The Smurfs

Name: The Smurfs
Year: 2011
Rating: G
Running Time (minutes): 103
Description: When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours – in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.
Stars: Hank Azaria, Katy Perry and Jonathan Winters
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

I heard so much about these characters as a kid and thought I’d finally watch this one to find out for myself what it was all about. I guess it’s decent enough for children, though Jonathan Winters is a really bad voice actor. Smurfette’s backstory, on the other hand, came as a surprise and I liked the Smurf jibes. The whole thing is cheesy and predictable, though I couldn’t help laughing at Gargamel’s antics.

Unsurprisingly, the score is more orchestral and complex than more than half of today’s scores, but a little too hyperactive, like the film. It also sounded suspiciously sampled.

The American audio-describer was kind of funny, shouting enthusiastically over the noisy soundtrack all the time.

Advertisements

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Name: Harry Potter 8 The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Year: 2011
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 130
Description: The final chapter begins as Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their quest of finding and destroying the Dark Lord’s three remaining Horcruxes, the magical items responsible for his immortality. But as the mystical Deathly Hallows are uncovered and Voldemort finds out about their mission, the biggest battle begins and life as they know it will never be the same again.
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Story-wise, things are all right, but the Deathly Hallows plot remains elusive and I still don’t understand why Harry keeps trusting Dumbledore. How did Dumbledore get the Resurrection Stone anyway, did he buy it in a local shop? Also, a much more glaring mistake occurs in the flashback sequence: we hear Trelawney’s prophecy about Pettigrew returning to Voldemort instead of the one where she is predicting Harry’s birth. Then again, Thompson delivered that prophecy much more dramatic in 3 and it sounds pretty good mixed with Desplat’s music as well. Ollivander’s ability to measure wands without any tool remains a mystery as well. What I do love about this film is that the opening scenes clearly tell you that this is it, the end, and that you’d better get reayd for an epic finale. Yates finally uses the Harry-Voldemort vision bond to its full extent. I didn’t even mind Daniel Radcliffe this time, but I don’t understand how Aberforth got rid of the Death Eaters and Voldemort definitely says more in Parseltongue than the subtitles reveal. The film version of Ginny isn’t really my thing either and the way the Pensieve just floats towards Harry is cheesy. I don’t understand why Harry is so upset by Snape and Lily’s identical Patronus either. Snape’s death is extremely moving, however: I’ll never forget hearing his last line for the very first time and even today, Fred’s death made me shiver, as did the memory sequence. Ralph Fiennes is terrifyingly awesome, but at times I felt sorry for him, which doesn’t make sense because Yates seemed to be so intent on presenting him as an empty villain.

Desplat’s score was a pleasant rediscovery as well, though I missed the trio’s/mission’s theme: its few references, though sometimes very effective, were not enough and the disappearance of the villain theme is stupid too, now it’s just a generic action motif. On the other hand, there’s plenty of fantastic music to be heard here (Gringots espace, the procession and statues scene), that these are only minor issues, but Giving Voldmeort’s end no theme is a total disgrace and, no, using an old Williams cue during the epilogue is not enough. The thematic opportunities in this entire franchise were uncountable and nearly all of them were simply ignored. The overall package for this one sounds too different from Part 1 too, as if its aim is to please the masses rather than showcase Desplat’s abilities and intelligence: some renditions of the overused Hedwig’s theme are masterful. And, again, I hate those unscored moments that should have been scored, especially the scene after Voldemort’s death sounds raw and unfinished and, for the love of God, whoever would not score the trio’s goodbye after the memory sequence? At least, the sound mix was glorious.

Di Langford explained that Harry is about to speak to Griphook when he says ‘Griphook’ two seconds afterwards. And I know that Imperio is a spell and that Dean Thomas is a student, thank you. You don’t announce an alarm before it’s activated either and she mentions that Molly Weasley helps conjure the protective shield around Hogwarts. I’m not against that idea, but her voice is most definitely not Julie Walters’. And of course, some sounds were described in advance.

In Time

Name: In Time
Year: 2011
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 109
Description: Welcome to a world where time has become the ultimate currency. You stop aging at 25, but there’s a catch: you’re genetically engineered to live only one more year, unless you can buy your way out of it. The rich ‘earn’ decades at a time (remaining at age 25), becoming essentially immortal, while the rest beg, borrow or steal enough hours to make it through the day. When a man from the wrong side of the tracks is falsely accused of murder, he is forced to go on the run with a beautiful hostage. Living minute to minute, the duo’s love becomes a powerful tool in their war against the system.
Stars: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

I found the premise of this film extremely interesting, but the story could have been much more. Basically, iT ended when I wanted the first half to be over. Having said that, the final sequence between mother and son is unforgettable and the concept is incredibly original.

The score is quite effective too. Nothing groundbreaking, just Craig Armstrong’s usual choir and strings approach, but still nice to listen to, and more importantly, it contains memorable moments and a very memorable, moving theme (looking at you, Winter Soldier).

Dolphin Tale

Name: Dolphin Tale
Year: 2011
Rating: G
Running Time (minutes): 113
Description: A lonely and friendless boy finds and untangles a hurt dolphin that is caught in a crab trap. He becomes very attached to the dolphin when the tail must be taken off to save the dolphin’s life. The boy believes the dolphin would be able to swim normally if it was given a prosthetic tail. Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.
Genres: Drama, Family

Pretty touching (well, how couldn’t it be good, with Morgan Freeman in it?), if a tiny little bit too feel-good.

This was also my first Mark Isham score and his orchestral effort did not disappoint. I also liked the use of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, which was just spot on.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Name: Captain America: The First Avenger
Year: 2011
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 124
Description: It is 1942, America has entered World War II and sickly but determined Steve Rogers is frustrated at being rejected yet again for military service. Everything changes when Dr Erksine recruits him for the secret Project Rebirth. Proving his extraordinary courage, wits and conscience, Rogers undergoes the experiment and his weak body is suddenly enhanced into the maximum human potential. When Dr. Erksine is then immediately assassinated by an agent of Nazi Germany’s head of its secret HYDRA research department, Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull, Rogers is left as a unique man who is initially misused as a propaganda mascot. However, when his comrades need him, Rogers goes on a successful adventure that truly makes him Captain America and his war against Schmidt begins.
Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Samuel L. Jackson
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi

Not really a fan of these predictable, patriotic movies, but enjoyed it all the same, especially the second half. I found the love story between Carter and Captain America rather forced, but really liked Tommy Lee Jones’ performance and character, not to mention the final scene before the credits.

The score also became much more interesting in the second half and its main theme is quite functional. It’s so good to hear composers switch from major t minor and not just stick to minor all the time. The march during the credits was absolutely fantastic, but the final conversation between Carter and Captain America could have been more.

The Dutch subtitles were way too concise and even contained a few wrong translations.

Also, thank you for giving us yet another audio described track narrated by a man who’s clearly desperately yearning for another job, America. He never mentions his name at the end, so for all I know, it might as well be a computer. If his superiors make him sound bored, they should resign. If he himself just can’t help being apathetic, allow him to look for another job and look for some true patriots to read these things. It’s so irritating to try and become interested in (final) battles when you have to rely on a guy who just doesn’t give a damn.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Name: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 158
Description: This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch’s niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander. As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined.
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery

It was good, but not perfect. I found that the introduction to some characters, including Salander’s, were executed rather hastily and her brief relationship with the journalist seemed forced. Also really don’t understand why it was never explained why Martin needed all the Bible crap to kill his victims and one character in particular, Salander’s second guardian, made a rather unreal impression on me too. I’m not saying I didn’t feel for what happened to her (those scenes were terribly vivid), or that I don’t believe such people exist, but this guy just went from good to bad to good too quickly. Finally, I don’t understand why the whole money transfer thing at the end was necessary. And before I forget, the Scandinavian accents still annoy me. Speak English or Swedish, for heaven’s sake. In other better news, Robin Wright was, of course, great.

The score was mostly unobtrusive, but really out of place, especially during the romantic scenes. Oh, orchestra, where art thou?

The audio description was read by the Orange Is The New Black narrator. I don’t have anything against the woman, but I’ve just ‘encountered’ her too much over the past few weeks.

A Dangerous Method

Name: A Dangerous Method
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 99
Description: Suffering from hysteria, Sabina Spielrein is hospitalised under the care of Dr Carl Jung who has begun using Dr Sigmund Freud’s talking cure with some of his patients. Spielrein’s psychological problems are deeply rooted in her childhood and violent father. She is highly intelligent, however, and hopes to be a doctor, eventually becoming a psychiatrist in her own right. The married Jung and Spielrein eventually become lovers. Jung and Freud develop an almost father-son relationship, with Freud seeing the young Jung as his likely successor as the standard-bearer of his beliefs. A deep rift develops between them when Jung diverges from Freud’s belief that while psychoanalysis can reveal the cause of psychological problems, it cannot cure the patient.
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen
Genres: Biography, Drama, Thriller

Fantastic. Keira Knightley as Miss Spielrein was absolutely terrific – her insane laughter just gave me goosebumps – but one could wonder why Knightley plays her with a Russian accent. Mortensen was equally charismatic.

I originally had misgivings about the score because the only Shore material I knew apart from Lord of the Rings was Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, neither of which interested me in the slightest (and The Hobbit wasn’t stunning either), but this one was perfect, every second was effective through and through. I suppose doubting him for even a second was incredibly stupid. I especially liked the very high violin work accompanying the captions describing Spielrein’s eventual fate.

Unknown

Name: Unknown
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 113
Description: A biochemist and his dishy wife arrive in Berlin for a conference at which a scientist and his controversial Arab funder will announce breakthrough research. While his wife checks into the hotel, he grabs a cab to return to the airport for his briefcase, left at the curb. En route, an auto accident puts him in a coma, from which he awakes four days later without identification and with gaps in his memory. He goes to the hotel: his wife refuses to recognise him and another man has claimed his identity. With help from a nurse, the cab driver, a retired Stasi agent and an academic friend, he tries to unravel what’s going on. Is the answer in the briefcase?
Stars: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones
Genres: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Not really sure what to say about it. I liked it very much in the beginning, but then when it became clear it was gonna be the Bourne Identity all over again, I lost interest. The major difference, however, is that this film does contain a noticeable and fine score. In the end, the relationship between the taxi driver and the protagonist has no clear resolution and I find the idea of a spy suddenly saving his intended victim utterly ridiculous. The assassination was, of course, not justified to begin with, but I wonder why a man who clearly had some justice in him chose to become a spy like that in the first place, unless comas and accidents can completely reverse your personality. Oh well, I’ve watched worse.

Shame

Name: Shame
Year: 2011
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 101
Description: Brandon is a 30-something man living in New York who is unable to manage his sex life. After his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, Brandon’s world spirals out of control. From director Steve McQueen (Hunger), Shame is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us.
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale
Genres: Drama

What in the name of God was THAT? The main character should have been locked up from the start and basically spends the entire film… well, not even sure what to say, working out whether he’s straight or gay (or at times an animal…)…? As usual, Carey Mulligan’s character was intrigueing and, again as usual, she did a great job, though she did sound rather weird trying to speak American. It took 40 minutes before anything actually happened in this film. Never again.

The score serves its purpose, but that’s all. The Bach source music really worked.

Larry Crowne

Name: Larry Crowne
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 92
Description: Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he’s worked since his time in the Navy. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, Larry heads to his local college to start over. There he becomes part of a colourful community of outcasts, also-rans and the overlooked all trying to find a better future for themselves… often moving around town in a herd of scooters. In his public-speaking class, Larry develops an unexpected crush on his teacher, Mercedes Tainot, who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband. The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live.
Stars: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Sarah Mahoney
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Not great, but certainly not bad either. Yes, it was corny at times, but when Julia Roberts and especially Tom Hanks are the main actors, I really can’t care too much about that. Even though Hanks trying to act cool was rather irritating, he remains one of my favourite actors because he’s just so versatile. He delivers every line perfectly. George Takei made me laugh several times and Julia Roberts ‘under the influence of the demon rum’ was quite entertaining too.

I really, really liked most of the songs and the score perfectly suited them as well, though it took an awful long time before I heard any of James Newton Howard’s music.