Sunday, 2 June 2013

Monthly Mini-Reviews: May (Movie Special)

The post you are now reading is my 100th blogpost. Isn't that something? Anyway, do continue.

After a month off, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear my ongoing series of Monthly Mini-Reviews is back! And, for one month only, it's all about the silver screen. First up, let's take a trip back to the roaring twenties...

The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann's colourful, extravagant film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's superb novel that defined a decade always had a lot to live up to. And, while it does not capture all that is great about the book, it is an entertaining journey with an impressive central performance from Leonardo DiCaprio as the wealthy, enigmatic Jay Gatsby. The film's use of narration has been criticised as a mistake and although it doesn't always work it does make sure Fitzgerald's voice runs throughout. It might not be entirely fair to judge a film adaptation against its literary predecessor but in this case, when the source material is so good, it is hard to avoid.


This month I finally got round to seeing the Alfred Hitchcock classic thriller/horror Psycho. As it is such a well-regarded film - and knowing all the twists - I was worried it would not live up to the expectation. However, true to popular opinion, the film is a real cinema great with little at fault. Hitchcock's direction is excellent; the story actively plays with the audience and does exactly as a thriller is meant by keeping us on the edge of our seats. Other things to praise are the effective, memorable score and Anthony Perkins' terrific performance as Norman Bates, one of film's greatest characters. This has all been said many times before, of course, and all I have left to say is that if you haven't yet seen Psycho you certainly should.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I realise it is heresy to say this on the internet but I'm really not a big fan of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. While I appreciate them as very well-made, gorgeous-looking films, they are just not my sort of thing. Despite this, I was interested in seeing Jackson's prequel based on Tolkein's beloved novel mainly due to the involvement of Martin Freeman, an actor I'm a fan of thanks to his roles in such things as Ricky Gervais' The Office and, obviously, Sherlock. Thankfully, Freeman is thoroughly endearing as Bilbo Baggins, the ordinary Hobbit off on an adventure. While I thought it was overlong and more than a little self-indulgent, I enjoyed the lighter tone compared to the seriousness of LOTR. Also, having former Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy as a good-natured, bumbling wizard is perfect casting.


Another film franchise I'm not an avid follower of is the Marvel Superhero films, although I'm familiar with the Avengers and the Iron Man movies. However, even without being a major fan I still recognise Thor as an enjoyable superhero film that's a little different. Unlikely director Kenneth Branagh adds a Shakespearean feel to proceedings, especially with Tom Hiddleston as the treacherous Loki - if you enjoy a bit of the bard I'd recommend his excellent turn as Henry V. The cast is great all round, including Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba and Chris Hemsworth who proves likeable as the lead.

Farewell, Doctor: Matt Smith to leave Doctor Who

After three series and four years, it has been announced this evening that Matt Smith, the eleventh actor to play that time-travelling, planet-saving madman in a box, the Doctor, is to leave Doctor Who; regenerating in this year's Christmas special. As any reader of my blog will know, I'm a great fan of Mr Smith's. While I love every incarnation of the Doctor, none of them absolutely nail the character like Matt does with his mix of young and old, silliness and seriousness, and compassion and detachment. Every episode he appears in, Matt always gives a dedicated and enthralling performance that nearly always steals the show. Despite the marmite reaction his tenure has received, in my opinion the Matt Smith Era, as so it shall be known by fans of the future, are my favourite years of the show over its whole history of half a century. So far. 

But as sad as this occasion is we must not forget that Doctor Who is all about embracing change. Whoever takes over the helm of the TARDIS (does the TARDIS actually have a helm? Discuss.) will have a lot to live up to. However, I would have said just the same at the end of Tennant's tenure and clearly that worked out fine. There are of course many capable actors (and actresses) who could tackle the role and I'm sure, as previous occasions have shown, the production team will cast the best person for the job. But for now we have two hour-long specials to enjoy with Matt Smith's eternally-endearing Eleventh Doctor before the, gulp, Twelfth appears. Thank you, Matt Smith! Matt Smith is cool!

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