Finding Neverland

London, 1903. Acclaimed playwright J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) has just written a play, Little Mary, but unfortunately it hasn’t done too well. When his maid cuts the review from his newspaper, Barrie spies Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four young boys playing in the park and soon begins spending a great deal of time with them. He finds their exploits to be inspirational, and indeed they inspire within him the idea to write a new play, one that children can enjoy as well as adults, about a boy who never grows up.
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Brave

Brave marks something of unchartered territory for animation powerhouse Pixar. It’s their first fairytale,, the first set in the past, the first to use magic, and the first to feature a female lead, in Kelly Macdonald’s Princess Merida. It’s also the Pixar film that I’ve waited the longest to see since it’s cinema release, seeing as it came out here over a month ago, but I only saw it yesterday because of the frankly outrageous 3D scheduling of my cinema (as always, fuck 3D). 

The long delay has added to my already high level of anticipation for the film, seeing as I started reading reviews of my American and New Zealander counterparts months ago when the film was released over there (seriously, why such a long wait for us Brits? Sort it out), and my deep love of most things Pixar (Cars? meh) meant that this film was going to have to do a lot to satisfy me. And unfortunately, it didn’t.
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2

I’m a strange breed of muggle. I’ve seen all the Harry Potter films, most in the cinema. I’ve read all the books. Hell, I own them. Double hell, I was first in line queueing up outside Morrison’s on the morning book 7 was released. But I wouldn’t call myself a Harry Potter fan. So why have I kept with it? I read the first book in school, and found the wizarding world to be quite wonderful, a dream of a place to escape to. Granted, by the time the much darker later books came along I became much happier that this world of dictatorial terrorists with almighty magical powers didn’t actually exist (or so I’m led to believe) but back then it was nothing short of fun, and the fact that I was of a similar age to the protagonist when the books were released made it all the more so.
The books were perfect for film adaptations, and the stylistic choices throughout the series have been close to faultless. Most of the negative aspects, other than the questionable acting abilities of the children early on in the franchise, can be blamed on the books being too labyrinthine to be condensed down into a 150-minute movie, and there are arguments to make as to whether each book would have been better off as a TV series, but it’s doubtful they’d have received such a hefty budget or impressive cast, or made nearly as much money.
Of the films, part 3, Prisoner of Azkaban, is widely regarded as the best, with director Alfonso Cuaron unleashing the franchise’s dark potential, redirecting away from Chris Columbus’ more child-friendly first parts, but personally I prefer part 4, Goblet of Fire, because it’s easily the most fun and structured, following the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and it has dragons in it, which are awesome. Parts 5 and 6 are, in my opinion, the weakest, with my reasoning being that I can barely remember anything that happens in them other than some character deaths and casting decisions, but the final films really kick things into gear.
Many have questioned the decision to split the final book into two halves, citing financial gain as being the true reason, but having seen the results I approve of the choice. Whilst the earlier books could stand to lose some of the lesser plot points without the plot suffering, the amount of closure given in the finale could not have been achieved with a similar level of editing. Whilst the total runtime for the final two films could have been a little shorter than the 4½ hours achieved here, getting it down to a length the core Potter audience would be willing to sit through without complaining would have resulted in almost catastrophic levels of cutting.
The most impressive aspect of the film franchise has always been the cast. Whilst the three leads, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, were never expected to be incredible actors (and, for the most part, lived up to this promise) the film studios ensured this wouldn’t be a problem by surrounding their stars with almost every British actor working today, with more added every film. To list them all would be senseless, but the fact that, Richard Harris’ untimely demise notwithstanding, every actor returned to their roles for every subsequent film shows that the films must have been great to work on too.The Deathly Hallows alone saw the inclusion of Bill Nighy, David O’Hara, Rhys Ifans, Ciarin Hinds and Nick Moran into a cast already including the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs and Maggie Smith, and the fact that so many notable actors returned for such minuscule roles is incredible. Jim Broadbent, John Hurt and Emma Thompson are barely on screen, but the fact is they are.
Part 7 is the only one of all eight films not to feature Hogwarts, the wizarding school where our young heroes are taught, and therefore doesn’t feel like part of the Potter pantheon. Freed from the structure of lessons, Quidditch matches and Harry being picked on by Slytherin, the film feels a little meandering, as Harry, Ron and Hermione scour the country looking for a series of magical Maguffins, horcruxes, that for one reason or another must be destroyed to help bring down the evil Lord Voldemort. The film opens strongly, with Harry’s escape from his home assisted by his wizarding friends transformed to be replicas of him, but it’s not until a later infiltration of the Ministry of Magic that any more excitement is had. There’s an awful lot of tension and relationship issues, exacerbated by a locket that builds negative feelings in whoever wears it (so… put it in a bag rather than wear it?) and a particularly cringeworthy scene wear Harry attempts to alleviate some tension by dancing with Hermione in a tent, but it feels empty without the action-balance provided by the second film. The brief animation, depicting the origins of the Deathly Hallows that grant the owner power over death, is easily the highlight of the series in total.
If watched as one long film, the two halves join together to form a perfectly balanced picture, with the final hour-long battle a rewarding epic culmination after a mammoth build-up, so if watching make sure to set aside the best part of an afternoon, however just watching part 8 alone is also acceptable. The infiltration of Bellatrix Lestrange’s Gringott’s vault, with Helena Bonham Carter gleefully impersonating Emma Watson, is tremendous fun (there’s another dragon!) and now they’ve got all the teenage angst and worrying out of the way it’s time for good and evil to get scrapping. The finale is equal parts devastating and spellbinding, as the regular cast is treated with a sporadic survival rate, literally anyone is up for the chop, up to and including Hogwarts itself, as various sets we’ve grown to feel at home in are burned to the ground. Some aspects of the battle feel crowbarred in – Mrs. Weasley’s showdown against Lestrange, Ron and Hermione’s inevitable kiss – but for the most part it’s a cinematic marvel that doesn’t disappoint.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Choose life: 6/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 : Choose film 7/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2: Choose film 8/10

No Country for Old Men

In this most bleak and convoluted offering from the Coen brothers you rarely witness a characters ultimate destiny, although they are hinted at enough to make a fair assumption. Josh Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss, a welder out hunting deer in south west Texas, stumbles upon a botched drug deal and, finding a suitcase full of money, goes immediately to the authorities before returning home to his wife and living a largely uneventful life. No, of course not, he legs it, instigating a game of cat and mouse with Javier Barden’s Anton Chigurh, a ruthless, near robotic hitman with an unusual and extreme set of morals, himself pursued by Tommy Lee Jones’ small town sheriff Ed Tom Bell. Featuring a stellar supporting cast including Woody Harrelson, Stephen Root and Kelly Macdonald, some incredible scenery, lensed by Oscar winning regular Coen cinematographer Roger Deakins and highly memorable dialogue lifted directly from Cormac McCarthy’s seminal novel of the same name, this is a truly inspirational and unique film. Bardem in particular completely embodies his character, becoming one of the most iconic villains to grace our screens in modern times. Brolin however strikes me as an actor from the ranks of Shia LaBoeuf and Sam Worthington, snapped up and promoted by big name directors without having the talent to back up the expectations, flooding the cinemas with frankly mediocre acting ability.
Choose film 8/10