Immersive and all consuming – Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas (2013)

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski »
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen by), Tom Tykwer (written for the screen by), and Andy Wachowski (written for the screen by)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant

The thing that makes this 3 hour extravaganza captivating and able to hold one’s imagination and attention for such a lengthy period of time is the perfect balancing of story peaks and troughs. Through each scene there is a sense of intrigue, mystery, and interconnectedness that helps you piece each story together. Not knowing how each will end but wanting to know how each life affects the others is part of the journey of this film.

I haven’t read the novel but I intend to. Mainly because I’m fascinated to see how the tension is built in written form because it works so perfectly in the film. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer have taken Mitchell’s story and transported it onto screen so that it stands alone as a fascinating visual journey. Through editing, careful scripting and the soundtrack scoring, the peaks are powerful and come at the perfect moments in each sequence. The audience isn’t treated as unintelligent and being pushed and prodded through the complexities of the story. This film seeks to challenge our thinking. It is the reason why I think people won’t like Cloud Atlas, but I hope my pessimism is proved wrong because the challenge is worth the work.

There have been few moments in my life when I have been so captivated by a story in film that my entire body reacts to what is happening on screen. I can watch a film and do twenty other things at the same time and be able to tell you what it was about. But this film, oh my, this film transported me. It immersed me so fully and completely in its world that my mind, body, and spirit was involved in this film to the extent that I was left at the end of the film with an emptiness I can hardly describe. I wanted to watch it again immediately. I wanted to explore the world more fully, I wanted to know the characters more completely, and I wanted to escape again into the world of Cloud Atlas.

I could talk about the actors, the great prosthetics, the fantastic special effects, the comedy of the old people, the language of the tribal people, but I would be here all day. Instead I would like to leave you with the desire to see this film because of the experience I had in it. I know that everyone’s experience with this film will be different. It’s like the first time you hear that song that transfixes you and you replay it over and over because you’ve fallen in love with it, but you’ll never reclaim that first imagining, that first experience. Cloud Atlas is an immersive and all consuming cinematic experience that you should experience for yourself. Be captivated.

4/5

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And now for something a little bit different – QI

QI - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

QI – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

QI (2003-)

Stars: Stephen Fry and Alan Davies

There are few shows that I can watch by myself and find myself laughing out loud. QI is one of those rare shows that never fails to be both freaking hilarious and informative. I am constantly amazed at how much I find myself giggling as I sit on my bed watching it on my laptop. There is something wonderful about comedians revealing their intelligence and the way their wonderful minds work. Of course then you realise the reason they are such good comedians is because they do know quite a bit about the world and thus can find what is truly funny about it.

QI, which stands for Quite Interesting, is a “game show” for the intellectuals. It is comprised of questions relating to all different aspects of the world. From Astonomy to the Immortal Bard to Zoology and Agriculture. It covers a myriad of ideas and facts and corrects the general ignorance of the world one episode at a time. Along with these weird and wonderful facts there is the weird and wonderful guests that grace the desk of QI with Stephen Fry and Alan Davies every week. They are mostly British comedians with a few extras thrown in for good measure. They compete for you knows the most interesting things and who is least taken by the myths that are spread by the general public.

My favourite thing by far about this show is Alan Davies. He is the representative of the world on QI. And as much as Stephen Fry would like to prove him to be an idiot, I think he is the one who shows the most humility and hilarity. He represents the public and helps us to know that we aren’t just all stupid, but simply ill-informed.

If you haven’t seen QI I would really recommend it. It is a fun show and you will giggle and learn at the same time, what could be bad about that!?

Laughing with someone makes it all bearable – Ted

Ted - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Ted – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Ted (2012)

Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writers: Seth MacFarlane (story & screenplay), and Alen Sulkin (screenplay), and Wellesley Wild (screenplay)
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Seth MacFarlane

There is something beautiful about going and seeing a film for free when you don’t expect it, and seeing it with a friend who could came along at the last minute and who is a joy to be around. This was the circumstance that I found myself in when I saw Ted tonight. My friend Lizzie and I rocked up to see an Australian film (The Sapphires – review to come soon, when I get around to seeing it – out August 10) but the cinema had booked a smaller cinema than the distributer had requested and so we were given the option of seeing a different film. Lizzie and I decided on Ted because we had both seen the other option offered. I hadn’t planned to see Ted, mainly because it’s not my usual type of film. I’m not a huge fan of crass and gross humour and not a fan of Mila Kunis and so the only selling point for me was Mark Wahlberg. But with all the negatives I held up against this film I actually found it very funny and enjoyable.

Let me say that I really think that whether you like a film or not depends on both the quality of the film and also the environment in which you see it, especially who you see it with. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this movie as much if I had seen it on my own or with some of my other friends. And that is no criticism on them, it is just a simple fact of being able to enjoy something a little bit different at a fun moment in the day after a bit of disappointment and just rolling with it.

Ted is the story of a boy who makes a wish when he is 8 for his Teddy Bear to be a real friend. It is a sweet premise and overall I really loved the idea of a man being so connected with a childhood friend that they are still friends thirty years later. The faithfulness, the loyalty, and the bond between Ted and John are really quite beautiful in a lot of ways. And then the adult Ted kicks in, and well that’s when it turns a little chaotic. There are some moments in Ted which were gross and I cringed a little bit at them, but there were also some very clever lines and in-jokes (especially for those who know of Seth McFarlane) and it was these moments that I laughed at most. There were also just a lot of little moments of real silliness that was just plain humourous.

Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis’ performances were stellar but the best performance has to go to Ryan Reynolds. His cameo performance is pure genius. There is a wonderful understated nature to a lot of little moments in this film that make it incredibly funny for our generation but it is also one of those things that mean in ten or twenty years time will go unnoticed and unappreciated. I know that not everyone will love this film but if you have enjoyed popular culture over the last ten years you will probably enjoy this film at least a little bit.

I still stand by my original stance that I would not have seen this film if I had to pay for it but I am really glad I saw it. Seth McFarlane has created a great filmic balance between humour and endearment which leaves you with a positive feeling as you giggle your way out the cinema door. It is this balance that makes it an enjoyable film and it is the endearment that balances out the crass humour which makes it more bearable than other some other similar comedies.

A Unexpected Underdog – The Adventures of Merlin

Merlin - Poster from IMDB.com

Merlin – Poster from IMDB.com

The Adventures of Merlin (2008)

Creators: Julian Jones, Julian Murphy, Johnny Capps, Jake Michie
Stars: John Hurt, Colin Morgan and Bradley James

I wasn’t going to watch this show when it first started on TV but I ended up watching it, like everything I watch, because someone said I might like it and it had an Irish actor in it. So I started watching and then kept watching and haven’t stopped.

I was never very interested in magic, magicians, witches or anything like that as a kid and I totally missed the Harry Potter faze that most of my friend’s went through growing up. I was however a lover of the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Growing up I really enjoyed the Sword In The Stone and the tale of a poor young boy who was actually the King of Camelot, proven for his character more than his birth right. I love a good underdog story and so when I worked out that this was a King Arthur tale I was in.

Now from saying the above you would think that I would’ve been quite disappointed with the adaptation of Merlin, however the first episode really grabbed me because instead of Arthur being the underdog, it was Merlin. The character of Merlin and his noble cause of seeking to stand up for the rights of those who were undermined and disadvantaged was one that really appealed to me. The cheesy humour and character relationships didn’t hurt either.

Colin Morgan who plays Merlin is an outstanding young actor and his innocence, naivety, and compassion are abounding as Merlin. He brings a real earthiness and humility to the character which makes him a likable underdog. There is a fragility to his physique that makes him the perfect young wizard and also makes him believably strong in mind and heart. It is this heart of the character which is the core of this show. It is about how he struggles to help and protect those who cannot protect themselves and it is his battle with the arrogance of Prince Arthur (Bradley James) and his connection with him that helps create the conflict needed for the narrative.

The creators and writers of the show have really made the show develop and succeed through it’s twisting of the myth and although it holds the mythology well in it’s narrative there is also a lot more depth to it created by the conflict with the characters and the secrets of the past that come to light over the seasons. The playfulness of the the first season slowly becomes less prominent as the story continues and as more people turn evil, however it remains within the realm of “family entertainment” for the most part. The youthfulness of the lead actors and the growing up that they experience over the course of the show has made it appealing for both children and adults alike.

The latter seasons although a bit darker are also more interesting as the relationships between the characters develop. The rival of Morgana and Emerys (old version of Merlin, still played by Colin Morgan and is incredibly convincing as an old man, it’s actually a little concerning how well he acts this role, awe-inspiringly good acting) and the love between Arthur and Gwen start to give a new depth to the story.

The battle between good and evil continues and the wisdom to know the difference is something that drives the characters in this show as well as the idea of duty and responsibility which for our day and age is an interesting one to explore. We don’t have the same sense of duty as they did previously however this show deals with the subject in a balanced manner which shows both the ill and the blessing of fulfilling duty and destiny.

I really like this show for many reasons but mainly because of Colin Morgan’s superb acting in every episode. He is mesmerising on screen and brings Merlin to life in the best way possible. His compassion and strength as Merlin is gripping and his journey through the story is riveting.

This show isn’t for everyone, it is fantasy and can be a bit cheesy at points. It requires a bit of suspension of reality and you have to allow yourself to be taken back in time but if you can live with the fantastical nature of the show it is a beautiful show to watch.

From A Genius Comes A Genius – Sherlock

Sherlock - Poster from IMDB.com

Sherlock – Poster from IMDB.com

Sherlock (2010)

Creators:Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Stars:Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Una Stubbs

I have been in awe of Stephen Moffat’s writing for a while now. I loved Press Gang when I was growing up and still remember watching it with my parents. I belly-laughed until it hurt at Couplings when I discovered it and consumed it like there was no tomorrow. Then when I worked out that he was the one responsible for the episode “Blink” on Doctor Who I took my Moffat appreciation to a whole other level of obsession. There was something about the way he constructed a story, intertwined the characters, and provided a script that held secrets that I don’t think even he realised were in there that I still sit shocked to realise. The complexity of the arching narrative, the detail in the little moments between characters, and the genuine nature of the dialogue between his creations is what makes it compelling to watch.

When it was announced that Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss would be collaborating to bring Sherlock to the small screen I couldn’t wait to see what they produced. Both geniuses in their own right, their collaboration was always set to bring forth a truly delightful television experience. And they delivered with Sherlock.

I wonder how many people have read the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. I for one have and I have loved them for a while now. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and I loved the wackiness of Sherlock’s character in the books. To bring the character into the 21st Century though is a challenging task because of the traditional investigatory paths that the original Sherlock had and the advancement of technology nowadays. I would never have thought to make Sherlock tech-savvy and that is probably why Moffat and Gatiss are the geniuses and I am not.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are brilliant characters brought to life by Moffat and Gatiss’ scripts and by the superb acting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The chemistry between the two men is inspiring and they explore a new angle of the relationship in a lot of ways. There is of course a lot of the original essence of the weird friendship there but it is a lot more complex and has a new depth that the original novels lack to convey. From the moment the two characters are introduced there is a spark of wonder that is the catalyst for the rest of the show. It is a moment that shows so much of what is to come in a simple minute of the film. The arrogance and charisma of Sherlock and the insecurity and rationality of John combine to drag you into these men’s journey together and which compels you to keep watching.

The show is slow moving and long for the most part but the quick speeches of Sherlock balance the investigating and experimental processes that are combined in his work. He reads rooms, people, scenes quickly but takes the time to make sure he sees the details as well. This makes the show roll on in a good pace and gives you time to take in what Sherlock has discovered in a quick minute of walking around a room. This pace allows the characters to develop and allows the relationships between the characters to be fleshed out more carefully. As the audience it is hard not to feel like you are taking the perspective of John Watson just like in the books and it allows you the perspective to journey along as an observer as John is for the most part.

The cleverness of the on screen text and the processing of information is one of the highlights of this show. I get giddy when they do something fun and new like that and it makes me excited for all the twists and turns that Moffat will provide in the narrative. It is small things from the text to Mrs Hudson’s one liners in the episodes that make this show really amazing. Moffat and Gatiss have made a show that will be rewatched over and over again and get the fan sites buzzing with theories on the how and whys of the show.

It will be a special and exciting moment when the third season finally airs and we find out how Sherlock escaped death and I can not wait for that moment!

I really recommend you spend the time watching this show. They are long episodes (90minutes) but every minute is worth it and it gets way better the further into the show you get. This is a fantastic show because of the writing and acting and production. Watch it!