Black Butler (2014)

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Black Butler filmLength: 119 min

Release date: 18 January 2014

Synopsis: An orphaned aristocrat summons a demonic butler to aid her, at the price of her soul.

Genre: Action / Crime / Drama

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Kentarô Ohtani / Kei’ichi Sato

Writer: Yana Toboso (manga) 

Starring: Hiro Mizushima / Ayame Gôriki / Yûka

MPA-Rating: 15

Black Butler (also known in Japanese as Kuroshitsuji) began life as a manga that debuted in 2006. Published by Yen Press for the English market, it is written and illustrated by Yana Toboso. It’s currently ongoing and has twenty-one published volumes so far.

The original manga of Black Butler (and later its popular anime counterpart) is set in VictoriaBlack Butler mngan London. It tells the story of a thirteen year old orphan, Ciel Phantomhive, as he strives to lead household, and solves crimes as the Queen’s Watchdog. He is accompanied by a “one hell of a butler”…

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Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Apologies for the lack of real posts. Life as usual getting in the way. This review is not promising to be well written if I am being honest.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young man lost in his life and after he lands in trouble with the law, he is bailed out by Harry Hart (Colin Firth) offering him a new life: to become an agent with the Kingsman, an independent spy organisation. Plucked from a deprived background, he has to fight against the other more affluent and upper class applicants to become a Kingsman. Meanwhile, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), an internet mogul is planning to unleash a signal that will send everyone into a psychotic murderous rage in an act of eco-terrorism.

Kingsman is a flashy comedic take on the gentlemen spy, a mix of a spoof but genuine attempt at the genre. The fight scenes are fluid and fun with amazing cinematography. The main moments that kept the audience hooked in from start to end were also the moments which had everyone in the showing laughing together. I can’t really explain which they were without spoiling the film and let’s face it, the puppies are cute.

All the characters are fun but I would say that not all are relate-able to the average audience. The upper class is heavily spoofed making it hard to relate. Later I wondered if the British characters were intended as social commentary about British society. Eggsy is from a council estate with a step father and a half-sister whilst many of our politicians are seen as out of touch private school old boys. The rivalry and hazing of Eggsy by the other applicants of upper class background was possibly there to show the divide in British society. Eggsy’s application was noted to possibly be a case of social engineering, which is frequently claimed in some circles, especially in regards to university applications.

I have to say though that I feel Kingsman was lucky to get its 15 certificate with the swearing and violence prevalent within the film. If you are not expecting it, it can be shocking whilst also being fun. In that respect, it is surprising that there hasn’t been more of an outcry over how controversial it is. The film is also somewhat clichéd with the story but if they had done the opposite, I can’t help feeling that I would still be saying that it was clichéd. Perhaps this is down to genre.

Kingsman is a fun film, definitely of its genre and possibly has more to say for itself than it seems at first glance. Despite it possibly being controversial and very violent, it was a great film.

Film Review: Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War

I know! A film review! Only a quick short one really.

Source: GoodSearch Images

Mrs Caldicot (Pauline Collins) has been kept under her husband’s thumb for years so when he dies, she thinks she has the perfect chance to become independent. Her son (Peter Capaldi, long before Doctor Who) and daughter-in-law however force her into a retirement home where she is drugged to keep quiet and forced to sign over her house to her son. However, when the drugs wear off, she incites revolution among her fellow inmates, leading to her to discovering her fire and creating more change than she anticipated.

This British film does not sound like it is going to be particularly entertaining at first however Pauline Collins soon warms you up, getting the audience to relate to the character through the themes of finding independence and fighting against a system that is wrong through, initially, small acts. Capaldi is wonderful in his role of the manipulative son (attack eyebrows included), with fellow Doctor Who star Annette Badland as the homes cook and Tony Robinson of Time Team fame as chat show host, Nick Reid. There are some laugh out loud moments, mixed in with warm moments whilst also asking questions about the treatment of our aged and elderly that are as relevant today as they were back in 2002 when the film was made.

It’s not exactly a film that would grace TV’s at prime time and is more suited to a quiet Sunday with the family to curl up and enjoy. Not all plot lines I feel are tied up, the ending comes out of nowhere and character development, away from Mrs Caldicot, is minimal, if any happens at all. It certainly could draw lessons from fellow Brit comedy-drama Keeping Mum, which also features a lot of British talent. Some fleshing out and rewriting was needed in places. Unfortunately, this does let down an otherwise funny, warm film.

Definitely a film to curl up with a slow day but certainly not the best. I know I, at least, would rather watch Keeping Mum or Call the Midwife over this.

Film Review: Keeping Mum

I’ve been looking forward to being finally able to review this film. It’s one of those film that I always seem to miss the first bit of when ever it is on Film4.

The little village of Little Wallop is your typical English village but Gloria Goodfellow (Kristin Scott Thomas) is going crazy.

Her vicar husband, Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson), is so obsessed with writing the perfect sermon, he is completely ignoring his wife, who is having an affair with her American golf instructor Lance (Patrick Swayze). His seventeen year old nymphomaniac daughter Holly (Tamsin Egerton) has a different boyfriend every week and his son Petey (Toby Parkes) is the victim of school bullies.

Gloria is praying for a miracle when a new housekeeper arrives. Sweet old lady Grace (Maggie Smith) is the answer to all Gloria’s prayers. She has a unique way of keeping house and even more unique way of dealing with problems.

This is a great British comedy with an all-star cast with some brilliant laugh out loud moments. The film shows off the best in British talent from the actors in front of the camera and the people behind it. The script is a great example of British wit and humour whilst the film locations, in Cornwall and on the Isle of Wight, shows just how beautiful the English countryside can be, away from the city streets that seem to be the norm. It draws the audience in right from the start and keeps them entertained from start to finish.

This is a comedy film but Atkinson shows he is capable of carrying off a very serious role away from his iconic bumbling Mr Bean character whilst Smith, who is normally seen in rather staid roles such as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise, is perfect as the fun and very British Grace who seems to always be looking for a good cup of tea.

The film features a lot of sexual references, nudity and some strong language and whilst overt, it does not detract from the film. It is however a good reason why the BBFC rated this film as a 15. I would not recommend watching this film with young kids around as this is not a Jacqueline Wilson type of story, who has a book by the same name. It is slow in places but it does succeed in keeping its audience even then with other elements.

This is a great film to enjoy for a night in, whether alone or with friends and will leave you giggling, laughing and at least smiling through out. Whilst it won’t have you holding your sides or anything like that, it is great fun, with a wonderfully British feel to it.

Film Review: The Hobbit 2, The Desolation of Smaug

Let me state now, I have NOT read the book. It is on my Kindle, ready to be read. Also, I will try to make this review with as few, if any, spoilers as possible.

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), his company of 12 dwarves and 1 hobbit continue their journey through Thranduil’s (Lee Pace) kingdom of Mirkwood, where they encounter more than just Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Laketown and up the Lonely Mountain. There, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) encounters Smaug the Dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his search for the Arkenstone. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) leaves the company again to investigate strange rumours with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) and find himself in more trouble than anticipated.

This film is a wonderful sequel to the previous film, furthering the story at good pace and expanding the world of Middle Earth. This film starts creating the groundwork and links to the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) films and features either the same or similar themes that are present in LOTR and featured in the first Hobbit film too.

Greed and obsession are shown through Bilbo succumbing to the power of the ring and through Thorin’s determination to get the Arkenstone at any cost. This is a brilliant parallel between the stories as well as linking the Hobbit films to the original LOTR stories.

Tolkein’s languages are utilised well in this adaptation to give different areas of Middle Earth a specific feel and defines each race in the world. They are also used in such a way that they don’t alienate audiences who have not read any of his work. The writing of this film has the right measures of laughs and shocks and keeps children and adults alike entertained all the way through. The cliffhanger ending is well executed and leaves audiences wanting more.

Weta Digital and Weta Workshop has done a fantastic job again, especially with Smaug the Dragon. He is animated in such detail that combined with the script, audiences would believe that he is real!

The music yet again is a triumph for Howard Shore. Again, the music is easily recognisable as a part of the landscape of Middle Earth but also distinct to the Hobbit (soon-to-be) Trilogy. There are snippets of music from the original LOTR, such as Concerning Hobbits.  Ed Sheeran’s song at the end, I See Fire, fits the film perfectly and is very addictive listening. I keep listening to that song and have done so since I found the song a few weeks ago.

The only concern I have is with the River Barrels scene. There are certain shots that seem very at odds with the rest of the film and do seem to have been put in more for it being viewed in 3D. Whilst it might make sense to have those shots in for 3D, it does jerk the audience out of the film, breaking the suspension of disbelief which is a real shame as the film overall is very well done, from the script, the performances from the actors, the work of Weta and the music.

This is a personal thing but I went into watching the film expecting to be thinking “that’s not Smaug and Bilbo talking together! That’s Sherlock and John!” Instead I found myself thinking, “why is the Seventh Doctor with Gandalf?!”

The film overall is excellent and avoids the second film slump. It is pleasing to fans old and new and is a triumph of film making. Peter Jackson and everyone involved in the film have done excellent and will allow audiences to leave satisfied and looking forward to the next film when it comes out. I highly recommend going to see this film.

Film Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

Right, I am just going to get this review done!  I finally have a bit of time to actually write it although I cannot promise it will be the best. Sorry!

Told from the point of view of Tonto (Johnny Depp), the Lone Ranger follows the story of John Reid (Armie Hammer) and how he went from being a lawyer, on the side of the law to The Lone Ranger, on the opposing side of the law. John Reid’s return to his home town to his brother, Dan, and his family is less than happy when outlaw, Butch Cavendish, breaks out of custody and goes on the run. Dan enlists John’s help to track Cavendish down with other Rangers but is betrayed by one of their own, who is working for Cavendish. Cavendish and his posse ambush and kill the Rangers and, upon finding them, Tonto buries all of them. However, when a white spirit horse awakens John, Tonto encourages John to join him as they track down Cavendish together and to become The Lone Ranger.

This film is visually brilliant, if somewhat gory at times (surprising since this is a Disney film, even if it is rated 12A) and has all the connotations of a Western film. However, it is arguably also fantasy and, visually, slightly steampunk-ish. It is a great romp through the Wild West of America. The humour is also brilliant, if somewhat one side with Tonto seeming to get most of the jokes and John Reid played off as a bit of a goof and gets some slapstick comedy.

In a way, this film is Wild West Green Hornet, which was also a “how the hero came to be” story (a seemingly often reused story in Hollywood as of late!) A big difference is that the Green Hornet film (2011) had a much simpler story whilst Lone Ranger seems to go all over the place and at times, I was struggling to keep up. It was also slower in pace in comparison.

The only thing that made up for the pace and sprawling story was the humour. As mentioned above, I think it is brilliant, if very one-sided. The interaction between Depp and Hammer’s characters is great fun initially but gets a little repetitive.

The action is well paced and done brilliantly with the train chase at the climax of the film well paced and great fun to watch.

Something I would question is its uses of certain storytelling techniques. For one, it uses a framing technique of Tonto telling his story to a little boy in 1933. Is it needed? In my opinion, no. This film could easily have played out without the use of it. It also has a flashback to something that happens later in the story and, whilst the story does come back around and puts it in context, again, I don’t think it was needed or even necessary to put it in flashback. Why not just have the scene actually in its place in the story?

The music is well written but great soundtracks, regardless of the film, is to be expected from Hans Zimmer, who has done a fantastic job on Sherlock Holmes (2010) and The Lion King (1994).

In spite of the failings of the actually film, I do think there is just enough to rescue it from the panning of the critics in my opinion. It is funny, the action is great, it is visually exciting and the music is brilliant. I think it is worth a watch as long as you can forgive that  the story is not all that brilliant or well put together. Ultimately, it’s the story that let’s the film down.

Film Review: Epic (2013)

Yes, it’s a kids film. No, I don’t care.

MK (Mary Katherine) has just moved in with her father after a family tragedy and finds herself feeling ignored and isolated by her father, who is obsessed over the idea that little people live in the forest and keep it green and alive. She soon learns that it is all true when she finds the queen of the Leafmen dying and is entrusted with a flower pod to protect and to return to her people so that a new queen maybe named. However, this is not as easy as it sounds as there is an opposing force in the forest who want the pod for themselves…

The film is a rather simplistic in it’s story, with a good vs. evil plot line and is definitely for kids but I do like that there is a (very mild) environmentalist. I also like that the love story between MK and Nod is only there in the background and is not overpowering. There is also parallel story lines about familial love between a (surrogate) father and child (Nod and Ronin, MK and her father). I found this very appealing and enjoyed seeing it as I don’t think I have come across that before in other films or books I have read (whether for adults or children).

There is a lot of fighting in this film but none of it is over the top and the death of the queen is very well handled and I don’t believe this film would cause any nightmares for children.

What also appealed to me was the visual look of the film. I saw this film in 2D and have heard reports that it looks brilliant in 3D but going on what I saw today, everything was so detailed and amazing. The flying sequences, whilst not on the same level as the ones from How To Train Your Dragon (2010), made you believe that you were flying with them but didn’t quite have the same effect as HTTYD. It had the shiny look to be expected from an animated film for kids but the visuals, combined with everything else, drew me in and I found myself believing everything I was seeing. It even made me stop, for a short time, analysing the film and it’s writing just to enjoy it (which can be very difficult to do).

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, despite it very much being a kids film, but the family love story, the (again, very mild) environmentalist story, the visuals and the fighting sequences all combine to create a fun and enjoyable film for adults as well as children.