), Best Screenplay are all possible nominations.

Blue Jasmine

 

Woody Allen’s latest film has a banker in its books in the form of Cate Blanchett – she’s an awards machine and is a shoe-in for the Best Actress title. Allen could get Best Director nominations as well as Sally Hawkins receiving Best Supporting Actress nods.

All is Lost

 

This tense drama involved Robert Redford lost at sea, contending with dangerous conditions (basically a slightly different version of Gravity). However, critics are calling this film one of Redford’s finest performances, so don’t be surprised if he receives nominations through the series.

Gravity

This Alfonso Cuarón film was a non-stop tense and magical ride when I saw it a few months ago, and Cuarón’s win at last night’s Globes cements him as one of the favourites to take home the Best Director prizes. Sandra Bullock could also pick up Best Actress nominations.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s latest film about a stock broker who over-drinks, uses drugs, creates debauchery and generally throws money away in a relentless morally corrupt story. Scorsese will probably see plenty of Director nominations, whilst DiCaprio could be the dark horse for Best Actor, particularly after picking up the award at last night’s Globes. Could this finally be his year?

 

The Oscar nominations are announced on Thursday, and until the ceremony on March 2nd, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled on the awards season with keen interest.

 

“I don’t know if anybody’s ever ready for another awards season. It’s kind of like Christmas.” (James McAvoy)

The Following Season 1

Starring Kevin Bacon and created by horror screenwriter legend Kevin Williamson I watched the opening episode of The Following’s first season when it aired this time last year and immediately knew I’d found something great. It was intense, suspenseful and episodes had a cinematic feel to them. I reviewed the early part of the series here and continued to watch the series, hoping that its impressive start would continue.

The series builds around Detective Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and his relationship with the serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy); on his original rampage Carroll attacked Hardy but was captured and sent to prison, whilst Ryan tried to piece his life together. It all came crashing down however when Joe Carroll escaped from prison. Even though he was recaptured quickly, his escape prompted a plan to be set in motion, featuring Joe’s ‘followers’ a group of people who band together because of their obsession with Carroll. It’s intriguing stuff, not to mention creepy and it’s interesting that as well as focusing on Ryan, the show focuses on his followers as well. With the use of flashbacks the show pieces together the period of Carroll’s initial killings to the present day. In the short time he is free, Joe manages to set in motion his plan of making a ‘sequel’ to his story, placing Ryan Hardy in the centre. Carroll obsesses over Hardy because of the fact he was the one that caught him and also because after the case was solved he had an affair with Carroll’s wife Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea).

The main cast bounce off each other brilliantly –Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy have excellent chemistry; you can feel the mutual hatred under the surface and their scenes on screen are electric. Hardy feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, blaming himself for so much and Bacon plays the flawed hero so well. I do love Kevin Bacon as an actor so I’m so happy he’s found a role and a television show that displays his acting abilities. James Purefoy clearly relishes the role of Joe Carroll; he oozes charisma, charm, sophistication – everything you’d expect in a crazed psychotic serial killer. The other supporting cast members include Shawn Ashmore as Agent Mike Weston who helps lead the investigation into Carroll, along with Agent Debra Parker played by Annie Parisse are great support to Hardy and due to Williamson’s knack of killing off his cast of characters with a blink of an eye, their roles are never safe.

The other interesting trio of characters are the initial three main followers of Joe Carroll – Paul, Jacob and Emma (played by Adan Canto, Nico Tortorella and Valerie Curry). Even though the three of them are only together for a few episodes, they make for an intriguing grouping, developing into a power play/love triangle as it turns out Paul and Jacob pretending to be gay developed into something more, whilst Jacob and Emma were actually a couple. The dissent and panic that erupts between the three is brilliant to see unfold.

Other aspects help to make this show fly as well the score is brilliant, helping to build the atmosphere, particularly the end of the episode songs. The show also consistently looks visually great, the constant night time scenes help create the atmospheric tension. Williamson and his team of writers come up with some great twists and turns, helping to keep the show fresh and exciting.

The Following’s second season starts later this month, and I’m more than intrigued to how the show will pick up and continue. The ending saw Joe Carroll supposedly dying in an explosion whilst Ryan and Claire celebrate together. That is soon cut short when one of Joe’s crazed followers, planted as Ryan’s neighbour attacks him and Claire, leaving the series on a cliff-hanger. We know that Ryan is alive, but there are still several strands that are left unsolved; what happened to Claire? Is Joe Carroll really dead? The answers will be found in the season 2 premiere of The Following – I can’t wait!

 

Hardy: The second you get within two feet of me, I’m gonna snap your neck and crack your spine.

Paul: And I’ll shoot you dead.

Hardy: And his spine will be cracked.

Paul: And you’ll be dead.

Hardy: And his spine will be cracked.

(The Following, 1.6 ‘The Fall’)

Under The Dome Season 1

First of all, Happy New Year! I hope everyone had an excellent festive period, whatever you were doing. I so needed a break from work and now it’s almost over and I’m having to face reality again. Unfortunately, my plan to clear up my backlog of posts and catch up on TV and films didn’t fully go to plan but I’ll soon catch up. Anyway, onwards with this new post:

Season 1 of Under the Dome aired over in the US over the summer and aired in the UK a few months later. Based on the novel by Stephen King (something which I’m now intrigued to read) it’s about a normal small town that suddenly has a large solid dome surrounding it, effectively trapping everyone inside.  No one can explain how it got there or how to get rid of it: the towns populous are stuck inside, and soon problems start to arise.

After watching the first season, I’ve come away with a mixture of feelings toward the show, but overall I can see some potential and I’ve mostly enjoyed how the show progressed. There are so many interesting ideas and concepts, and at its core it’s a chance to explore human nature and how people react and change in a time of crisis. However, that’s not to say the show didn’t have its weaknesses

At times there was some bizarre dialogue, as well as strands of the plot that run on far too long or become extremely far-fetched such as when one character remains trapped in a basement for 4 episodes and no one really notices she’s missing. When another character dies, her daughter Norrie goes through the five stages of grief over a 45-minute episode and after that appears mostly fine. Some of the characters get incredibly tedious and annoying rapidly; the four main teenagers discover a mini dome, proclaiming they are its protectors. One of them, Junior (Alexander Koch) is particularly grating – he looks incredibly psychotic and actually is a bit unhinged –he locked Angie in the basement and constantly obsesses about her. His relationship with his father is also a messed up one; he looks to make his dad proud, whereas his dad uses his son when he’s needed and tries to pollute his mind later on.

Speaking of Junior’s father, let’s move on to the positives; in certain episodes the show really is on point, mixing typical dramas with the added pressure and reality that the town is now facing. The law enforcement soon loses control, and is constantly fighting to regain it, with help from civilians which ultimately causes power controls to break out. In one character, this control ultimately develops into a web of lies. Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) is a typical town big shot – everyone knows who he is and he doesn’t seem to put a foot wrong: the typical Mr Nice Guy. However, under the surface he has a huge hidden agenda, putting himself on a pedestal by leading the town in various missions or acts but by force and pressure rather than democracy. He relishes the power and the way he can manipulate people, and by the back 4/5 episodes he unravels significantly towards the end, experiencing more delusions of grandeur, feeding his ego. He becomes the selling point of this series and is brilliantly played by Norris. On –screen the audience are treated to the disintegration of a town big shot into the villain inside.

Also of note is Mike Vogel and Rachel LeFevre who play Barbie and Julia respectively; they develop a friendship and subsequently a relationship, despite the fact that Barbie killed Julia’s husband (although this was before he had met Julia – another strange decision the show makes). Barbie is supposed to be the opposing element of Big Jim, flawed as he is the hired gun but a hero nonetheless. And it helps that Mike Vogel is quite attractive.

Under the Dome is an intriguing drama; the sub-plots of the egg and the dome’s strange activities act as secondary elements to what the drama tries to explore – how people behave during a crisis. As I said at the start, this show does have potential and by the end of the run of episodes I was enjoying it a lot more. I’ll be going back when Season 2 begins in the US this summer, with the opening episode being written by horror author Stephen King. However, whether I’ll stick with this series will depend on whether they can build on the positives and work on the negatives.

“You’re a sick bastard! And one day everyone’s gonna know it. And they’re gonna smile when you die” (Dodi, Under the Dome, 1.12)

Smurfs 2

Everyone’s favourite small blue people were back this year in another feature length sequel again bringing back Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and Hank Azaria as the human friends of the friendly Smurfs. The original remake of the Smurfs a few years ago was enjoyable with some comedic moments, so was this sequel going to recreate the magic?

Unfortunately, like the fate of many sequels, this film only has half the appealing charm the first one had. It’s got the same caper qualities complete with a good feel message about belonging to a family and how those that love you are your family and it’s not necessarily your biological one. However the jokes are just not as funny as the previous and it all gets tiresome quickly.

Even Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and the addition of Brendan Gleeson can’t rescue this film. The main comedic point from the last film was Gargamel and Azrael the cat and whilst they do provide a bit, most of the jokes fall flat. This is a film that kids will probably appreciate and quite enjoy but the adults will wish they were anywhere but watching this film.

Papa Smurf: It doesn’t matter where you came from. What matters is who you choose to be.