The Secret Life of Walter Mitty … Delightfully Charming [REVIEW]

First off, happy holidays everyone! I hope you have all enjoyed the festive season! I certainly have, being back home has given me a chance to see some old friends and spend some time with my family, so hopefully you’ve had chance to do the same!

But don’t worry, I have of course still found the time to visit the local cinema! Also with being back home has allowed me to go to my own stomping ground in Castleford, and better yet with my best mate who I haven’t seen in over half a year! What was a shock was that the cinema had changed drastically, a new carpet and a lick of paint – all of which was pointed out to me by my good friend Mark … as I had not even noticed. Although, he wasn’t happy, as he explained in his classic deadpan tone … “They closed the cinema for a whole day to do this … I really don’t like it!” … not even a hint of a joke in his voice – he really disliked it. So, just like the good old days, on a cold wet day in the North of England, jumping in my car and rolling down to the cinema (on at least a weekly basis), we embarked to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Which I will now get onto! I am far too young to be getting all nostalgic, and frankly (if you are even still reading!), you did not come here to read this waffle, you’re here for the good stuff!

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For those of you who don’t know who Walter Mitty is, he is a character created by James Thurber, back in 1939 for the short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. A drab man (Mitty, not Thurber!), who had vivid imaginations and daydreams of exciting events occurring to and around him. Sounds like there could be some legs in this and could be turned into a terrific screenplay?

Correctemundo!

Ben Stiller steps up to take the starring role, and also grabs himself a seat in the directors chair. With plenty of past experience in both aspects of movie making, Stiller certainly doesn’t disappoint with one. Placed in modern day, Walter works for Life magazine, in the negative assets departments (photography stuff), working closely with famous photographer Sean O’Connell’s (Sean Penn) work, and pining over new girl Cheryl (Kristen Wiig).

DF-11070-Edit - Ben Stiller in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY.

What is fantastic about this film, is that it is so relatable to just about everyone. I think you would be hard pushed to find someone out there who has never “zoned out” and put themselves in some sort of exciting adventure fantasy where they save the day, or say something quick witted to a bully and become hero to everyone around you. Everyone does it … some more than others (especially me, hence my interest in this film to begin with!), but we all do it!

The character is instantly likeable – even the first scene is incredibly real, Walter trying to pluck up the courage to hit the send button to his fancy women, again, most of us will have also been there … I know I have! Walter is also an underdog, and lord knows, do we love an underdog! Stiller plays this role like a champ, he needs to seamlessly flick between shy, self conscious Walter, to action hero, ultra confident, fantasy Walter. Which proves to be no problem, as Stiller has forged his very successful career playing both types of personality!

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The cast around him are also very good, although the main focus, and screen time is on Mr Director. Kristen Wiig is absolutely delightful – light, charming, and breezy on the screen – it is no wonder Walter has taken a shine to her. This is also a huge step on from her performance in Anchorman 2, which was slightly disappointing! Adam Scott steps in nicely to his bad guy shoes once again and shows us he can be an intolerable asshole when he wants to be. Adam Scott has to be one of the best character actors around at the moment, and I think greatly underappreciated(!), he is fantastic at both villainous characters and then just as believable as the loveable guy. Shout out also to Patton Oswalt, who was used very well in this film, mostly on the phone, to move the story along and add some light entertainment – and even grabbed a few minutes of actual on-screen time towards the end!

The film is visually pleasing, with some beautiful scenes every time we drift into Walter’s imagination. From Himalayan Mountains, to Greenland and Iceland, to even the classic American city. The movie is also very funny – not in the belly laugh sense, but it is very understated but pretty constant throughout – I was chuckling a lot anyway! However, two scenes particularly stand out, one including Super Stretch Armstrong, and one with a throwback to Benjamin Button – both which had me crying laughing!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty carries with it a nice message and is ultimately very satisfying throughout – it isn’t the deepest film you will ever see, but it is worth taking note of the themes and messaging it presents – breaking out of your shell, confidence, human decency, and even the purpose of life …

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

This really is a film that will make you feel good and give you a warm feeling as you leave the cinema. I had high hopes for this movie based on what I knew about the character and the trailers, and I was not disappointed. I highly recommend you go and see the film, and drift into Walter Mitty’s secret life!

8/10

Best wishes for 2014,

Ben

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues … Yes it does [REVIEW]

Anchorman 2 … the highly anticipated sequel to Will Ferrell’s 2004 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. I have been eagerly waiting for this since it was first announced back in March 2012.

Full disclosure before we go any further … I am Will Ferrell’s number 1, biggest fan!

anchorman2Ron Burgundy and the News Team is back … and he still has a voice that can make a wolverine purr, and suits so fine they make Sinatra look like a hobo. What can I say about this film, this is the most ridiculous thing I have seen on screen in a very, very long time … but I loved it. The infamous Channel 4 News Team still has it 9 years on, and this time they’ve gone national!

We join Ron a few years down the line, now in the 1980’s and in the dawn of 24 hour news. Now, sequels are very tricky, and historically usually get a tough time, and rightly so a lot of the time. They walk a thin line of staying true to the original content, without just re-producing a carbon-copy of the first film. It’s a difficult win! And, I think Anchorman 2 handles this very well. There are plenty of throwbacks and some similarities, that as a huge fan, was nice to see and kept me laughing, also most had a least a twist so wasn’t a complete duplicate.

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This film also doesn’t just dip it’s toe into new waters … it makes everyone STOP WHAT THEY ARE DOING, AND LISTEN! and then CANNONBALL’S straight into absolute absurdity. I won’t give away any huge spoilers, as there were sections of this film that came as an absolute shock to me, just didn’t see them coming at all! You can tell that Ferrell and McKay had an absolute ball writing this film! Also, very much like the first film, and the majority of Ferrell/McKay ventures, it is clear a lot of this is improvised on the spot, so I for one cannot wait for the DVD so I can check out bloopers, line-o-rama, and deleted scenes. What is great with Ferrell/McKay films, is that you get a treat with the trailer, and then when you watch the film, about 70% of it, you don’t even see – these guys are so funny, and generate so much material they can’t fit everything in! As most Anchorman fans will be aware, for the first film there was so much content shot, that McKay made a second film with a different story line, running alongside the first film, from the left over and unused footage! (So technically, this isn’t really Anchorman 2!) – however this was only released via DVD.

Anchorman 2 definitely needs to be viewed multiple times to fully appreciate it. There is so much going on, you are bound to miss a few things first time round. I myself have already seen this twice, and no doubt will see it again before it leave cinemas! Plus, you may need a few viewings to fully cement all of the new quotes into your mind, to use daily!

Although the original Anchorman wasn’t a huge box office success, and only became iconic after establishing a cult following, there is little doubt Anchorman 2 will be huge in the box office. You only need to see some of the cameos made in this film to understand the traction this film has! Steve Carrell, also gets the opportunity for a lot more screen time second time around, most likely due to the fame he has seen following the first feature.

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There is very little to complain about with this sequel, although unfortunatley, Christina Applegate gives, in my opinion a very poor showing, she isn’t as natural as the rest of the ensemble and I’m not sure what happened to her voice? She did start to grind on me as the film went on, and was a step backwards from her first performance. And Burgundy’s son Walter also got a little bit annoying by the end. Although a notable performance from Meagan Good, who did very well stepping into this established comedy group!

Very funny, the lighthouse scene is side splitting, and Ron, Brick, Champ and Brian can still deliver the goods!

Not quite as good as the original, although I don’t think that ever would have been possible – but I do think this will get better with every watch!

9/10 – You stay classy, Blog Readers.

 

 

The Mask … From Zero to Hero [REVIEW]

As a kid I absolutely loved this film. I watched it so, so many times! But having not seen it in probably at least 10 years, when I saw that it was available on Sky Go, I had to see if this was as good as I remembered.

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Now, seeing this film again after so many years, it did seem dated. Full of cliches, bad puns and a pretty wooden script … this film is still very enjoyable! Certainly not Jim Carrey’s best or funniest film, it is a nice introduction to his quirky kind of comedy, and was closely followed by some of his best, like Dumb and Dumber, and Liar Liar.

There are plenty of one line jokes in the film, however a lot of the laughs are the result of visual humour, so you need to be watching to get the full benefit of this film. And like all good kids movies (The Mask rated a PG) there are also plenty of jokes in there for an older audience to appreciate that would go sailing over the head of a child. Which is always nice to see when you go back and watch a film from your childhood, as you get the enjoyment of the childish humour you remember, and then discover the gems you (quite obviously would have) missed in your younger days.

With references to plenty of other fond childhood characters, be it Bugs Bunny style of dying in the gangsters arms following the fire fight, the stylings of Pepe Le Pew to try and pick up a girl, or the whirling dervish that was the Tazmanian Devil, this will probably lie close to the heart of many who were a kid when this came out, or had young children at the time. fhd994MSK_Cameron_Diaz_003

What I also didn’t realise until watching this again, and reading a bit about the film, this was actually Cameron Diaz’s first ever film. Which may explain why she is very wooden at times, but none the less, incredibly beautiful! Cameron Diaz has probably never looked better than she does in this film … I mean, wow! Or as The Mask would say … “SMOKIN!”

The story is pretty 2 dimensional, a nice, shy guy, can’t get girls (classic nice guy finishes last), finds a mask that turns him into the ultimate prankster with bags of confidence ultimately leading to mayhem, and trouble, throw in a cartoon-esque bad guy gangster and a pretty girl and you’ve got yourself a film. But although there are plenty of misses in this film, there are enough hits for this to be worth a re-visit. It certainly isn’t one you would watch regularly, but every few years it should do enough to give you a few chuckles.

Despite it’s flaws, I still love this film and will alway remember it fondly. I first saw it with my brother on a VHS (wow, remember those!) when I must have been maybe 4 or 5, (possibly 6 or 7, I can’t really remember my exact age) when I was on holiday in Cornwall, at the time it was the funniest thing I had ever seen and I was absolutely mesmerised by it, we must have watched it dozens of times, and although not my favourite childhood movie (that honour goes to Toy Story, which also happens to be favourite film ever) that is how I will always remember it.

Seeing it now, the film feels like a 6/10, but for the memories it brought back, it has to be an 8/10.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire … [Review]

Wow. I absolutely loved this film! It took me a week or two before I actually had the time and go and see it, but it was worth the wait. Top to bottom, this is just a fantastic film.

hunger-games-catching-fire-trilogy-posterFirst of all, if you have not already, I urge you to read the series of books. They aren’t too long, so won’t take you long to get through, but they are definitely worth a read, and will make your enjoyment of the film much greater.

HGCF follows on from the first Hunger Games film, with Katniss and Peeta as the winners of the 74th Hunger Games. Having shown up the Capitol in an act of defiance, President Snow (The always brilliant, Donald Sutherland) now wants to make the girl on fire pay – and with the 75th games falling on a Quarter Quell, Katniss and Peeta find themselves back in the games.

This is an absolute must see, IF … and it’s a big IF (!) you have either read the books (at least the first one, preferably the second too) or have seen the first film. If you haven’t, please don’t go … and if you do, don’t spend the entire film asking questions and making stupid remarks, the rest of the audience are there because they have an interest, so don’t spoil their experience. I say this, because unfortunately, I had sat in front of me a person exactly like this, and it is not fun! This is a sequel, so why go see it without any prior knowledge of the story?! Okay, rant over, now into the good stuff. article-0-1B388A42000005DC-375_634x356

First off, this film looks great! The Capitol is as spectacular as ever and the new arena is breathtaking.  All throughout the film, the scenes have been designed to an absolute tee. It really feels like the book is coming to life. There is always a danger when turning a book into a film that it will not translate well – This isn’t the case for HGCF – this has been crafted so well, that while watching the film I actually felt I had seen it before as almost every scene was exactly how I had pictured it when I read the book. Which is a huge testament to the Suzanne Collins, author of the HG series, and the team the created the movie.

The story is very compelling, and running at almost 2 and a half hours, I didn’t feel like it was too long – for a non fan, this may get tiresome, however having read the book, it does really need to be this long (again why I recommend trying to read the book before viewing). elfilm-com-the-hunger-games-catching-fire-243427

I thought the casting was great, obviously Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson returned as Katniss and Peeta, but HGCF see’s Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman join the ensemble, and all give great performances, as if they had just stepped off the pages themselves. Of course old faces such as Elizabeth Banks (who was tonnes better in this film than the first), Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz all return, and not forgetting Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. Tucci truly shines in this role, and although a relatively small part, steals the majority of scenes that he is in. I really can’t say enough about the cast, every single character is fantastic.

Not as action packed as a non fan might expect, but fast moving in all of the right places, and offering plenty of emotional scenes (bring some tissues with you – you’ll need them) this film is the whole package. The dynamic between Lawrence, Hemsworth and Hutcherson is very compelling as you want all three to get what they want, which just isn’t possible, and will make you (at least it made me) feel pretty helpless for these characters.

I don’t want to divulge too much of the story, as for those who are fans already know it, and for those that don’t, I don’t want to spoil it for you when you see/read this.

All in all, I don’t think we could have asked for much more from this sequel, as it went above my already very high expectations, and definitely does the book justice. I for one cannot wait to see how the finale is brought to life! My only worry being that, as seems to be the industry norm now, that the final film will be shot in two parts. As the third book is no longer than the first two, I find it difficult to see how this will be stretched over, what I imagine will be, almost 5 hours. I just hope that the quality doesn’t suffer by the story being slowed down far more than it needs to be. However, time will tell and we will have to see when it arrives.

A stellar effort from all involved, a must read/see – 8.5/10

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey … [REVIEW]

This review is brought to you by the letter P and the number 7.

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Being Elmo. I’ve wanted to watch this film for quite a while, and finally have sat down and watched it.

I grew up watching Sesame Street, so the chance to get to see behind the scenes of the show and also find about the man behind the puppet made this documentary really appealing to me. I loved it. I found it to be very inspirational, educational, touching and all in all, a very interesting hour and twenty minutes.

Being Elmo follows the life of Kevin Clash, the man who made Elmo one of the most loved, and iconic characters from the Street, and his rise to fame and the struggles that he faced. Being a young boy, from a poor family in Baltimore, Kevin always had a love for puppet, and even began making his own at the age of 8, to being taken under the wing of legend puppet maker Kermit Love, to becoming Elmo. The film really is about following your dreams no matter what. The documentary explains that Kevin faced a lot of bullying, especially through high school, whilst pursuing his passion of puppets, but despite the bullying continued because it made him happy and it was what he wanted to do. Which is a great message for anyone to take away and to act on.

As well as learning about Kevin Clash , what is also really cool about this film is that you get to see a lot of behind the scenes on Sesame Street, and various Jim Henson projects, such as The Muppets. It is really interesting to see the amount of work involved in creating the shows and movies, how it all works, and how talented the puppeteers actually are. One scene where we see Kevin helping out on the French Sesame Street really shows just how hard it is to work the puppets!

What is Elmo? A seal?

What’s interesting to learn is that Elmo was initially a minor Sesame Street character operated by a much more senior puppeteer, who felt the character offered nothing so gave it to Clash to see if he could get anything out of him. The story explains how Clash used his talents and past experiences to turn this character into one of the most loved characters on the show, and pop culture phenomenon.

The film is very frank, and very honest. It looks at Kevin’s struggles, and he is very honest about how lucky he feels to have become the puppeteer he is and meet and work with his idols, as well as his own short comings – finding it difficult with Elmo’s stardom and demand, and making time for his own daughter. The documentary portrays Kevin as a very likeable character, and a very humble man.

There has been some bad press surrounding Kevin Clash over the last 12 months, however this seems to all be over with every claim against him having been dismissed in the courts. Hopefully we will see this to be the case, as to find out that someone who has brought so much love and wonder to the lives of millions of childrens, is actually not what he seems would be devastating. However, all this aside – innocent until proven guilty, we should still see Kevin Clash in the way this documentary portrays him, and hopefully we still will be able to in years to come. Unfortunately due to these circumstances Kevin has now stepped down from the show.

This is a great documentary, and if you are a Sesame Street fan, it is a must see. However, if you’re not a fan of the show, or don’t know that much about it, I would give it a watch anyway. It is very interesting stuff, and the messages this film gets across can be taken on board by everybody. Fan or not, just about everyone can get enjoyment out of this feature. Also, have some tissues to hand, this will likely make you cry in a few places!

By some coincidence (not really, I planned it this way), my review score matches this reviews sponsored number: 7/10

P.S I’d also like to apologize for my lack of activity the last few weeks – unfortunatley one thing or another has gotten in the way and I just haven’t found the time to write any new posts. But, hopefully I should be back to posting at least once a week now.