A-Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal 2015

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Another year has come and gone and we are approaching April and this year’s A-Z Blogging Challenge with great haste. I have covered TV and Film in the last 2 challenges, and therefore this year I am going to return to another passion in my life, music.

There are many bands that I enjoy listening to, there are also certain songs that I enjoy listening to, but am not a massive fan of the band or singer. What can sometimes make a difference is the accompanying music video, an art that has become somewhat of a mini Hollywood these days. Long gone are the days of just a film of a group on stage or on Top of the Pops, nowadays, music videos are big bucks, a selling point if you like, but its all about exposure to the masses. I suppose that was always the point, but with so many forms of media exposure available to the public, good videos make more money.

I have selected an A-Z of my favourite music videos from the last 4 or so decades. Not an easy choice I will tell you, but my criteria were simple; it has to be something that enhances the song and I believe that all of these videos do that in some form or another. I shall endeavour to explain just what it is I like about each music video and any memories they give me. I hope you enjoy my A-Z this year, and I shall be blog hopping to see what everyone else has to offer. Happy blogging folks!

Automata (2014) – A Review

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automataOne film I have had on my hard drive for quite some time is Automata. Starring Antonio Banderas, this film is a science fiction movie that draws influence from a number of films from the past, Blade Runner, Max Headroom, and I Robot to name but three.

Banderas plays Jacq Vaucan, an insurance agent for a company that is responsible for the robots that now take care of everything in this futuristic dystopian society. he investigates cases of robots violating their two basic protocols. What he discovers after one is shot by a police man (Dylan McDermott) is that the robots are actually evolving and becoming self-aware. The company, ROC, of course do not want this to happen and attempt to prevent it with almost disastrous consequences.

It is a curious film, that I suppose has its place in science fiction, but like Johnny Depp’s Transcendence last year, it kind of gets lost within itself and the impact of the outcome of the movie ends up being soft and what could have been a more powerful pay off just doesn’t happen.

I can now delete this from my computer and I can’t say I’m disappointed at that, not a great movie all things considered as regards story, but the performance from Banderas is good enough to carry the film somewhat, but you wouldn’t be missing anything if you don’t see this. Science fiction has fallen by the wayside in recent years and it seems that the superhero fascination Hollywood has at the moment has taken over good film-making. I cannot remember the last really good sci-fi movie I saw.

Automata gets a paltry 2stars

Trailer:

Trailer Time

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I update my Movies That I want To See page quite regularly, but never draw attention to the new films that I add to my list. So starting today, I shall add a few trailers of upcoming movies that have interested me for whatever reason and give my thoughts on them.

First up today is Big Game. This is a movie by Jalmari Helander, A Finnish writer/director who gave us Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, that if you haven’t seen, you should this Christmas, it’ll give you a whole new look at Santa Claus ;-) The little boy from Rare Exports, Onni Tommila stars as a teenager who is camping in the woods in Finland and rescues the most powerful man on the planet when the US President’s plane Air Force One is shot down overhead.

I like the concept of this and the added fun of Samuel L Jackson portraying the President gives it a dimension that will be very comical with some good action. Here is the trailer:

Secondly today, is a horror that comes out in October this year from writer/director Guillermo del Toro. Crimson Peak tells the story of an author who marries a man who is not all he appears to be. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, I quite fancy this one. I’ve never been one for the horror genre really, but this does have me intrigued in the same way as the old computer games The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour occupied me for hours on end. It could of course be completely rubbish, but from the trailer alone, Crimson Peak looks pretty enjoyable.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – A Review

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mockingjay-part-1-trailerSo far, I have enjoyed The Hunger Games. I have to say that I am not much of a reader so I don’t know the ins and outs of the novels, but I am assured by my wife (who has read the books) that the films are being pretty faithful) and so its time to review the most recent part of the series, Mockingjay Part 1.

We left Katniss Everdeen firing an arrow into the sky and shattering the dome at the end of Catching Fire. Katniss and some of the other tributes were then rescued by The Resistance of District 13. Some, like Peeta were not rescued and were taken to The Capital. We begin our story here as she has trouble adapting to life as a rebel (although that is the point of her character and personality) and her initial reluctance to become the figurehead for the rebel fight back against President Snow and The Capital. Katniss must decide how far she is willing to go and she can only do this after seeing the devastation that her actions in the last film caused in the meantime. This spurs her into action and under the leadership of President Coin (the rebel leader), a deadly mission is undertaken to raid The Capital to rescue the remaining tributes.

Now I am guessing that the final part of the series has been split into two movies for financial reasons alone, but what I did find strange was the shortness of the film. I was well under the 2 hour mark. I expected it to be much longer which leads me to believe that the second part will be much longer to accommodate the final battles. Personally, I found this to be a pretty weak film and although it continues the story nicely, there isn’t that much happening here, and for me its been the poorest of the movies so far.

I also thought the performances were a lot weaker than they have been in the previous films and I found some of the characters pretty pointless, for example Cressida, played here by the excellent Natalie Dormer. In fact that entire group of people I didn’t connect with at all. A strange role for Natalie Dormer to take aswell in my opinion as it doesn’t really fit well with her; and what was with the character names of Pollux and Castor? Did the author watch Face Off the night before or something?

The action was pretty sparse in this movie aswell and it added to what was lacking as a movie for me in a series that I have really enjoyed before this film. I can only hope that the final installment gives us all the payoff that the series deserves and I look forward to seeing it later in the year, but for now I shall just say that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I probably should have. Woody Harrelson’s character was rarely seen in this movie, however Elizabeth Banks was again very good as Effie, the seemingly bubble-headed but secretly brilliant PR and fashion guru, who manages to make a complete wardrobe out of a single jump suit.. ;-)

Smurfin’ The Web’s Rating? A poor 3stars

Trailer:

The Maze Runner (2014) – A Review

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the-maze-runner-bannerHere we have the beginnings of yet another series of young adult fiction novels that have (or are going to be) adapted into big screen versions. The first of these novels that were written by James Dashner is simply called The Maze Runner.

Now I went into this slightly warily, knowing that the source material was teen fiction, but I thought I would give it a shot nevertheless. The film tells the story of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) who wakes up to find himself in a strange place with no-one he knows around him and no memory of how he got there.

It becomes apparent that he has been sent there to make something change in the habitat around him although he doesn’t know what that is to begin with. The community lives in the shadow of a huge maze that only opens during the day and allows “runners” to gain access, who, while inside have been mapping the maze for a number of years.

The only cast members I recognised here were Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones, Love Actually) and Will Poulter (Voyage of the Dawn Treader). The rest of the cast is virtually unknown and they put in a decent job, but nothing Earth shattering in my opinion. I haven’t read the books so I do not know what sort of time frame they follow, but the second novel (The Scorch Trials) has finished filming and is in post production for a release later in the years.

Now my verdict on the film? Well the idea is good enough. A modest blend of the survival element (The Hunger Games) and the horror/action of Cube. Lets just say that although not a brilliant movie, there is enough of a story for me to watch the second movie when it comes out just to see where it goes. I can then decide if any further watching is required.

So I give The Maze Runner 3stars and wait for the next in the series.

Trailer:

Coherence (2013) – A Review

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CoherenceHere’s a new review for you. I saw someone else’s thoughts on this film and it reminded me that I still had this on my hard drive and had done for months. I decided to go upstairs this afternoon and have an hour and a half to myself and watch this one.

With a very small cast, the only member of which I recognised was Nicholas Brendan as Mike, this film keeps you glued to the screen for 90 minutes. Coherence is a science fiction psychological thriller, a real mind bender I would say.

Without giving too much away, a group of friends get together for a dinner at one of their houses; nothing too out of the ordinary there right? Well, this evening happens to be the one night that a comet is flying overhead in the atmosphere and legend has it that it can cause weird and unexpected things to happen. Guess what?, strange goings on begin to take place with out group friends after the power is knocked out.

I really enjoyed this movie, and it’s not the sort of thing you can pause and come back to later, although, it would be very difficult to do that as the story really pulls you in and holds you until the very end. If this type of movie sounds like it could be your thing, I recommend you give it a go, it’ll screw with your brain for 90 minutes, but then, so would watching a game of football. I found the film much more enjoyable.

4stars

Trailer:

Black Sails (2014) – Some Smurf Thoughts

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maxresdefaultOK, so I have done loads of film review , but haven’t really focussed on any television, and as an avid watcher of American shows, I thought I would highlight one of my particular favourites at the moment, Black Sails.

Broadcast via Starz, this show debuted in January 2014 for a 8 episode run. Black Sails features characters from Treasure Island and is set a mere twenty years before the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel. We see a young, unseaworthy John Silver, before he got “long”, or lost a leg for that matter and the main character is Captain Flint, played here by Toby Stephens.

This is a deceptively large budget show created by Robert Levine and Jonathan E Steinberg. The title theme was written and performed by Bear McCreary (of Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead fame).

There is plenty for the viewer to get their teeth into here. The show has a great mix of mystery, action, romance, sex (if that’s your thing), and the fact that it’s all leading up to the events of Treasure Island makes it all the more interesting. There are also a lot of characters in this show that you like, hate, sympathise with and couldn’t care much about, but even they have another side to them at one stage or another.

Black Sails has been generally received very well and in fact before the second season started showing, the show had been renewed for a third year, which is really great news. I have enjoyed it thus far and with 3 episodes aired from the second season, the story is now a thick woven mysterious plot with a number of story arcs and I can’t wait for the next episode.

Oh and by the way, if you’re looking for pirates with your usual “arrrrr” accents, forget it, these are “posh pirates”, terribly English and seemingly well-educated, but dress like shit with the manners of cavemen. What’s not to like?

Check out the trailer for the first season but definitely give it a go, you won’t regret it.

Season 1 Trailer:

The Descendants (2011) – A Review

descendants_posterTime for another movie review as part of my Oscars series of blogs. I actually first reviewed this way back in 2012 when I first started writing my Oscar series. This film was nominated for Best Picture and lost out to The Artist, but it was thoroughly deserving of its nomination. I saw it again last night, and it’s still a very good film.

I really am getting through these at a rate of knots now huh? After the so so movies experience of Drive, I figured I would check out one of the movies that has been nominated for the Best Picture category. It also stars one of the actors up for the Best Actor award, George Clooney. Its The Descendants.

Clooney plays Matt King, a wealthy land owner on one of the islands of Hawaii. This land has been part of a trust for generations of which now King now has all control, but must make a decision on its future along with his cousins as to it fate. A big sale deal is on the table and could make a lot of people very rich. While dealing with this, Matt has to also oversee his family situation which is in a complete mess after his wife suffers a boating accident and is in a coma and on life support. This busy father has to also try to figure out his two daughters in the process and understand them more whilst in the midst of all this turmoil in this story that is both funny and yet tragic.

I have to say that like War Horse, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. It’s not my usual cup of tea at all. It’s definitely a movie that tugs at the heart-strings in a lot of places, but there are some great comedy moments interspersed throughout that take the edge off nicely and Clooney does this brilliantly. One character in particular, Sid, played here by Nick Krause, delivers some of the best lines in the film and it is moments like these that make the movie very enjoyable to watch, even though basically its a pretty depressing film otherwise.

The supporting cast is also excellent and the portrayal of the two daughters Alex and Scottie by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller were great, especially Shailene who picked up a Golden Globe nominatin for Best Supporting Actress this year. Nothing in the Oscars for her, but she is definitely one to watch in the coming years. Also appearing are Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer.

Mr. Clooney is up for Best Actor here and I think he thoroughly deserves his nomination. A really great performance in a genre that he is getting so good at, but hey, he’s pretty good at everything he turns his hand to these days. Once an actor that played similar roles – Three Kings and From Dusk Till Dawn as two examples, he has really branched out into more versatile roles and the likes of this movie and The Ides Of March last year have really made an impression on me as a fan of movies.

The Descendants could well take home both of the top prizes at this years awards just as it did in the Golden Globes earlier in the year and to be honest, it would deserve them both. I have to give this film a worthy 8.5/10 and recommend it. Don’t forget your tissues though ;-) Check the trailer out below and give it a chance just as I did.

Addition – as you can see I gave this 8.5/10, but I think under my current rating system, it gets 5stars

Its An Oscar Thing – The Oscars 2015, an Introduction

Oscars1Welcome to this year’s Oscar Season here at Smurfin’ The Web. My annual blog series takes centre stage for the next month and a half with reviews of Oscar nominated movies for this 2015’s awards ceremony which will be hosted by the very likeable Neil Patrick Harris which is sure to be a laugh, and possibly one of the most popular there has been for some years.

As always, I will mainly stick to the films that have been nominated for the Best Picture award, but I will now and again delve in the other categories and post up a review for a film from one of the technical categories or “lesser” acting awards. Lets face it, I would say ANY Oscar is a big thing, but you get my drift.

2014 was a pretty decent year for movies, I personally saw 17 movies made last year out of 88 in total and it would probably have been a lot more had I not been moving house and renovating it.

So please do check back here to see what I have been reviewing this year and please like my Facebook page and comment. Your comments mean a lot to me and I would like to improve this area of my blog this year, so constructive critisism is always welcome along with your thoughts on the movie I review. Thanks for reading.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – An Oscar Season Review

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The-Hobbit-Battle-5-Armies-16When The Lord of the Rings was released in its three movie format, it was plainly obvious that there was more than enough material to get probably fours movies in. When it was announced that The Hobbit would be getting the same treatment and split into three movies, I was immediately sceptical. I read The Hobbit at home, and school and knew that stretching this children’s book into three 2 hour (plus) films was financial greed of the highest order and by doing this would detract from the story.

I was proved right when Legolas showed up, with some other bint elf, both of whom DO NOT appear in The Hobbit. Go figure… Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.

The film is the climax of our story of the 13 dwarves and a hobbit making their way to The Lonely Mountain to claim back their city and treasure that was stolen from by Smaug the dragon. Along the way, there have been goblins, corrupt men, and Gollumses, but finally they have made it to the door and just walk straight in when they learn that Smaug has been slain in Laketown by the magnificent Bard – played here by Luke Evans, who wouldn’t have been so out-of-place in The Lord of the Rings.

This movie is basically just a special effects money spinner that doesn’t make the book any more appealing to those who haven’t read it and the introduction of new characters – yes I forgot to mention Azog didn’t I? – in order to get a few more bums on seats and make some more bucks for director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema.

I wasn’t hugely impressed in all honesty and it felt like it was a damp squib ending. However I did like the back story of Sauron’s return to Middle Earth, and although there is a little mention of it in the book, you don’t actually see anything happen, it was nice to see that part of the story brought to life in readiness for The Lord of the Rings. I am sure there are now those people who will watch all 6 films one after the other in some massive Middle Earth-fest and dress up and all that nonsense, but for me it will always be The Lord of the Rings films that i will re-watch. I am more than sure that I won’t ever watch The Hobbit trilogy again until my youngest son is a little older (he is still only 1).

This part of the trilogy has only been nominated for a solitary Oscar in the Sound Editing department and I doubt it will win that. I think all round film-goers and in particular the industry have been uninspired by Jackson’s work this time around and I would have preferred him to have left Middle Earth alone and get going on the next Tintin animation and the long rumored Dambusters reboot. We shall have to see if they now come into being in a year or two.

I give The Battle of the Five Armies a rather average 3stars and only say to see it just to say you’ve seen the whole story.

Trailer:

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