Monday, 31 December 2012

Most anticipated films of 2013


Happy New Year's Eve everyone!

2013 is shaping up to be a good year for blockbusters and dramas. I've compiled a list of films I'm looking forward to seeing next year. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

10 most anticipated films of 2013 in no particular order:

The Great Gatsby - So much hype. Hopefully it's worth it. Such a classic book and Baz has assembled a great cast so he's half way there already.

Django Unchained - Tarantino and Leo together at last. It was released in the US on Christmas Day and has been doing very well. I'm expecting great things.

Gangster Squad - Looks like so much fun. I get excited every time I see the trailer.



The Wolverine - It promises a lot. I hope it can deliver especially since the previous Wolverine film had so many mixed reviews.

Safe Haven - I'm a sucker for Nicholas Sparks novels so I have high hopes for this film despite recent disappointments of film adaptations of his books.

Oz: The Great and Powerful - The trailers look good. Fantastic cast lined up for this film too.



A Good Day To Die Hard - Just because I miss John Maclane.

Iron Man 3 - Any excuse to watch Robert Downey Jr being swauve and cool is good.

Jobs - I'm still wondering whether Ashton Kutcher can act. This will be the test.

Life Of Pi - A lot of people who have already seen this film have said they loved it. It opens on New Year's Day in Australia and should be a success.




Honourable mentions:

Thor: The Dark World - The first film was a surprise success and Chris Hemsworth was fantastic in The Avengers. It should be good to see Thor back in action.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - The first film took too long to establish itself but came together quite nicely in the end. The sequel should be equally as visually stunning and fans of the novel will know the story gets more interesting too.

Inside Llewyn Davis - Not a blockbuster, but this looks like an interesting film. It's no secret I champion Garrett Hedlund as an actor so I'm looking forward to this one.

12 Years a Slave - Michael Fassbender reunites with Steve McQueen and brings Brad Pitt along for the ride. I'm expecting a lot of intensity from this film.

 
Then there are films I am interested to see but hold some trepidation:

Anna Karenina - I'm fairly certain the worst actress in the world (Keira Knightley) will ruin it for me just as she ruined Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. But I'm hoping I will be wrong.

World War Z - After so much great work from Brad Pitt in 2011, he hit a couple of stumbling points in 2012, especially with that Chanel No. 5 ad. People are already hating this film before anyone has even seen it. Let's hope it's not as bad as we all dread.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - Many enjoyed the first film, but have they waited too long for the sequel?






Sunday, 23 December 2012

Best and Worst Films of 2012


It's annoying when films that were released in the United States in 2011 don't get released in Australia until early 2012. So, a few of these films were part of last year's Oscar buzz.

Top 10 best films of 2012:

1) Les Miserables – One of the world's most beloved stage musicals has finally been adapted well onto film. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway should win Oscars for their performances.

2) The Artist – There's a reason it won best picture at the Oscars.




3) The Avengers – After several disappointing superhero films of late, writer/director Joss Whedon finally showed the world what a real superhero film should be. A flawless film.

4) Hugo – This is essentially Martin Scorcese's love letter to cinema. It's beautiful.




5) Argo – Based on a true story, this film is exciting and bizarre. Hollywood helped the US and Canadian governments rescue people trapped in Iran during political turmoil? Really? Amazing.

6) The Dark Knight Rises – A great conclusion to Christopher Nolan's epic Batman franchise. But is it too late for fans to demand more films? They're all so good.




7) Carnage – Hilarious; easily the best comedy of the year. I never thought watching Kate Winslet throw up could be so entertaining.

8) Looper – Mind blowing and entertaining, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fantastic and Bruce Willis is his usual tough guy self.




9) The Intouchables – Yes it's a foreign film, a French film in fact, but I promise it's worth seeing. A funny, sweet and sincere story with an unusual bromance between a quadriplegic and a man from the wrong side of the tracks.

10) The Way – A beautiful, heartfelt and unconventional road trip film. Very moving and the cinematography is stunning. A passion project for Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen.





Notable mentions:

J Edgar – An underrated film. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic and this film offers a rare insight into the life of one of America's most secretive, feared and respected men.

The Descendants – Daggy Clooney is almost unheard of and Daddy Clooney is definitely unheard of but we get both in this film. Great performances and great cinematography.

On The Road – Garrett Hedlund stole the show. I almost believed he was Dean Moriarty. It's a shame he has been overlooked for awards. Die hard fans of the book will always have some scepticism of the film but the cast helps make this film a winner.




Lawless – Two words. Tom Hardy. Amazing performances from all the leads. This film is a fun and gruesome look at the prohibition era.

Shame – Unique and complex, with a powerful performance from Michael Fassbender.

Bully – Interesting documentary that should encourage further debate about how to tackle bullying.




Top 10 disappointments of 2012:

1) The Master – Easily the most overrated film of the year. Nothing engaging about this tale.

2) Mental – Worst Australian film of the year in what was a pretty bad year for Australian films. Missed the mark completely and was quite offensive.

3) The Darkest Hour – Felt like it went on for several hours. Nothing scary about this film. Just lame.

4) Wrath of the Titans – Sam Worthington said he wanted to make this film to improve on the first film. Clearly, he failed.

5) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – As ridiculous as its title would suggest.

6) Rock Of Ages – So cringe worthy I laughed in the first minute. Talk about butchering 80's rock music.

7) Wuthering Heights – Painfully slow and disappointingly only told half the story of the classic novel.

8) Man On A Ledge – The title sums it up, really. Not a good year for Sam Worthington.

9) A Little Bit of Heaven – Who thought it would be a good idea to make a romantic comedy about a dying woman?

10) Alex Cross – You know it's a bad film when you can't even sympathise with a protagonist who has lost someone he loves.


What are your hit and miss films of the year?

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Les Miserables


WRITTEN BY: William Nicholson
DIRECTED BY: Tom Hooper
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfriend, Eddie Redmayne
RATING: 5 stars

It is the unfortunate fact that many musical theatre productions fail to be successfully adapted to film. There are certain things that work on stage that do not work on film. Les Miserables is one of the most iconic musicals in history delving into themes of love, compassion, redemption, justice, human rights and courage. Thanks to the genius of Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), audiences can finally enjoy a masterpiece musical on film.

Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel and the musical theatre production, Les Miserables is set in 19th Century France just after the revolution. Prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison after 19 years but is soon hunted by ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. Valjean is able to turn his life around and become an entrepreneur and mayor. He agrees to care for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of factory worker turned prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) but Valjean and Cosette are forced to live their lives on the run as Javert continues to track them down. Meanwhile, Cosette shares a romance with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), much to the heartache of Eponine (Samantha Barks) who pines for him. Plus, a group of young men, including Marius, plan a political rebellion.

There are several things that audiences must be aware of before they see this film. First, there is hardly any spoken dialogue. Almost every line is sung and the actors did it live on camera – there was no lip syncing to a recorded track. It works fantastically, and while some have been critical of Hooper's style of camera work, I enjoyed it. Also, the film is quite long, running close to three hours, but the time flies quickly with the complex plot sure to keep you interested.

Valjean is one of the most heroic characters ever created in literature. Although I've seen the theatre production several times and own a copy of the original soundtrack, it's hard even for me to imagine anyone else being able to pull off a performance more convincing than Jackman who lost so much weight and spent much of his time displaying vast emotions through facial expressions. It really is the role he was born to play and if he doesn't win an Academy Award, the voters are blind. Hathaway is equally powerful and should also win an Oscar. I cried watching her sing I Dreamed A Dream with heartfelt pain. Crowe is not as vocally strong as his counterparts but is very menacing in his role, while Redmayne again brought tears to my eyes when he sang Empty Chairs At Empty Tables and Seyfried was also quite moving.

Many actors who portrayed characters on stage have taken on roles in the film, including a small but beautiful performance from Colm Wilkinson who plays the bishop. He played Valjean in the original London and New York stage productions. Barks also reprised her stage role as Eponine and again the tears flowed when she sang On My Own. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are also entertaining as the Thenardiers and provide some much needed laughs to break up the misery without interfering with the flow.

I can't say enough how much I loved this film. Hooper has assembled an amazing cast to do the book and the stage musical justice.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

WRITTEN BY: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro
DIRECTED BY: Peter Jackson
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett
RATING: 3.5 stars


Orcs, trolls, elves, wizards, giant spiders and dwarves are just some of the mythical wonders we encounter in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I was 12 years old when I read the book (known as The Hobbit and also There And Back Again) and immediately embraced the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien. So, I was quite excited to see this film and I'm happy to say that fans of the book will probably enjoy it. The film stays relatively true to the novel but director/co-writer Peter Jackson has taken some liberties with it. I suppose he had to considering the film is the first of a trilogy and the book is only about 250 pages long. There just isn't enough material like there was for his previous The Lord of The Rings trilogy. However, the way he has added more characters and substance to the story works because he brings characters from his previous films to please fans of that trilogy and link the franchises together quite nicely.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes place about 60 years before Frodo (Elijah Wood) began his quest to return the "precious" ring in The Lord of The Rings. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) enjoys a simple life until wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) chooses him to help 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. It is during this adventurous journey that Bilbo meets Gollum (Andy Serkis) and discovers the ring.

Even though I knew what was coming in the plot, it only made me frustrated at how slow-moving the first 45 minutes were. It took far too long to establish itself with a drawn out dinner scene with Bilbo and the dwarves. Anyone not familiar with the story was probably even more bored and wondering how they were going to stay awake for the next few hours. But, once the story was finally set up, the plot moved a little quicker and was at least consistently action-packed with adventure and entertaining battle scenes. The film, like the book, is a lot lighter, funnier and child-friendly than The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Having said that, some of the creatures may still be scary for young children, so keep that in mind. The film is also visually stunning. If there's one thing Jackson knows how to do, it's create beautiful cinema. The 48 frames per second 3D effects were also top notch and it's worth paying a little extra to see it in 3D. Some may find it a little uncomfortable at first, but most will quickly adjust and enjoy the 3D technology.

The scene where we meet Gollum is probably my favourite. It's creepy, hilarious and fun to watch. Serkis is wonderful. Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee all reprise their roles too and there is also a few other cameos. Ian McKellen is as entertaining as ever returning as Gandalf and Freeman is a great choice to play Bilbo. Armitage is also convincing in his performance as the heroic yet arrogant and pained Thorin. Unfortunately, the film doesn't develop some of its characters enough, especially Thorin's fellow dwarves. There are so many of them and few have any real personality.

While I still have my reservations about the length of the film, which is nearly three hours, I still enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I'm not sure how Jackson will sustain two more films that are around the same length, but we shall wait and see.



 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

This Is 40

WRITTEN BY: Judd Apatow
DIRECTED BY: Judd Apatow
STARRING: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox
RATING: 3 stars


I'm going to warn you now, like every other Judd Apatow film, This Is 40 suffers from being too long. I don't know how long film fans will have to whinge before Apatow employs someone to help him edit his films more effectively. Like his other comedy/dramas (Knocked Up and Funny People) This Is 40 is an enjoyable film and strikes a good balance between believable real life humour and every day dramas. It's just unnecessarily long. About 100 minutes into the film I was feeling fulfilled with the story and thinking Apatow may start to uncharacteristically wrap things up so the film may be a more standard length. Instead, he introduced a spanner in the works that dragged the story out further. This Is 40 is one of the better Apatow films, but it still has it flaws.

This Is 40 sees the return of peripheral Knocked Up characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they struggle with turning 40 and raising two children. Debbie refuses to admit she is aging, while Pete is distracted with trying to make enough money working in a self-indulgent job that is getting him nowhere. The family is facing bankruptcy but Pete doesn't want Debbie to know. Meanwhile, they deal with every day dramas with their children Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow) who are constantly fighting with each other.

What makes the film so enjoyable is its cast. Rudd is so lovable in his own goofy and quirky kind of way. He's the kind of actor who is attractive enough to be a leading man but then he makes a fart joke and you realise he's far more comfortable making audiences laugh at and with him. Mann is also impressive and seems to feel most at ease and perhaps most like herself in this film. But the stand out performers are Mann and Apatow's children, Maude and Iris, who obviously enjoyed acting with their mother and even getting to argue with her on screen. They are very funny and entertaining to watch. Melissa McCarthy also has a small but memorable role as a parent of another child at the school. Be sure to watch the credits for some great improvisation from her. Jason Segel is also very funny as Debbie's personal trainer, while Megan Fox spends most of her time prancing around and being sexy. I'm fairly certain that is all she is capable of doing as an actress and she should probably just stick to roles like this. John Lithgow and Albert Brooks are also good, playing two very different types of fathers-in-law. For all its length though, the film didn't have enough of Chris O'Dowd who is always a delight to watch.

The main issue I think many people will have with the film, other than the length, is that the characters are only mildly likeable and are often a little annoying. Debbie is a nagging wife and acts like she's in high school at times, often sneaking off for a secret cigarette break. Pete is also not very "grown-up" for an adult. You have to wonder at times how this couple managed to raise two children and have a happy marriage for so many years when they fight so much and seem to hardly know each other in some scenes, like when they debate music tastes. Surely that debate happened years earlier in their relationship? Having said that, there is some very good dialogue and witty moments that remind you of how clever Apatow can be. It is these moments that save the film from being a disaster.

Fans of Apatow's previous work will probably enjoy This Is 40. Everyone else will probably be too busy dealing with their own lives to want to bother being sucked into the lives of Pete and Debbie.

 


 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Paris-Manhattan

WRITTEN BY: Sophie Lellouche
DIRECTED BY: Sophie Lellouche
STARRING: Alice Taglioni, Patrick Bruel, Marine Delterme, Michel Aumont
RATING: 2.5 stars


There are a lot of things to like about the French romantic comedy Paris-Manhattan. There are some very funny moments, outrageous ideas and quirky fun. Unfortunately, all those small nuggets of entertainment don't come together in a cohesive story. While the film is only about 80 minutes long, it felt like it was dragging on in parts. There simply wasn't enough to the plot. Debut writer/director Sophie Lellouche has made an ambitious effort, and while the film is quite good, it's not good enough.

Alice (Alice Taglioni) is an pharmacist in her 30's whose choices in life and love are influenced entirely by her favourite filmmaker, Woody Allen. When her family sets her up with Victor (Patrick Bruel) they hope he will help her get over her obsession, but getting Alice to grow up and face reality proves harder than any of them thought.

It seems like Lellouche has tried to write a story like Allen would. Perhaps that is where she has gone wrong. She tries to infuse intellectual philosophies into the film through the protagonists, but doesn't do it as effortlessly or convincingly as Allen. Having said that, there are some entertaining references to Allen's films that fans of his work will enjoy and some good laughs in several memorable comedic scenes. The cinematography is also enjoyable. It captures "real" France as opposed to a typical tourist postcard. It's still beautiful, but it's not full of Paris highlights as you would often see to entice international viewers to a French film.

Taglioni is a good leading lady. She's gorgeous but also believably dorky in some ways. The role suits her. Bruel is perhaps a little too old to play his character but he is charming in a very French sort of way. They are supported by Alice's sister played by Marine Delterme whose character is full of surprises, and Michel Aumont who plays Alice's father. The veteran actor is hilarious in this film.

If you do see this film at the cinema, make sure you stay awake for the final act - there's a very good cameo.


 
 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Liberal Arts


WRITTEN BY: Josh Radnor
DIRECTED BY: Josh Radnor
STARRING: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro
RATING: 3.5 stars

Liberal Arts is a love story between two unlikely people who not so much fall in love with each other, but rather fall in love with each other's intellect. They share a love of classical music and literature. One is on the cusp of growing up and the other is trying to ignore the fact that he should be a grown up. As with any pseudo-intellectual film, parts come off as pretentious, but Josh Radnor, of How I Met Your Mother fame, has written, directed, co-produced and starred in a film that is essentially poignant, sincere, witty and almost whimsical. There are problems with the story, but it's such a sweet film and an interesting take on the coming of age concept that you can almost forgive its flaws.

Jesse Fisher (Radnor) is a 35-year-old college admissions officer in New York who returns to his old college in Ohio to celebrate the retirement of his favourite professor Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins). Jesse has a romantic view of how college was and can't seem to move on. While there, he meets a 19-year-old undergraduate named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) and the two hit it off. As their weekend together draws to a close, Zibby makes Jesse a CD of classical music and they soon begin writing letters to each other. Eventually, a romance blossoms despite Jesse's better judgement regarding their age difference.

Aside from the romance, the restriction of age is a central theme of the story. Jesse obsesses about the age difference between him and Zibby, while her youth means Zibby still has no idea how to live beyond the walls of her college grounds. Meanwhile, Professor Hoberg is worried that his decision to retire means he's getting too old and doesn't know what to do with himself. He says to Jesse that no one feels like an adult and everyone wants to feel like they are 19 forever. It's a bitter-sweet examination of age.

The film references everything from Beethoven to Chaucer. There are also some not so subtle references to David Foster Wallaces' Infinite Jest and even Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series as the protagonists debate taste. It's a very funny scene and the kind of pretentious debate that book geeks, like me, will enjoy. You almost want to join their conversation. I also liked the scene in which Jesse literally does the maths on a notepad working out their age gap. There is also some great cinematography and beautiful montages of New York and the university campus with classical music playing in the background. It helps create that whimsical feeling.

Jesse is only slightly similar to Radnor's famous character on How I Met Your Mother. Nonetheless, he gives a strong performance and was removed enough that I never felt like I was watching Ted Moseby. Olsen gives another powerful performance, following on from Martha Marcy May Marlene. In many ways, her character is wise and intellectual beyond her years, until her teenage breakdown and naivety are revealed. Zac Efron does not have billing in the film but still has a memorable role. In fact, it is my favourite Efron performance. His character, Nat, is sort of a hippie who keeps bumping into Jesse late at night on the campus grounds and is very funny. Allison Janney barely utters a word until her final two scenes but she almost steals the film. She's wonderfully hilarious as a cold-hearted and bitter professor of English literature. Jenkins is also emotive and John Magaro portrays a troubled, young literature lover very well.

Liberal Arts is a cute independent film full of heart. It's worth a look.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

WRITTEN BY: Stephen Chbosky
DIRECTED BY: Stephen Chbosky
STARRING: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Nina Dobrev
RATING: 3.5 stars


"We accept the love we think we deserve." If that isn’t one of the most beautifully heartbreaking quotes in film history, I don’t know what is. Love is the central theme in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, but not in a sappy and over-used way. It's about the various types of love we receive from friends, family, teachers and strangers, and how that demonstration of love shapes us during our formative years. While I had a lot of problems with this coming of age tale, including a lot of unresolved questions by the end of it, the more I reflect on the film, the more I like it. The Perks of Being A Wallflower tried to cover a lot of issues including suicide, molestation, first kisses, first sexual experiences, mental health issues, drugs and sexuality, as well as the usual high school themes of fitting in, prom and exams. It does all of this to varying degrees of success in a raw, uninhibited and emotional way.

Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, who adapted the screenplay from his own novel, Perks of Being A Wallflower is set around 1991 and centres on three protagonists. Charlie (Logan Lerman) has a lot of issues we aren't too sure about in the beginning, suffice to say he has some serious mental health issues after the deaths of two people he is close to in separate incidents - one in a suicide and one in an accident. A third problem is later revealed that will make you wonder how Charlie is not even more screwed up. He meets step-brother/sister duo Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who introduce Charlie to a whole new world of friends, parties and music - including the much beloved 90's mixed tapes. Patrick seems confident and irreverent but is actually an outsider, nicknamed Nothing, and struggling with a gay relationship in which his partner will not admit he is gay. Sam was once promiscuous but is now trying to straighten her life and focus on furthering her studies. The film chronicles a year in the life of the trio as they bond and try to find their path.

The performances from the leads are very convincing. Miller, who scared me in We Need To Talk About Kevin, is equally as emotive in this film and almost stole every scene with his wit. I have no interest in ever watching a Harry Potter film, but Watson certainly seems to be taking her career in a vastly different direction with this role. She is sassy and strong but also has some emotional scenes. Lerman is also very strong. His character is quiet, awkward and troubled, which are difficult things to convey with such little dialogue (aside from his voice over letters in which he says a lot) but he does a great job of encouraging sympathy. Paul Rudd has a small but pivotal role as Charlie's english teacher, showing how important it is to have good teachers to shape a teenager's life. Meanwhile, Dylan McDermott is quite funny in his small role as Charlie's father.

What makes The Perks of Being A Wallflower worthwhile is that it is quirky, heartfelt, honest and unique. Children of the 70's and 80's will also enjoy the pop culture references including the Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Smiths and David Bowie. At times the film is very funny but also takes a very dark turn. Obviously, it is a story dear to Chbosky's heart. Unfortunately, I felt cheated that we never learn the full story about Charlie's past, but I suppose what we do learn is enough to get the point. I liken the film to a modern day Heathers, though perhaps it is not quite as convincing.


 
 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Skyfall


WRITTEN BY: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
DIRECTED BY: Sam Mendes
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes
RATING: 3.5 stars

Even if you're not a James Bond fan, if you like action films, the chances are you will like Skyfall. I've never been a big Bond fan, though I have seen many of the films. After a while, they all start to blend into one and aren't all that memorable to those who are not die-hard Bond fans. But, what makes Skyfall so good for regular film goers, as well as the dedicated fans, is that it is not as gimmicky and lame in its sense of humour as the other films, although it does have a few thrown in there to keep the typical Bond theme going. Also, Bond is not as perfect as he has been in previous films. In fact, I can think of only one other Bond film in which our hero gets shot – and that's not a spoiler. So, in many ways we have a more believable hero. Having said that, Bond still does some super human, extraordinary things, of course.

Skyfall begins big and gets bigger. Bond's (Daniel Craig) loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is put to the test when her past comes back to haunt her, threatening MI6. Silva (Javier Bardem) is smarter than most villains and has a personal vendetta against M. Bond, who is battling against his aging and injured body to save MI6, is forced down an unconventional path that sees him return to his childhood roots as he strives to protect M and MI6.

It took Oscar winning director Sam Mendes to make me enjoy a Bond film as more than just cheesy action fun. He delivers fantastic fight sequences and two exciting train scenes. He also paces the plot well and keeps the action going. The only problem is that after two hours I was ready for it to end and it went on for about another half an hour. It didn't really need to be that long. I also enjoyed learning more about Bond's childhood. Writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have gone to great lengths to give Bond a back story that can be further developed with future films. In the same way that Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise, it seems with this third instalment of the Craig-led Bond films we're getting a fuller story as well as some exciting thrills. It's no wonder Skyfall is already breaking box office records in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

The performances were also quite good. Bardem is creepy, weird and sexually ambiguous in his villainous role. He was almost like a flamboyant Hannibal Lecter meets the Joker. Dench is also stellar, finally getting an opportunity to make M a full-fledged and interesting character. It has been cruel to under-utilise her in previous films. Craig is also good and I think critics of the “blonde Bond” will finally be convinced of his abilities, though he's still not my favourite Bond. The supporting cast including Naomie Harris as fellow spy Eve, Ralph Fiennes as M's boss and Berenice Lim Marlohe as the sexy Severine are also good.

My main problem with the film was with the over the top product placement. “What was that?” M asks referring to a loud crashing noise. “VW Beetles,” replies Eve. Really? Was that necessary? We did see the cars crashing; we don't need to be told what type of car they are. What happened to just having these various products in the background and tricking audiences into feeling like they need a drink of Coca-Cola without realising it's because someone in a film looked like they were enjoying the refreshing drink?

Nonetheless, Skyfall is probably my favourite Bond film to date. I'd watch it again, which is more than I can say about the previous films. Anyone who isn't a fan can finally jump on the bandwagon too. You might miss a few inside jokes but you'll still enjoy it.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two


WRITTEN BY: Melissa Rosenberg
DIRECTED BY: Bill Condon
STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Kellan Lutz, Michael Sheen
RATING: 3 stars

It has the world's most ridiculous title but probably one of the best fight scenes on film this year. Mass decapitations. What a brilliant idea. The final 20 minutes of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two is fantastic. Characters loved and hated during the previous films are killed off in such a thrilling way. There's so much violence and yet no blood, of course, because they're all vampires. It's a great climax to the series.

At the start of the film, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is getting used to her new life and new powers as a vampire while she and Edward (Robert Pattinson) raise their daughter Renesmee, who Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is also keeping a close eye on. But when vampire Irina sees Renesmee and thinks she may pose a threat to the vampire species, she alerts the Volturi. Their leader Aro (Michael Sheen) is looking for an excuse to cause more trouble for the Cullen vampires and makes the journey with his army to destroy them. Meanwhile, the Cullens recruit old vampire friends and werewolves to help them prove to the Volturi that Renesmee is not a threat in the hopes of preventing a vampire war.

I've been whinging about Twilight since the first book was released. I love vampire stories. They are spooky, sexy, mysterious and exciting. Unfortunately, the Twilight saga lacks a lot of those elements. The mass appeal of the books and films has always been lost on me. Give me True Blood, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries and even Christopher Pike's lesser known vampire book series for youngsters, The Last Vampire, any day over the Twilight saga.

What really annoyed me about the franchise is that the film makers chose to break up the final book into two films. It was so blatantly a money making exercise. The plot, while complex with its layers in part, could not sustain two full-length films. Hence, we had Breaking Dawn - Part One which was sappy and over the top romantic with nothing really happening until the end. Then, in this final instalment, the plot drags on again with broody characters standing around looking at each other like day time soap opera characters until the climactic battle scene, which by the way, has some more broody stares for 10 minutes before the action finally begins.

The performances are also lacklustre. Sheen is so over the top as Aro that it’s beyond ridiculous. He's a good actor, but not in this film. There was one moment when his reaction to something caused mass laughter from the audience but only because it was so bizarre. Also, and this is a completely vain point, but is Lautner ever going to sound like a man? He looked the part of a tough werewolf but every time he spoke I cringed. Seems he may have David Beckham Speech Syndrome. Surprisingly, Stewart is actually quite good in this film. It's by far her best performance from the franchise, perhaps because she is finally used to playing the character. Pattinson's performance is hardly memorable and the rest of the regular cast seem to be going through the motions too.

As passionate as some people are about the franchise, there are just as many Twilight haters. For them, this film finally concludes the series. For the Twihards, there will no doubt be regular movie marathons, but at least it will be in the privacy of their own homes and will not have to engulf everyone else in its hysteria.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Alex Cross

WRITTEN BY: Marc Moss, Kerry Williamson
DIRECTED BY: Rob Cohen
STARRING: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns
RATING: 1 star

I didn't realise how much I hated this film until I started talking to friends about it afterwards. It was clunky, lame and unsatisfying. If Alex Cross had been made 20 years ago it might be passable, but for a modern film to feel so dated is just sad. It was like a C-grade film version of the television show The Mentalist. It amazes me how some films even get the funding to be made while other workable scripts remain in a pile of unfulfilled dreams.


Loosely based on James Patterson's novel, Cross, the film tells the story of Detroit forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) before his eventual move to Washington with the FBI. His wife Maria (Carmen Ejogo) is expecting their third child so Cross thinks it might be time for desk job. But first, Cross must deal with a mysterious hit man named Picasso (Matthew Fox) who seems to be taking out some very important people. Cross teams up with his best friend Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) and Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols), who Kane is secretly dating, to stop the killer.

Perry lacks charisma as a heroic lead. His character suffers great turmoil (which I won't spoil) in his quest to hunt down Picasso, and yet, I didn't feel enough sympathy for him. Meanwhile, Fox was so bizarre in his creepiness that he was almost cartoonish (those who criticised Guy Pearce's performance in Lawless should take note of this performance). However, I do have to commend him for his efforts to physically transform for the role. Burns was perhaps the most solid performer but even he seemed only half-hearted. Everyone else in this film was just plain annoying – even the children.

If you liked Morgan Freeman's portrayal of Alex Cross in Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, and were expecting another good film adaptation of Patterson's novels, then forget it. Don't waste your time with Alex Cross. Read a book instead.


 

End of Watch


WRITTEN BY: David Ayer
DIRECTED BY: David Ayer
STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez
RATING: 3 stars
In a film like End of Watch, chemistry is everything. You can't have a buddy film without two good buddies. Thankfully for this film, the chemistry is fantastic between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena who play best friends and policeman working on the beat in Los Angeles. It's clear writer/director David Ayer is a fan of the complicated bromance. He's written films like U-571, The Fast and The Furious, and Training Day. What he has done with End of Watch is present the sometimes harsh reality of being a cop in a violent city including the arrogance and bravado of some police officers, but also the humility and the passion for the job. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is by any means a realistic depiction of the life of an law enforcer, but it does show some truths.
Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Pena) are police partners who patrol south central Los Angeles. They can be arrogant hotheads at times, being involved in a shooting for which there was an investigation that found they acted fairly, and picking fights with lowly criminals. But that is how they operate to keep things in balance. They aren't dodgy cops, but they are unorthodox. We also get an insight into their private lives with Mike's pregnant wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) with whom he has been with since high school, and Brian's girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick). When the officers chase a driver for running a red light and confiscate cash and unique firearms, it sets a chain of events that leads a drug cartel to order their murders.
What is interesting about the leads is that in some ways they are very likeable but in other ways, they have such big egos that part of me was thinking that to some extent they brought on these events themselves. Both Gyllenhaal and Pena give convincing performance as friends and officers. They are also well supported by Kendrick and Martinez.

Unfortunately, the jump camera work and changing points of view became a distraction throughout the film. Some scenes were edited very quickly and it was hard to see what was happening while other scenes gave an interesting point of view but ultimately led to some queasiness. For example, the opening sequence gives the audience a view from the patrol car during a chase scene but it could make some viewers too dizzy to enjoy it. Brian is also filming his work for a side project and so he and Mike are often wearing cameras on their shirts, which gives a different point of view, but again, can be blurry and confusing. Even the bad guys have a camera in some scenes but it's a completely unnecessary motif.

My other problem with the film was that it was probably about 15 minutes too long. A lot happened, but there were times when I was bored and just wanted the plot to move along quicker. I also had a problem with the ending, which I won't give away, suffice to say it almost ends well but then falls flat.

End of Watch ultimately salutes the work that police officers do without putting them on too high a pedestal, realising that while the sacrifices they make are great, not all officers are in the job for the right reasons.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Bachelorette


WRITTEN BY: Leslye Headland
DIRECTED BY: Leslye Headland
STARRING: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Rebel Wilson
RATING: 3 stars

How can you have such a fantastic cast who give great performances and still have an only mildly funny and entertaining film? I'm still scratching my head thinking about it, but that's what we get with Bachelorette. Anyone who complains that Bachelorette is just a B-grade version of Bridesmaids should know that Bachelorette came first in the form of a 2008 play. Leslye Headland has adapted her own play to film but it's far darker than Bridesmaids, which is probably why it might work as a play, but not a comedic film. My main problem with the film is that the characters are so nasty. I'm all for romantic comedies depicting reality in a more accurate way, but having characters that have no redeeming qualities is just off-putting. How are we supposed to care about people who are so vile? Sure, give them flaws, but don't make them impossible to connect with.

When Becky announces she is getting married, her high school friends are in shock. Over-achieving Regan (Kirsten Dunst) is dating a medical student and always thought she would be married first. She immediately calls the rest of the gang including Gena (Lizzy Caplan) who likes to take drugs, party hard and sleep around, and Katie (Isla Fisher), an airhead who just wants to date a man with a job. Despite their shock at Becky's news, the trio decide it will at least be a great opportunity to have a fun bachelorette party. But, the night before the wedding, the trio accidentally rip Becky's wedding dress and spend the rest of the night trying to either replace or fix the dress before anyone notices. Of course, during that night they also face their personal demons of self-loathing and misery, which means they find the time to have sex, drink too much and snort too much cocaine while hanging out with other wedding guests including best man Trevor (James Marsden), Gena's ex-boyfriend and the source of her angst Clyde (Adam Scott), and Joe (Kyle Bornheimer) who has had a crush on Katie since high school.

I understand why someone like Becky would have hung out with these girls in high school to fit in, but why is she still hanging out with women who are clearly selfish and bitchy? Surely Becky has moved on with her life and doesn't need these women around anymore? She is after all marrying a rich, good looking man. Perhaps she's more of a bitch herself and wants to rub it in to Regan and co that she is getting married first and to a great catch? It's never really explained, but Becky and her groom still seem to be the only likeable people in this film. I also had an issue with Joe's character who seems to like Katie despite her ditzy personality but then we never learn what it is about her that he actually likes. It seems the guy that's supposed to be sweet and caring because he refuses to have sex with a woman on the verge of passing out (ohhh, look, he's not a rapist) is actually just interested in how attractive Katie is - just like every other guy.

Having criticised the characters themselves, I must say the actors play the roles very well: Dunst is great as a cold, snobby, control freak; Caplan has the hardest job dealing with dark, personal issues and does it well; Fisher is hilarious and zany; Marsden is a sexy jerk; Scott is charming and witty; and Bornheimer is suitably awkward. I would have liked to have seen more from Wilson though. Her comedic prowess is underutilised.

Bachelorette is a good first attempt from Headland. I'm keen to see what she learns from how this film is received and what she does next. Bachelorette is a fun film, but it's nothing groundbreaking.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Argo

WRITTEN BY: Chris Terrio
DIRECTED BY: Ben Affleck
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber
RATING: 4.5 stars

You know you've seen a good film when you immediately want to watch it again and spend the next two days thinking about it. That's what happened when I saw Argo, a film that is worthy of its Oscar hype and should take out a few awards. Director and star of the film Ben Affleck proved he was a serious film maker after the success of The Town in 2010 and has now given audiences an even more amazing film about a bizarre true story in which Hollywood helped the US and Canadian governments in a covert operation to rescue six Americans hiding out in Iran during violent, political turmoil. Argo will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

Argo begins in
1979 at the height of the Iranian revolution when a mob storms the American embassy in Iran and takes 52 people hostage. Six of the American embassy staff manage to escape to the home of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber) in Tehran. CIA “exfiltration” specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) develops an unusual plan to free the six hideaways by flying into Iran and posing as the producer of a Hollywood science fiction film called Argo. He plans for the six consular staff to pose as his location scouting team and lead them out of Iran without being detected.

The film cleverly intertwines t
he drama of the political crisis in Iran in 1979-80 with the comedy of the ridiculousness of making a fake Hollywood film as a guise to get the CIA into Iran, and the suspense that goes with every obstacle Mendez has to overcome to see his “best bad idea” work. This is all thanks to the brilliant screenplay by Chris Terrio. In fact, what makes the film so powerful is that it doesn't feel like a typical “America saves the day” story that we so often see in Hollywood films. Every character is layered and complicated. Not all Iranians are bad and not all Americans are heroes. It makes the story unpredictable and exciting.

As a director, Affleck has done a great job of capturing the essence of the 70's by increasing the graininess of the imagery, which adds to the feel of the film. The costumes, make-up and hair are also very good. As an actor, Afleck is also believable in the role. In fact, all the performances in Argo were good. Alan Arkin and John Goodman provide fun laughs as the Hollywood guys tasked with making the fake film. They've got some great dialogue to work with and coin the phrase I hope everyone will use from now on: “Argo, fuck yourself”. Garber is sympathetic while Bryan Cranston gives a strong performance as Mendez's boss. The hostages including Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Christopher Denham and Clea DuVall are all convincing too. Stay for the end credits because you will see images of the real people next to images of the actors, as well as photographs of the real events to compare with how those moments were depicted on screen.

If you don't like this film, Argo fuck yourself!






Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Master


WRITTEN BY: Paul Thomas Anderson
DIRECTED BY: Paul Thomas Anderson
STARRING: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
RATING: 1 star

I'm going to make an unpopular comment. I did not like The Master and I think it is the most overrated film of the year. I don't understand how this film could produce so much Oscar hype. Aside from a strong performance from Joaquin Phoenix, the film which has a great concept, failed to engage me with its pointless dribble and drawn-out plot in which we come to a conclusion of absolutely nothing. I don't think I had unreasonably high expectations, it was just plain boring. I literally wanted to fall asleep during the screening and one man sitting near me actually did. The most interesting aspect about The Master is that it is the first film to be shot in 65mm, and projected in 70mm on some screens, since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in 1996. But, unless you're a film geek, you probably wouldn't even care about that either.

The title character is inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, who founded Scientology. The Master opens with Freddie Quell (Phoenix) who is onboard a US navy vessel in the Pacific when World War Two ends. Freddie is a strange man with odd sexual desires and a raging inner violence that can explode at any moment. He also spends a lot of time drinking unusual concoctions he creates from chemicals including paint thinner. After he gives a potentially fatal cocktail to a migrant worker in a California cabbage field, he runs away and hides on a yacht belonging to Lancaster Dodd, (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd tells Freddie: "I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher, but above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you." Dodd is founding a group named the Cause and the two men quickly bond with Dodd offering Freddie advice and teaches him about the Cause. Freddie also picks fights with anyone who opposes Dodd's teachings.

Phoenix gives a very interesting performance. His character seems almost insane and is incredibly violent and complicated. Hoffman was also convincing as a cult leader. Amy Adams is a good actress but she was underutilised in the film as Dodd's wife, Peggy. Unfortunately, The Master is so centred on the two leads without explaining enough about them that the plot goes nowhere. It should have been at least 40 minutes shorter and the characters could have been better developed. Instead, the protagonists remain an enigma and we don't learn what they truly believe. In a nutshell, if you thought the film might offer an insight into Scientology, forget about it.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pitch Perfect


WRITTEN BY: Kay Cannon
DIRECTED BY: Jason Moore
STARRING: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Skylar Astin
RATING: 3.5 stars
Rebel Wilson's character in Pitch Perfect introduces herself to two girls as Fat Amy, she says “so twig bitches like you don't do it behind my back”. Later, a boy tells her that he thinks they should kiss and she replies: “I sometimes have the feeling I should do crystal meth, but then I think, mmm ... better not.” And that ladies and gentlemen is how you do one-liner comedy. Pitch Perfect may be touted as an Anna Kendrick film, but Wilson steals every scene. The film allows the hilarious Aussie to shine. In fact, Wilson is so good in this film that during the romantic scenes (because yes, it is a romantic comedy) I found myself thinking, “Bring back Fat Amy!” The film eventually follows a generic formula and the ending is abrupt, but it's worth seeing just for Wilson's performance.

If you thought Pitch Perfect was going to be “Glee: The College Years”, you'd be wrong. It's so much funnier. Kendrick plays Becca, a girl who wants to move to Los Angeles and produce music. The only problem is that her father insists she try college for a year and join in social activities. If she hates it after a year, he says he will help her move to Los Angeles. Barden University is known for its a cappella groups, particularly rival groups the Bellas and the Treblemakers. Becca joins the Bellas and tries to shake things up from the group's usual boring routines. Meanwhile, she juggles a complicated friendship with Jesse (Skylar Astin), who joins the Treblemakers and also works with her at the campus radio station. There is also a hurdle to their blossoming relationship because the Bellas have been banned by their control freak leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) from dating members of the Treblemakers. Of course, everything comes to a head during the singing competition.

For a film about music, but not quite a musical, there is actually quite a good variety of songs in Pitch Perfect. Unfortunately, there is a Miley Cyrus song, but there's also some good old Salt n' Pepa thrown in the mix. I also have to give kudos to a film that references Jaws and The Breakfast Club with so much love. I hope the target audience of teenagers take a look at the 80's teen classic after seeing this film.

While Wilson is the stand-out performer, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are also hilarious as the socially inappropriate and often sexist competition judges with some great one-liners. For example, Higgins says: “Women are about as good at a cappella as they are at being doctors.” Banks also has her own share of one-liners like: “Nothing makes a girl feel more like a woman than a man who sings like a boy.” (It's funny because it's true). Hana Mae Lee is also hilarious as the shy and creepy Lilly, and Brittany Snow is her usual songbird self. I wonder if she can actually do anything else? Camp is suitably annoying and Kendrick definitely holds her own in the singing department too, although it's not her best overall performance - that would be Up In The Air.

Pitch Perfect has been compared to Mean Girls, Bring It On and Easy A. If you liked those films, you probably will enjoy Pitch Perfect. Writer Kay Cannon (30 Rock) has written a fun film and director Jason Moore, better known in theatre, has made a fine feature film debut.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Intouchables

WRITTEN BY: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
DIRECTED BY: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
STARRING: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot
RATING: 4 stars

I was not expecting to laugh so much during what I thought was a drama about a man in a wheelchair. How do you possibly make that concept funny? Well, French film makers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano have nailed it with The Intouchables, which is a buddy film with a difference. There is no action or road trip as you would usually see in a buddy film; it's just two heterosexual men who form an unexpectedly beautiful friendship. It is an uplifting and heartwarming film that has some fantastic performances from its leads.
 
Inspired by a true story, but not very closely based on real events, The Intouchables tells the story of Philippe (Francois Cluzet), a very rich man who is injured in a paragliding accident and is left a quadriplegic. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to feel anything below his neck, Philippe cannot move without assistance but still manages to have a positive attitude and wants to be treated like everyone else. Unfortunately, his wife is dead, his teenage daughter is a brat, and his staff cannot care for him full-time. When he looks for a new full-time caretaker, he interviews Driss (Omar Sy), a thief from the Paris ghettos who has only applied for the job to collect the French equivalent of unemployment assistance. Philippe offers Driss the job and after a few hiccups, they form a bond over fast cars, art and marijuana among other things.
 
The film deals with a dramatic issue but handles it with natural, everyday humour such as Driss' reaction to his first opera, his dancing to Earth Wind and Fire at a birthday party and when Driss acts as Philippe's barber. In fact, the performances are what really make this film. Both leads are fantastic. Cluzet is especially good because his entire performance is based on facial expressions. Sy is also very good in a goofy, yet also tough way. It's a well-balanced performance. Both Anne Le Ny and Audrey Fleurot are also very funny as staff members Yvonne and Magalie. My main criticism of the film is that it relies on stereotypes and tends to over simplify some aspects. There are a few moments where I thought, "Really? Another 'black man' joke?"
 
The film was released in France last year and quickly became a huge hit, winning several awards. Yes, it's a foreign film, but don't let that deter you mainstream film fans. If you drag yourself to just one subtitled film this year, I'd definitely recommend The Intouchables to be that film.
 
 



Monday, 15 October 2012

Wuthering Heights


WRITTEN BY: Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed
DIRECTED BY: Andrea Arnold
STARRING: Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, James Howson, Kaya Scodelario
RATING: 1.5 stars

Wuthering Heights is a classic piece of English literature. Since Emily Bronte published the novel in 1847, people around the world have been falling in love with the book. There have already been countless films based on the book but none that I have seen have been able to capture the true complexity of the love, passion, obsession, brutality and supernatural themes of the novel. In this latest offering from director/co-writer Andrea Arnold we finally see the violent essence of the novel depicted well, but it fails to deliver the full story. In fact, it completely ignores the second generation in the saga. Fans of the novel, like me, will have many criticisms of the film, but I think even those who have not read Bronte's masterpiece will have problems with the painfully slow pace and lack of dialogue.

Wuthering Heights is set in 18th century England and tells the story of a farmer named Mr Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) who finds a homeless boy on the streets of Liverpool and takes him in to be part of his family at Wuthering Heights in the Yorkshire moors. He names the boy Heathcliff (Solomon Glave, James Howson). But Mr Earnshaw's son Hindley (Lee Shaw) is jealous of Heathcliff and treats him like a slave rather than a brother. Meanwhile, Mr Earnshaw's daughter Catherine (Shannon Beer, Kaya Scodelario) forms a strong bond with Heathcliff and they become inseparable. Hindley is sent away to study but when Mr Earnshaw died years later, Hindley returns with his new bride and makes Heathcliff a servant. After a misunderstanding, Heathcliff believes that Catherine has betrayed him so he runs away only to return three years later with his own fortune. But Catherine has married someone else and Heathcliff is more bitter than ever about his ill-treatment by Hindley and others. He seeks revenge that threatens to destroy everyone around him, including Catherine and himself.

The first half of the film is boring. Arnold spends so much time filming picturesque scenes that the plot itself is left suspended. I think Arnold tried too hard to be artistic in her film-making. Stylistic elements in a film should add to the overall look and enjoyment of the film and should wash over an audience, not be showy and over the top to the point that audiences are noticing the director's choices. Arnold has filmed it in a very tight 4x3 aspect ratio, which is obviously a stylistic choice, but not a good one. Everything is also tightly framed and the hand-held camera work makes it difficult to see what is actually happening. I'm not sure why we needed to see so many random cutaways of birds, insects, trees and meadows. One stylistic element I did appreciate however was the use of sound. There is very little music in the film, but there are other sounds including the howling wind, rain plummeting and mud being squashed under shoes. My only problem with this is that there are many drawn out scenes in which the actors barely speak but instead are just shown walking around and looking longingly at each other. Where was Bronte's wit?

As for the acting itself, Arnold has used a lot of first-time actors. While they were reasonably good, they weren't powerful. It was however, a brave choice to make Heathcliff black. The novel never fully explains what Heathcliff's ethnicity is - he could be black, Indian or just a dark-skinned European. It's sure to attract further debate among fans.

On The Road has been criticised for capturing the plot but not the essence of its novel. Arnold has done the opposite with Wuthering Heights. I think it was a mistake, but perhaps others will disagree. Have you seen the film? Did it do the novel justice?