Some ‘Carrie’ love

So I’ve been supremely excited for Kimberly Peirce’s adaptation of Carrie. I loved Stephen King’s original novel and am really excited to see what she’ll pull out of the bag – and obviously how it will hold up to Brian De Palma’s original film. Plus it has Chloe Moretz – and in my opinion, she is one of the most exciting young actresses in Hollywood at the moment.

Anyway, was pretty much frothing at the mouth to see the teaser trailer – which debuted at New York Comic-Con this weekend – and it has finally (okay, I know it was only a two-day wait, but still) finally appeared online. With a pretty awesome teaser poster.

Behold – trailer and poster below:

Carrie Teaser Poster

That’s pretty much it for today. Will be back sometime this week with a brief catch-up on my trip to the amazing Mount Grace Country Hotel and Spa.

So… I watched ‘The Hunger Games’

Since my last post was kicked off by how bad my viewing experience of The Hunger Games was, I figured I should probably slam in a review here… It’s mostly poached from my work review, but I’ve made some tweaks.

One of my friends pointed out that on the cover of the novel of The Hunger Games, Twilight Saga Stephenie Meyer was one of the people chosen for a “Wow-this-is-awesome-blurb”. Comparisons have regularly been drawn between The Hunger Games and Twilight, which is pretty much the most unfair thing you could do. To Twilight.

See, while it is definitely the next massive book-to-movie franchise and is kicking ass and taking names at the box office, The Hunger Games is a whole differernt kettle of fish. Stop the comparisons to Twilight and Harry Potter. But do go see the film.

You know the story by now. The ruling Capitol requires two teenage “tributes” from each of the 12 outlying districts to fight to the death in a televised battle known as The Hunger Games. Katinss Everdeen jumps in as a volunteer to stop her 12-year-old sister from being taken in as tribute from District 12 and – along with the baker’s son, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) – is shipped off to the Capitol to be poked, prodded and preened for competition against other, highly trained competitors from the rest of the country. There they go into the arena to fight until only one survives.

The only help they have is in the form of their “support” team: their mentor, drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson); the shrill and prim Effie Trinkett (Elizabeth Banks) and their stylist, the calm and brilliant Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). Once they get into the arena, all relationships have to be pushed aside as Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) tries to fulfil her promise to her sister to win the Hunger Games and come home to District 12.

The script was co-written by the novel’s author, Suzanne Collins, and so is largely faithful to the book, which should delight existing fans and bring in legions of new supporters. Sure, some of it is different – there was uproar when it was revealed that it is Prim that gives Katniss her mockingjay pin, for example – but the cuts make it cleaner, and the source material has been stripped down to ensure maximum action in its 164-minute running time.

A nice departure from the novel’s first-person view means that we get a chance at behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Games’ control room – where the arena is manipulated to ensure optimum bloodshed – and a look at the other viewers of the games, from the gaudily clad citizens of the Capitol to the ragged inhabitants of the remaining Districts, providing moments of brutal self-reflection in our voyeurism of the Games. However, to the film’s detriment, the script strips out much of the spark of rebellion and utter distaste for the Games that provides the impetus for the next two novels. There are halfhearted attempts at being like “Boo, this is bad” – but it never feels positively horrifying. [And more on that later!]

Jennifer Lawrence (I’m unashamed to say she is one of my girl-crushes) stars as Katniss and provides an incredible performance in a film that rests squarely on her shoulders. As Katniss, Lawrence is steady, focused and calm – while at the same time being vulnerable and completely unworldly.

She is ably supported by a cracking cast of actors – Hutcherson is amiable as Peeta, and the leading duo have an awkward chemistry that seems natural and delightfully adolescent. Completing the much-lauded “love triangle” of Katniss, Peeta and fellow District 12 citizen Gale is hunk-du-jour Liam Hemsworth, who in the novels is a beacon of morality and rebellion but in the film has little to do but smoulder – though, smoulder he does well.

Harrelson executes his role as drunken Haymitch nimbly – although tragically, some of Haymitch’s best moments from the book and his utter disgust at the Capitol have been excised from the script. Instead, Haymitch largely becomes a grumpy parody – although his transformation into an able mentor to his tributes is beautiful in its subtlety. Rounding out the crowd from the Capitol are the ever-delightful Stanley Tucci as the Games’ MC Caesar Flickman – all smiles and electric blue hair, likeable enough but still part of the “machine”; Elizabeth Banks in a scene-stealing role as Effie and Lenny Kravitz as the calm-in-the-storm Cinna. And, in the arena itself, mention must be made of the beautiful, wide-eyed Amandla Steinburg as Rue – whose moments on screen with Lawrence provided some of the most incredible moments of the film.

One of the film’s greatest challenges was to bring to the screen the gruesome deaths of a large group of teenagers in a way that would still keep the age rating low enough to include a record-breaking audience (in the US The Hunger Games carries a PG-13 age rating).

Ross makes liberal use of quick cuts and careful edits to hint at the characters’ gruesome deaths – and gruesome deaths there are by the bucket-load: wasps, bricks, spears, arrows, hand-to-hand. It provides what Vulture’s David Edelstein describes as a “slaughterfest for the whole family”. However, these edits mean that somehow the impact of the deaths of these children – for children they are – is often lost. With one or two exceptions, we’re never left reeling at the sheer brutality of the Games. It’s not that I want to see a 12-year-old’s guts spread across the screen – but it falls prey to the old adage of “out-of-sight”.

Ross and his director of photography, Tom Stern, employ a combination of largely hand-held shots to maximise the first-person view and create a sense of disorientation, which may be unpleasant for some, and incredibly tense, lingering close-ups at pivotal moments of the film. The forest arena of the Games – where the latter half of the film is set – is absolutely beautiful, the scenery at odds with the horror it serves as a backdrop for. Added to that are some incredible make-up and costumes – in particular, Katniss and Peeta’s outfits for the tributes’ parade – and a powerful score that often lapses into long periods of silence.

In short: I loved it. I’d go see it again. And no, for the last bloody time, it’s not “Just like Twilight“!

Cinema Etiquette


Cinema by M4tik (

After months and months of waiting, I finally got to the press screening of The Hunger Games here in Cape Town. While the movie was absolutely freaking incredible and all I could have wanted in a big-budget, big-studio, PG-version of the books, I spent most of it trying not to shriek at the audience… other so-called film reviewers and entertainment journalists.

I was appalled at the behaviour of these people – arriving 15 minutes late (why did you bother, then?!), checking their cellphones, talking to the person sitting next to them…. WTF?! Anyway, this got me on to a topic I’m extremely passionate about (strangely) – cinema etiquette.

Going to the cinema is as close to a religious/churchy experience as I suspect I’ll ever get. It’s a sacred time for me, and I have my own set of “rituals” that I adhere to. All I ask of other people is that they don’t be a damned asshole.

And – behold! Tips on how not to be an asshole at the cinema.

Don’t talk through the movie

One of my favourite lines from Firefly – and from television of all time, I guess – comes in Our Mrs Reynolds. Shepherd Book tells Mal that if he takes advantage of his new “wife” “Saffron”, that Mal will “burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater”.

That’s pretty much my level of feeling for people who natter through a film. Damnit, if you want to chat – why are you watching a movie? And then, if you want to discuss the film while it’s playing (I hope that’s what you’re talking about, by the way) then just download the thing off The Pirate Bay or something and chat at home in front of your laptop where you can stop/start/rewind to your heart’s content. If you must talk, then whisper. Sparingly.

Don’t fiddle with your phone

This includes but is not limited to: Checking the time, making or taking a phone call, responding to or composing a text message or – and yes, I’ve actually seen this – playing Angry Birds.

See, while texting itself is relatively quiet, and I’m sure that you can turn the volume down on Angry Birds, it’s that damned light off your super-phone that  can also serve as the Bat Signal that is the problem. There is nothing more irritating than somebody’s flashing phone light in front of you in a darkened cinema.

And if common decency isn’t enough to put you off texting in the cinema, maybe this will: We can, and I will, read what you’re texting.

If you must take the call, leave the cinema as quickly as possible. Don’t sit in your seat and chat away. Seriously.

Arrive on time

Look, I get it. Sometimes traffic sucks. Or the line to get your popcorn and slushie is quite long. Or you need the bathroom and there’s only one working stall. It happens. In fact, it happened to me – twenty minutes ago, when I arrived in time to catch all the trailers and the start of the movie! (I know it must be a weird thought, but filmmakers actually do have a “beginning” of the film). You don’t have to be seated for the trailers – that’s a personal choice – but you had better be sitting as the movie starts. It’s disruptive for the rest of us – especially if you arrive 15 minutes late as we’re getting into it.

Sit in the seats assigned to you

Those little numbers on your ticket aren’t just for decoration, you know. In fact, there’s actually a meaning to them! Okay, I know this might be hard to follow so I’m going to go slowly. Right. Look at your ticket. See how there is the letter “C” and then the numbers “4-5”? Right, you see – no, move your thumb – there! Right, now look down the aisle. See, along the aisle, there are those little letters? “A, B, C, D…?” Right, go to “C”. Now, if you look on the seats themselves there are little numbers? “1, 2, 3, 4” – see, that’s you! and “5”! That’s you too!” Now, sit. Stay. Don’t move.

If the cinema has unreserved seating, it’s relatively empty, and there’s a blonde woman in glasses sitting near the end of the row, don’t sit next to her. That’s me. I will growl at you. There’s plenty of space, why do you need to sit on my lap? If the cinema fills up, I’ll happily sit next to somebody else – but only then.

Keep noisy eating to a minimum

Look, I love my movie sweets. The tip is simple – open the packet before the movie starts (see why it can be helpful to arrive on time?!) or wait for a super noisy part to open it. Hint: While the main character’s love interest is dying is not an appropriate time.

Think smart with your luggage

I am known for my giant handbags. It’s a thing. They need to be able to cart books around, you see. So if I can keep my luggage under control, so can you. Either keep your bag on your lap, on the empty seat next to you or under your chair. Not in the aisle, not in front of your feet where other cinemagoers can trip over it when they need the bathroom or have to take an (urgent) call.

Extra bonus tips, suggestions and pointers!

Kick my seat and die.
If your child can’t sit through an episode of Barney, they’re not going to make it through two-and-a-half hours of film. Don’t bring her. (Oh, and if your child is so young that the noise and lights in the cinema make her cry and you have to leave to change her nappy, then you have Failed at Parenting. Another true story)
Don’t sing. I’m very pleased you know the song. Just don’t sing.
Oh, and try and refrain from throwing food around the cinema. That’s just common.

A brief rant on movie critics (myself included)

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens

So I started this rant in my weekly work newsletter, but that’s limited to around 250 words before the white space becomes unbearable, and so I had to rein it in a little. And you know by now that I’m no good at reining things in. So I’m copy-pasting my newsletter column in here, then expanding the rant.

Basically, I needed to have a rant about movie critics. And I count myself quite firmly in the group – seeing as, so far this year, I have written reviews for over 40 films and seen a lot more. Some got lost in the vortex that is created when watching four films a week, trying to survive a rather manic personal life and still oh, I don’t know, run a site. (It’s only going to get more hectic in the next few weeks, stay tuned for details!)

One of the films that I saw last week was Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens. And the reaction – from South African movie critics that consider themselves the next Roger Ebert – sparked a rant that had been coming for some time.

For the most part, the critics panned Cowboys & Aliens. Fair enough – it’s not True Grit or Close Encounters of the Third Kind or 127 Hour or Black Swan or even freaking The Lion King. But for what it is, I think Cowboys & Aliens is a good film. Now before you poke me with a spoon, this post is not about whether or not it’s a good movie or not. Bear with me.

Let’s be honest, the average moviegoer won’t go to a movie called Cowboys & Aliens expecting a cinematic masterpiece. We’ll never compare a movie about aliens invading a Western town to the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech – so why critics continue to hold popcorn-munching blockbusters to the same standards as award-winning dramas is beyond me.

Most people take blockbusters for what they are – mindless escapism, an evening out on the town away from the kids or the stresses of your day-job and a chance to revel in silliness. Critics need to look at blockbusters and ask the question – is this a good blockbuster? For what it is – is it well-made? Is it a cleverly written romantic comedy? Are the giant explosions properly executed? Cowboys & Aliens will never win the Oscar for Best Picture – but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. Critics – myself included – need to stop being pretentious for just one second, and deal with the fact that criticising the new Transformers movie using the same criteria or having the same expectations as we do when revewing The Hurt Locker is just silly.

Only then will reviews be any use to the average viewer – who just wants to know that his rom-com is going to be better or worse than the last one he rented out.

Read my Cowboys & Aliens review here and see if you agree with me.

Reviewed: ‘Blue Valentine’

For a number of reasons, one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever had to write. Originally published on

Blue Valentine“What’s the point of it all? I’m going to die alone, anyway.”

Possibly not the feeling the average cinemagoer want to have when leaving the theatre – and so seeing Blue Valentine on a day where you’re feeling a little down is probably not a great idea.

But despite the fact that it’s a melancholic, ultimately exhausting viewing experience, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is one of the most hauntingly beautiful films of recent years.

The film traces the disintegrating marriage of Dean and Cindy, a working-class couple with a small daughter. Cindy is a hard-working nurse at a local hospital, Dean is a housepainter who cracks open his first beer at 8am. Within the first few shots of the couple and the way they interact, you’re already wondering what happened. How did they end up together, when it’s obvious that they’re so badly suited?

The film tells their past and present through a series of flashbacks, from their first tender dates to the moment they realise their marriage is over. It’s a slow disintegration from the heady days of an early love – and a rushed marriage – to a bizarre tryst in a seedy sex motel. Ryan Gosling strums along to his “goofy” rendition of You Always Hurt The One You Love, and it’s a tragic reminder of the future you know is coming.

That’s the overwhelming sense of the film – that you know what’s coming, the bitterness, the tiredness – it ultimately feels futile. Yet there’s still a part of the viewer who begs for a happy ending, some sort of cathartic resolution for the pair and their once beautiful love. Continue reading

‘Baywatch’ is back, baby…

I seem to have lost my mojo.

I know exactly where it went, but in the meantime it’s made posting anything valuable very difficult. I am currently working on regaining said mojo, but you may have to be a little patient. It seems that everything I’ve tried to write this week (movie reviews, quirky articles, text messages, blog posts) have either been a spectacular failure or spectacularly average… and I haven’t decided which is worse.

Okay, personal bit over. I’m fully aware that nobody cares whether or not I’m having a bad week – y’all don’t come here to listen to me whine.


Ah, 'Baywatch'. Such a fundamental part of my childhood. (Seriously).

Something that did make me laugh was the news that they’re actually planning a big screen edition of Baywatch. Yep, the gloriousness that was the classic 1990s television series – who brought us Yasmine Bleeth and Pamela Anderson – is getting the movie treatment.

Am I the only one who finds this hysterically funny? Sure, the show was insanely popular and at one stage drew 1.1 billion viewers a week (With Pamela Anderson in a ridiculously tiny bathing suit, and what do you expect?), but now we look back on it in an “Ooh, I can’t believe I ever watched this!” fashion.

My prediction? Well, you know this is going to be shot in 3D. Expect ninety minutes of slow-motion running down the beach, with two hot-but-not-that-talented stars, what our lifestyle editor deemed a “plastic surgery convention” and hopefully, for the love of all things, much sexier bathing suits. Also, I foresee at the very least a David Hasselhoff cameo – I can’t see them sobering him up for long enough to shoot a full movie.

No Strings Attached director Ivan Reitman has decided that this is a “big opportunity” for filmmakers. A big opportunity for what, I’m not sure. But I’m not a Hollywood bigwig and such mysterious are beyond my ability to unravel. Unfortunately, the film does not have a script just yet – but let’s be honest, how much of a script would be required?

And now, in case you’ve forgotten what Baywatch is all about, here’s the opening sequence from the show. You can curse me later, when you’ve been singing the title track for a full six hours.

Reviewed: ‘Black Swan’

Black Swan movie posterOriginally published on

Natalie Portman delivers the stand-out female performance of 2010 in the breathtaking psychological thriller Black Swan – a film which is at once wickedly sexy and deeply disturbing.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan is set against the backdrop of a prestigious New York dance company and their performance of the classic ballet Swan Lake. It is, as Vincent Cassell’s character says, a ballet that has been “done to death … but not like this”. Not like this indeed. It is the intention of Cassell’s character – sexy, ruthless dance director Thomas – to strip the ballet and make it more visceral, and it’s something that Aronofsky parallels in his direction of the film.

Black Swan tells the story of Nina Sayers, an immensely fragile ballerina with only one goal – absolute perfection. She spends hours alone in the studio and in front of the mirror at home, refining her technique. The only world she knows outside of the studio is the cramped apartment she shares with her proud and overprotective mother, played by Barbara Hershey. When Thomas announces that Nina will be the ballet’s Swan Queen – and will dance the demanding dual role of the Black and White Swans – we watch her already fragile state of mind begin to fracture further. She is constantly reminded that she is too innocent, too uptight to successfully dance the Black Swan – despite Thomas’ attempts to seduce her and his encouragement that she explores her as yet untapped sexuality. The presence of the free-spirited and wildly sexy Lily (Mila Kunis in a charged performance) only pushes Nina further over the edge, as she convinces herself that Lily is out to steal her role.

Superbly cast, intensely filmed and set to an exquisite score by Clint Mansell, Aronofsky has pulled together a powerhouse of talent to produce Black Swan. The outstanding supporting performances by Kunis, Cassell and Hershey and a brief but terrifyingly memorable appearance by Winona Ryder make this one of the best cast films of 2010. Aronofsky and his cinematographer, Matthew Libatique – who worked with Aronofsky on Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain – combine uncomfortable close-ups, shaky hand-held shots and epic wide-screen shots to create a charged atmosphere that doesn’t relax for even a frame.

Continue reading