The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , |

HELLO!

Told you I wasn’t dead.
I’m still in the deep dark hole of revision for exams, but I escaped for just long enough to make it to a cinema and thought it was about time I actually wrote something on here that wasn’t an apology about not posting.  So what did I go and see with my precious few hours off? The Pirates! of course!

I’ve wanted to see this film ever since I heard it’s utterly brilliant title. (In full, it’s actually: The Pirates: band of misfits, in an adventure with Scientists!) I just love the brazen way they’ve gone, this is slightly silly film about pirates and scientists. Let’s just call it that.  When I then realised this was an Aardman film and had voice talent from pretty much every British actor who happened to walk past the microphone I knew that this was probably going to be something worth venturing to the cinema for.

As we’ve come to expect from Aardman, Pirates! captures a brand of British humour that is kind of hard to define. It’s the attention to detail that makes it work so well, such as the Blue Peter badge in the hat of one of the pirates, and leaves you wanting to see it again to pick up all the other little in jokes. The humour is deadpan and silly, which is a winning combination in a film like this, and manages to tap in to that elusive level that works for both kids and slightly bigger kids.  I particularly liked the generic character names, including  Pirate with Scarf and my personal favourite; Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate, a little nod to the fact that in these big ensemble movies, no one ever remembers the names anyway! (How many POTC crew members can you name?)

The voice cast reads like a who’s who. Hugh Grant is well placed as the slightly too nice for his own good Pirate Captain and Martin Freeman (who can basically do no wrong at the moment) is perfect as the second in command who’s clearly the brains of the outfit.  Imelda Staunton does what she does best, and David Tennant makes a surprisingly good Darwin. Throw in Brendan Gleeson, AshelyJensen, Lenny Henry and even Salma Hayak and you’ve got one of the most eclectic cast lists I’ve ever read, but one that somehow comes together (and lets you play a fun game of name the voice while you’re watching).

Seeing as this is essentially a kids film, you can be forgiven for thinking the plot will be a bit thin, but it actually didn’t feel predictable or generic.  I decided I wanted to see it knowing fairly little about it, and was genuinely surprised by some of the turns the plot took.  I never thought I’d see a British film with a slightly psychotic Queen Victoria  and a snivelly Charles Darwin as it’s villains, and a Pirate Captain (albeit with a luxuriant beard) as the hero you’re rooting for, but there you go. It works!

I shouldn’t really need to convince you to go and see this film. It’s a great bit of fun if, like me, you need to escape for a couple of hours.

And in case you’re worried I’m going to tease you with a post and then disappear again, The Avengers comes out on the 26th April. Guess where I’m going on the 29th… 😉

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In Bruges

Posted on January 14, 2012. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

(It’s in Belgium)

In Bruges has been on my to watch list for a really long time. I remember seeing a trailer for it when it first came out and thinking it looked good, but somehow I got put off by a couple of bad reviews and never quite managed it.  It’s stayed on my mind though, and thanks to the magic of Christmas I finally got my hands on a copy of the DVD.

Perhaps what confused the people writing those few bad reviews I read was that In Bruges was marketed (at least in part) as a comedy.  And yes, it is a comedy. But a very black one which looks at death, suicide, redemption and the nature of humanity.  Those themes don’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but the genius of Mark McDonagh’s writing leaves us with a wonderful film that flips effortlessly between moments of raw emotion and pure laughter.  It’s little wonder that it won the BAFTA for best screenplay and also got an Oscar nod.  The script is pretty much perfect.  Every time it’s at risk of getting too heavy, a quip breaks the tension, but not in such a way that it undermines the motion or the meaning in what is going on.

The idea of Bruges as a kind of purgatory for our main character, Ray, is clever and done with incredibly delicacy.  I also love how we aren’t really introduced to the characters, just thrown in with them, with everything we need to know about them  revealed through snippets of conversation.  You get to know the protagonists in much the same way you get to know people in life, which adds realism to an already earthy plot.

All the clever writing in the world can’t save bad acting, but luckily the three central characters are played by three great actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.  I’ve written before about how highly I rate Farrell as an actor, and I think this film is a huge testament to his talent.  He plays Ray with a childlike innocence which is endearing and all the more striking given what we learn about him during the film.  Like the writing, he manages to find a perfect balance between humour and pathos, creating a character who is entirely sympathetic yet in another film could easily be the villain.  Gleeson has similar qualities as Ken, taking a more fatherly role to Farrell’s child, while Fiennes manages to give humanity to a character who could easily be written off as a psychopath.  The brilliance of In Bruges is that you really care about, and like, all the characters, even though we are never deceived about the bad things they have done.  Even the supporting cast; racist dwarf Jimmy and drug dealing thief Chloe, have us rooting for them.

The plot also keeps you on your toes, so that you’re never quite sure where things are going to go next.  It’s not so much that there are lots of twists, more that like the characters, you can’t really see how they’re going to get out of the situation they are in.  It’s a fantastic film and I’m glad I finally got around to seeing it because it’s going straight on to the Movies to see before you die list.

Happy New Year Everyone!

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