Don't be put off by my title: there is nothing sinister here chaps!! Indeed, with my general 'bloggings' I shall attempt to delight and astound you out of the mundaneness of a middle class suburban life, into the magical world of the Sophster!! Mystical...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Sophie's Film Choice #14: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

(WARNING: Extreme glitzyness). 

My spidey senses are tingling... and that only means one thing - The Amazing Spider-Man is back! And this time, I've got front row seats. (Well, not literally - I think I was in Row H - BUT you'll see what I mean). 

I WAS AT THE WORLD PREMIERE, YO! That's right - amidst the screaming hysteria of Leicester Square, the heavily face-painted fangirls ready for a whiff of Andrew Garfield, and some very peculiar 'DJ'ing ('ladies, put you hands up') from Jamie Foxx, there I was, strolling down the red carpet like a bad-ass Spider based hero. 

Taking our seats in the Odeon, we were greeted with Spidey masks, water bottles (which look strikingly like a child branded bath product - I'll leave you to decide which), and the best part of all - Spidey 3D glasses! I would give these a 7/10 - aesthetically pleasing, yet mildly uncomfortable in the glasses/3D glasses layering which I must adopt.

Ready for a soak after a day of web-slinging... 

However, despite the slight backwards tilt of the head I had to maintain to keep my shades on, a spider-iffic evening was had by all! (Disclaimer: lots of words will be substituted with 'spider' - it's unavoidable really). 

SPOILER ALERT: Half of the film... 
From the outset, the sequel to Marc Webb's 2012 relaunch was just as fun-fuelled and action-packed as ever. From Andrew Garfield's Scott Pilgrim-esque awkwardness, to Jamie Foxx's portrayal of the Spidey obsessed super-nerd, Max Dillon, this film hit the mark perfectly on the comedy scales. Added to Emma Stone's sassy yet endearing performance of Gwen Stacey, Peter Parker's long suffering girlfriend, we knew we were in for a treat (even perhaps with the gratuitous romantic scenes - WE GET IT. YOU FANCY EACH OTHER). 

What impresses me most about Webb's take on the Spider-Man franchise is his ability to keep the stories simple, allowing time to actually care about the characters. OK, so we had one more obstacle in this film than in the last (with the addition of our familiar friend Harry Osborn aka. The Green Goblin), but even the two enemies work together to give unity and clear objectives to the plot. Both villains are former friends of Peter/Spider-Man. Both feel betrayed. Both seek vengeance. It's neat and clear - in the meantime, we end up empathising with the destructive characters, giving them a poignance all of their own. 

The vulnerability of all characters in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' is really what takes our emotional investment. Max Dillon's transformation into Electro (the guy who creates weird electronic dance music by touching stuff.... Sony TM) is not without fear - setting out as a harmless fan, his craving for attention drives him to violence. Harry Osborn's merge into the Green Goblin is fed by desperation - a horrendously scaley death vs.... a horrendously scaley life. Hmm... let's just say when it comes to actors that play Harry Osborn, James Franco may have stolen the handsomeness. Coupled with the very real chemistry between Garfield and Stone which forms the backbone of this film, it is certainly one for the ladies, as well as containing plenty of 'no holes barred' action for the boys. 

'Well - it's not my fault - I have a disease.'

'... are you kidding me?!'
With lots of humour, heart and a surprising amount of realism, 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' left me satisfied and looking forward to the next instalment. Plus, we saw Eddie Redmayne on the way out. Just thought I'd snuck that in there.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sophie's Film Choice #13: THE LEGO MOVIE

Let's just get one thing out of the way, before I start this review.


With over 30 sets of plastic joy safely nestled in the garage (not to be touched, unless I give express permission), I think it's safe to say that my satisfaction for putting tiny wigs on little men and constructing replicas of famous fictional buildings borders on the obsessive.

So, with that off my chest, you will understand the gravity of the situation: I was about to watch a feature length film about my favourite toy, and it had to be good - I will know if there's a missing piece! (Har har).

'Out of 6 million identical mini-figures, I got the part!'
Well, I am pleased to say the the Lego Movie was not only satisfactory to a patron of the franchise, but was just pure LOLZ. From the outrageously catchy song 'Everything is Awesome', to the moment where Batman runs off to join Han Solo for a galactic 'lads night out', the comedy was the real strength of this film.

The Lego Movie is so funny, because it is completely self- referential. We never forget that we are watching Lego figures - the hilarity lies in their restrictions (of movement, expression and interaction), exemplified by Emmet, the archetypal  Lego Minifigure and unlikely hero of the story. He wears the classic orange engineers outfit. His hair resembles a Justin Beiber style helmet. He has an inanely smiling yellow face. He drinks only coffee and eats only croissants (necessitated by his claw-like hands). He can only move his legs forward and backwards from the hip joint. We all know the type. Throw him in amongst a 'Unikitty', Gandalf, and an over-enthusiastic astronaut, and his blandness becomes ridiculous.

'For the last time, you will NOT eat candyfloss in the batmobile.' 
With the advantage of having the rights to so many different brands, it is only in a film made by Lego that we can see so many familiar worlds collide - Superman spends the entirety trying to shake off the fawning Green Lantern, Emmet goes horse riding in the Wild West, where he meets Batman, and Abraham Lincoln exits a meeting on a hover board. Yes - that weird.

A story told by Lego, about Lego itself, this film has what I call the 'Toy Story' effect. Centred around the opposition between order and creativity, the characters work in a Lego world, but we can also see the interaction we have when given instruction - in the scenes where we meet 'the man upstairs' (I won't spoil by explaining too much), we suddenly become conscious of the imposition of humans on toys. Without sounding too heavy by trying to philosophise a toy primarily aimed at 7-14 year olds, the visual intrusion of human objects like glue and hands is surprisingly sinister, and really does make you think about the damaging effects of social engineering.

Totally. It just makes me want to grab my newly built Lego cinema, take it all apart and make it into an elaborate Robo-shark (but I won't because that would just be madness).

'You give me a Super Soaker - I raise THIS!'

So, to conclude what now seems to have become a serious speech - yes, Lego figures aren't alive. Yes, the sets look perfectly good when built exactly to the booklet's instructions. Yes, croissants are delicious. But remember, you never know - next time you see your Lego minifigure, take a moment to think... does he fancy a new hair style? Or perhaps I'll be a maverick and sit him on top of that palm tree? He'll thank you for it.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sophie's Film Choice #12: FROZEN

(Wicked meets Tangled. On ice).

We all know by now that I find it marginally uncomfortable to go more than a month without a fix of Disney. No spontaneous music? No impossibly shiny hair? No animals that have comically human characteristics? I wouldn't wish that world on anyone.

'That's right... you're FAR superior to a Disney horse...'
I actually managed to resist 'Frozen' until after Christmas (but we all knew it was inevitable viewing). So, was it all I had wished for and more?

From the opening 'Pocahontas'-esque chant, ('Diggedy dig' springs to mind) to the glittering and pinkish hue of the ice, to the cute baby reindeer, I knew I would get my money's worth. The story? Two sisters. One's a secret Ice Queen. She spends her time trying not to freeze stuff. She accidentally freezes everything. Much angst-ridden singing ensues, whilst the sister meets a handsome man.

'I couldn't find the Ben and Jerrys.'
As always in recent Disney Classics,  the characterisation and humour in 'Frozen' was spot-on. Kristen Bell gives a perfect performance as the slightly awkward and endearingly enthusiastic Anna, whilst Olaf the Snowman... well he just likes warm hugs!

Kristoff and his reindeer provide a boyish appeal to this film, their love-hate, slapstick fuelled relationship similar to that of Flynn Rider and Maximus in Tangled. In the meantime, there are some weird rock people who sing gospel music. Because why the heck not?

This is one of the few films in which 3D actually enhanced the clarity and depth of the visuals - Disney artwork continues to become more and more beautiful, and the scenery created in 'Frozen' was nothing short of breathtaking. Are there more than five ways of animating snow? you ask. Yes there are, my friend. Yes, there are.

The only slight disappointment in 'Frozen' was the consistency of the songs. Opening with an atmospheric and unusual track of unaccompanied voices, the rest of the film was characterised by musical theatre/pop tunes, perhaps more suited to the Broadway stage than a Classic Disney animation.

'Step away from the 'Elnett'...' 
But of course, this isn't all bad. It DID mean we got the joy of having our ears blasted off by the beltingly fabulous Idina Menzel, serving as the voice of the Ice-Queen, Elphaba (oops, I mean Elsa)...

Full of misunderstandings, chases, shady characters and heart warming revelations, 'Frozen' lives up to the Disney formula. Except for one thing: the love story is only secondary, and the ladies lead the action - which makes a nice change. (Expect sassiness of the sparkliest kind).

Saturday, 18 January 2014


*Looks up from news desk, as if slightly (yet pleasantly) surprised*

Oh hello there! Thought I'd disappeared from the bloggersphere eh? Thought that 'Sophie's Choice' was no more? Well you thought WRONG!

That's right my fellow film enthusiasts! Much like Ron Burgundy, Sophie is back, and bigger than ever. Apologies for profuse use of exclamation marks (or the occasional cheeky smiley face) - I'm currently writing a regular blog for 13-17 year old girls, so the occasional mistake does sometimes (I LOVE HARRY STYLES!) slip in.

It is a shameful truth to acknowledge that I have seen a couple of films lately that I haven't had the time to review - I will give them a short summary now:

'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' - 4 Hours. Enjoyable barrel-fuelled escapades. They all go on a drug trip. Gandalf saves them.

'Thor 2' - I fell asleep. I believe this was due to work-related fatigue, as I was impressed with the hammer-wielding and Hiddleston brooding that I witnessed in my conscious minutes.

SO, to the main event - after nearly 10 years of waiting, with the beautifully haunting tune of 'Afternoon Delight' resounding in our heads, we finally saw the return of Ron Burgundy and his news team to our screens last year. And they did not disappoint.

'Yayy! We're getting paid SO MUCH for this!'

This sequel is extremely self-indulgent, completely illogical, undeniably stupid - and therefore hilarious. Imagine a killer whale, in a glittery biki, smoking a pipe and talking in an Indian accent. Yes - that random.

The old characters we have come to know and love are exemplified wonderfully in the first part of the film. In a re-uniting sequence, we can see that after 10 years: Champ Kind owns a fried 'chicken' restaurant (or 'chicken of the cave' - you figure it out), Brian Fantana takes photos of kittens (or 'pussies'...) and Brick Tamland thinks he's dead. Literally.

Ronald McDonald's grumpy brother. 
In fact, right from the funeral which Brick himself organises - for his own death - and then does a speech - Steve Carell really steals this film (with perhaps only Doby the Shark as his main contender). From the slow-motion, mid-air posing when the camper van rolls down the hill, to the horrendously awkward scenes with his new love-interest Chani (played by Kristen Wiig), Carell gives consistent laughs. I can only assume his lines are written by pointing at random words in the dictionary and stringing them together, but it works!

There really is no organised or coherent way I can analyse this film, as it's really a pastiche of ridiculousness. However, some of my personal highlights include:

1) A squirmingly awful scene when Ron meets his new girlfriend's family (BLACK!!)
2) The moment Ron becomes blind and can no longer distinguish between ketchup and beer (even after tasting them)
3) Walter Burgundy's face during the heart-felt song for Doby the Shark
4) An EPIC news team battle, involving far too many cameos, a werewolf and a Minotaur.

All in all, I loved 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues'. Whilst not as well-structured and concise as the first, the sequel makes up for it in pure, unadulterated silliness. A literally laugh-a-minute film, Will Ferrel shows that he's still got it (despite the wrinkles).

Stay classy, St. Albans.

WARNING: Scenes like this become normal after 20 minutes. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Sophie's Film Choice #10: BLUE JASMINE

The days are getting cold and and wet, the city is covered in a sheen of rain, the nights are drawing in... it's only right that we should all go and see a Woody Allen film! I took my own recommendation on Friday night, and scooted on down to Hatfield to see one of my favourite director's latest efforts.

'Blue Jasmine' is a life-assuring piece about love and happiness, and will leave you with a warm glow inside, to fend off the winter chill. LOL JK! In fact, this film is perhaps the most heart-wrenchingly intense and tragic films Allen has written... probably since 'Husbands and Wives' (which is just an unflinching chronicle of stale marriages and break-ups - cheery)!

'Say enchilada!! :D'  '...No.'
Not surprisingly, given good old Woody's history, 'Blue Jasmine' explores some of his common themes: adultery, sex, deceit, death and snobbery (in no particular order. But all are frequent. Painfully frequent).

'If you ask me to speak elvish ONE MORE TIME.'
Following Jasmine, in a series of flash backs, and in her new life in San Francisco, we witness the brisk and catastrophic demise of a once glamorous and serene woman, into a quivering (and at times terrifying) train-wreck. Cate Blanchett is nothing less than astounding in the role, oscillating between a hyper and overly loquacious socialite, to a calmly arrogant millionaire, to a... chattering nutcase within seconds, her self-denial and psychosis kept worryingly relatable. Honestly, she is a chameleon of misery!

Desperately seeking refuge with her stepsister, Ginger (played by Sally Hawkins), Jasmine doesn't even try to conceal her disgust at the cheap Californian suburban life she must withstand. In Allen's signature style, the gaudy flat in San Francisco is set up as a direct contrast to Jasmine's spacious and minimalist New York home (the split-screen shot at the dinner table in 'Annie Hall' springs to mind), and Blanchett's willowy and pale physique makes her seem an unwanted giant in the claustrophobic, latino apartment.

'I can't believe you told me this was a 6Os themed party...'
Hawkins perpetuates a brash and bubbly naivety as Ginger, the fun-loving, honest and accepting antithesis to Jasmine, and whilst she goes for some pretty minging men (having sex with a fat old bloke in the back seat of his car... classy), we can't help but will her on to a happy ending. As is often the case in Allen's work, the eye is firmly on the female in this film, whilst the men (including the sleazy and unfeeling 'Hal', played by Alec Baldwin) are merely vehicles for their happiness and distress.

'Blue Jasmine' is, in my opinion, the best film Allen has made since 'Husbands and Wives'. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery, warmth and quirkiness of 'Midnight in Paris', it lacked the emotional substance which this film has in spades. I would defy anyone who doesn't have a lump in their throat in the final scene. One thing is for sure, Woody Allen can recreate break-ups and break-downs like no-one else can.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Sophie's Film Choice #9: MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Having been meaning to see this long- awaited prequel since it was released on my return from Disneyland in June (yes, I have been there 3 times in 5 years, what of it?), it's hard to believe that it took until the August Bank Holiday weekend to catch up with my favourite monsters.

In hindsight, perhaps this was not the best day to choose. Far from the quiet and empty screening I imagined, the cinema was crammed full of shouting, restless and... loquacious little terrors. A constant stream of noise created a chaotic ambience whilst I was trying to enjoy my trailers- even if it is just advertising a film about a speedy snail, show that snail respect people!

'Did you not hear the dress code either?'
However, as soon as the Pixar short began, I was immediately soothed and delighted, watching the cute umbrellas flirt with each other and found myself, as always, rooting for inanimate objects (such is the Disney way). By the time the feature film began, I was ready to enjoy it with as much zest as I enjoy any Pixar film; the first shot of a seemingly normal pigeon which turns out to be two- headed set the tone for the unexpected sense of humour that carries 'Monsters University' to a deserved place in the Pixar Hall of Fame.

Detailing Mike Wasowski's time at University, and the unusual beginnings of his friendship with James P. Sullivan, the film explores ambition, hard work vs. talent, and that sometimes neither is the route to success. Using the typical American college formula of the cliques (Jocks, Girly Girls, Emos and Misfits), the monstrous aesthetic works surprisingly well, lending itself to some intricate and hilarious gags. Some of the best moments are Sully stealing 'Archie the Scare Pig', the pair trying to cross an especially formidable librarian, and some killer moves thrown at the fraternity party.

And the winner of 'The Great Monster's Bake Off' is...
The campus setting allows for some great new characters, the underdog fraternity 'Oozma Kappa' providing consistent laughs whilst being thoroughly endearing. Consisting of a 'mature' student with tentacles, a character named 'Squishy' (enough said), a two headed semi- dancer (only one of the heads likes to dance, embarrassingly) and a philosophical 'Hug in a Mug', the team pull together through a highly satisfying montage. Also watch out for the mother. Loading the washing machine. Just watch her boogying and enjoy.

The best pairing of brains and brawn since Woody and Buzz, Mike and Sully tug at our heart strings once again, showing us that teamwork is more important than glory. Also, Mini- Mike (with braces) is the cutest large green eye socket that I've ever seen, and for that alone, I am sold.

Whilst the plot of the prequel may be less tight and more predictable than 'Monsters Inc', 'Monsters University' makes up for it through the wonderfully crafted humour, well observed and detailed characterisation, and of course, absolutely stunning visuals. In fact, in some scenes, it's hard to believe it isn't real. Apart from the monster bit, I suppose.
Sully didn't quite understand the concept of 'Jazz hands'....

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Sophie's Film Choice #8: ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA

Early evening in Watford? The smallest (and emptiest) screen in the cinema? Late for the film due to insisting on a  Ben and Jerry's milkshake? A conspicuous entrance as the only under 40 year- olds in the room? Having to fumble up the stairs in the pitch black, drawing further attention to ourselves?

AH- HA!! It could only be the beginning of our time with Alan!

This needs no caption. 
After a string of wildly inappropriate trailers (including two films starring Mark Wahlberg, and a sickeningly cliched Richard Curtis film) we were ready to reacquaint ourselves with our... Norwichian (?) hero. And he delivered. That is metaphorically; he did not deliver anything to us. We were just watching him on a screen.  

Interestingly, the film is set when Alan is at a relatively high point in popularity and in his career; he presents a lunchtime show for 'North Norfolk Digital', and he actually lives in a house- not even a caravan or a hotel room! However, we soon understand that Alan is on thin ice; when a media conglomerate try to take over the radio station, he must use all his power of  brown- nosing, back- peddling and desperately confused logic to keep afloat. Enter the real Alan Partridge- hopeless, smarmy and downright cringe-worthy. But somehow likeable. 

Cleverly, Steve Coogan and Peter Baynham keep to the claustrophobic and bleak portrayal of inner Norwich that characterises Alan's gloriously uneventful lifestyle, most of the action taking place within a few streets of the radio station. Too many directors try to recreate intimate comedy on a large, sometimes international scale when converting to film, but this just wouldn't have sat right with Partridge. Why would he need to travel? He's only famous in Norwich. Well, quite well- known at least. His listeners must be in at least double figures.

Alan has become the Dark Lord. Just another day for Lynn (sigh)
The film also sees the return of some familiar faces; Alan's fiercely loyal PA, Lynn, proves as adorably tragic as ever, shocked and flattered to be offered a cup of tea, and completely submissive when told her hair cut looks like it is 'mid- explosion.' Alan's Geordie friend Michael returns (inside a cupboard), as does his long- time radio rival, Dave Clifton (now a recovering alcoholic, giving Alan full ammunition to 'have the last laugh.') Along with Monica Dolan's performance as Angela, automatically admirable as she convinces us she actually fancies Alan, as well as Colm Meaney's portrayal of Pat Farrell, the former folk loving radio DJ turned psychotic... folk loving ex- radio DJ, the film achieves new levels of hilarity. 

The beauty of the plot lies in the fact that Alan can remain pathetically incompetent and inappropriate as he doesn't lead any of the action. Instead, things happen to him. Like involuntarily negotiating a siege, having to carry a fire arm, and 'laying down some bass' to record a new, 'hostage style' radio jingle. Controlled by fear of Pat Farrell, as well as guilt for elaborately convincing the station to fire him ('JUST SACK PAT'), it is down to Alan to calm down the situation; of course, he exacerbates it, failing in all his given tasks, whilst actually managing to  undermine the police's attempts to rescue Pat's hostages themselves. The film can be compared to watching a car crash in slow motion. Repeatedly.

'I think I've got a handle on it'

If you think you will enjoy/ endure watching Coogan's chronically awkward alter- ego skulk around corridors thinking he is Tom Cruise, try to 'gee- up' the crowd whilst tied to what can only be described as a 'man lead', and fall slowly out of a window, losing both his trousers and his pants, then this is the film for you. If not, then... Smell my cheese, you mother! (Back of the net!)