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...

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Sophie's Film Choice #16: WONDER WOMAN

To set the scene for this post: I'm currently on an East Midlands train, with a Caffe Nero iced coffee, rinsing the free Wi Fi by streaming Spotify and tapping away on my macbook air. I'm practically the millennial version of J K Rowling.

Now I've got that out of my system: to business. Last night I saw Wonder Woman. And now I want to BE her. So to stop myself from crying inside, I'll just have to write about the film instead.

Having been officially bummed out by most films in the DC universe that I have seen (the Batman franchise mainly), I had heard much happier things about Wonder Woman - including a lovely, candid interview with Gal Gadot on the Kermode and Mayo film review - and took a stab in the dark that this would sufficiently fulfil my 'Friyay' vibe. Me and my lovely work colleague hotfooted down to Leicester Square (from our conveniently placed Covent Garden office), grabbed a cheeky Burger King and took our seats for two and half hours of escapist, super hero fun. 
"Don't. Stop. Me. NOW!"

Having purposely steered away from the trailers (because of course all the best parts are in them, amirite?!) I found Wonder Woman totally refreshing. I've seen a lot of coverage on the feminist strengths/weaknesses of the film, so I'm just going to take it as I found it with some things that left an impression on me: 

Gal Gadot gives such a lovely, powerful yet vulnerable portrayal of Diana (aka Wonder Woman, although no one calls her this yet) that she immediately wins you over. As an origin story, we witness Diana as she is brought up by the Amazons (inc. Claire Underwood with a... Greek? Turkish? accent) to hold the only the highest ideals and become a stunningly fierce warrior. When catapulted into the human world during the First World War by Steve Trevors (Chris Pine), she puts the rest of the characters to shame in her genuine belief that humans are wholly good. Plus her hair in the slo mo scenes is so swishy. 

The culture shocks work in many ways: from a Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones style opening which reveals the golden and luscious Themyscira, to the grey, polluted scenes of London, to the eeriness of the Western Front, there is ample opportunity for both comedy and reflection. Diana's reactions to early 20th century human customs, including trying on wartime ladies' fashion ('How can a woman possibly fight in this?') are contagiously charming, helped along by Lucy Davis' comically matter-of-fact performance as Steve Trevor's receptionist. When Diana doesn't understand why the men won't risk going over the top into No Man's Land to save innocent lives, the results are uplifting and quite beautiful. 

"The pool did NOT look like that on the Thomson website"

It doesn't go over board on super hero references. There are deliberate nods to Batman to frame the film, as well as a cheeky ribbing of Clark Kent's 'undercover glasses' look in the clothing shop, but the film concentrates on the story at hand. In fact, I would describe it as more of a war film with a super hero protagonist than vice versa. (There is a battle scene towards the end that is very reminiscent of X Men, but we'll forgive that as we are in a WHOLE other universe). 

The chemistry between Diana and Steve definitely works (even if laid on a little thick at times due to some obvious one liners, overly lingering close ups and one perfectly timed snowfall). Both characters are driven by the need to protect others, yet self assured and confident of their own abilities - i.e. actually likeable. People have criticised the relationship as profoundly un-feminist: Diana is too naive or innocent and Steve acts as a teacher figure, but to me this is completely misread. The humour and joy in their chemistry grows from the very difference between this assumption and reality.

Eg: 

Assumption: Diana is from a land of no men. She clearly doesn't know what sex is. 

Reality: She is more well read about reproduction and the 'pleasures of flesh' that probably any man alive. 

Assumption: Diana is a woman and therefore needs protecting. 

Reality: Let's all hide behind her because we will literally die immediately in this war unless she's fighting like a demon.

"Moaning... Myrtle?"
I could go on and on but I'll wrap up with some final thoughts/highlights: 

1) The 'Golden Lasso of Truth' is epic and I want one.
2) Could Chris Pine be the next generation of Leo Di Caprio? Will keep track.
3) Little girls have some great new role models this last year (there were some definite echoes of Disney's Moana in the film's themes).
4) Could have done with a little less CGI / electric guitars. Let's not get into Twilight territory now.
5) If Indiana Jones tells us anything, chuck in a few evil Germans and you're on to a winner. 

All in all, great Friday fun which makes you want to run through the streets in an armoured dress, baring your wrists at things and feeling like a boss. Big thumbs up! 

Til next time gang,
 Super Soph™

PS. Now stopping as it turns out I get travel sick when writing on trains. This is clearly why I don't have a multi-million dollar book series. 


Monday, 17 April 2017

Sophie's Choice: Reborn (again): inc. LOGAN review!

Oh HELLO strangers!!

"Where the bloody hell have you been?" you may ask. Alright, no need to get antsy. Jeez. OK BACK OFF, PUT DOWN THE PEPPER SPRAY. 

Ok, now you've calmed down - I am indeed BACK. With a vengeance. I'm basically the Terminator of film bloggers. Except I drink tea instead of killing people, obvs.

If there is indeed anyone there, be prepared for some witty - if slightly rusty at first - film analysis entering its way back into your life! 

Previously, on Sophie's Choice... 

I had left you with a review of Spider-man 2 (back in 2014!!), having just been to the world premiere - where I also spotted Eddie Redmayne. Because - fun fact alert - he's bezzies with Andrew Garfield:

First day of dinner lady pirate school... knackered. 
Flash forward to 2017, and things just got a whole lot classier.

I am no longer an 'everyman.' A cinema that doesn't boast sofas, tables with little tea lights on them, a fully stocked bar and 1920s architecture is DEAD to me. (Unless I'm desperate, in which case an Odeon will suffice *grits teeth*). That's right - I'm in my MID 20s now.

This would make a great spinning teacups ride!
The only sacrifice to living this high life is that you have to wait just a teeny weeny bit longer to see new releases (so best to wear ear plugs constantly lest spoilers are revealed). Anyway, without further ado, here is the first of my much classier, more refined reviews - this time it's...

LOGAN (warning: don't eat jam doughnuts while you watch this)

This is a difficult film to start with after a long break - because I actually loved it. My favourite pastime of picking out and ridiculing every flaw is somewhat limited.

As we walked into our local swanky cinema,  Johnny Cash's 'God's Gonna Cut You Down' was playing as we found our seats, setting the tone for the film perfectly. 'Logan' picks up the character of... well, Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine), in the not-too-distant future (2029). He's even more grumpy. He's drinking a LOT of whiskey. He's suddenly allowed to swear all the time because it's a 15 certificate film. And he's one cab driver you DON'T want to get on the wrong side of.

'I told you not to eat my Creme Egg'
This isn't what I'd call a superhero film (which is great, because I don't have a lot of time for most of them). It's much closer to a modern Western: Logan is the lone ranger trying to keep his head down in a society that no longer tolerates or even acknowledges that mutants exist. Seen as an extinct race, only he, Professor Xavier and Caliban (a vampiric looking Stephen Merchant) seem to still be hanging on, if weakly.

In a dry, desolate landscape, it looks like we're just going to watch our favourite characters slowly fade away. Until a crazy Latino lady shows up and a highly dangerous, highly emotional journey begins (funny when that happens). When our central wolfy friend is charged with getting a mini mutant outlaw across the border to Canada (I won't explain why), the Western tradition develops into the classic trope of the hunter and the hunted.

The Hangover 3: spanning generations
Without taking too long (as I wasted valuable reading time in my over-indulgent introduction) this film is extremely well paced, tense in all the right places, emotionally charged and strangely moving. I was transfixed for the entire running time - which is more than can be said for Thor 2, in which I fell asleep about 30 minutes in. Awks.

Some of my favourite parts:

1) Charles Xavier's ground shuddering mental seizure in the Oklahoma City Hotel
2) The first time you see Laura getting all 'Stranger Things' on the bad guys
3) The double Wolverine face-off. EPIC.

I wasn't the only one with my hand over my mouth in pretty much every other scene (there were a LOT of metal claws going through people's heads... in a very realistic way) but this also highlighted something about the X-men characters which makes them much more vulnerable than heroes in other Marvel films: to quote Lady Gaga: they were just BORN that way. Mutant genes are a natural deformity as much as a super power, which makes the characters feel much more the victim than your average, run-of-the-mill Spider-man (sorry Andrew. And Eddie).

All in all, I thoroughly recommend Logan if you haven't already seen it - but be prepared for much more blood and cursory than the previous films in the franchise.

Now to reward myself for the first blog back with a tea and a Malteaster Bunny. Winning at life.


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.

Spider-tastic! 


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.

I LOVE LEGO.

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

Sophie's Film Choice #11: ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

*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.