Name: The Witches
Running Time (minutes): 91
Description: A young boy, recently orphaned, is taken to England by his grandmother. At a hotel in which they are staying, a group of witches have gathered to prepare a plot to rid the world of all children.
Stars: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling and Jasen Fisher
Genres: Fantasy, Family, Horror
I have watched this film only once before, when I was 9 years old during the third year of primary school, and because our TV guide didn’t offer anything remotely interesting other than this (yet again), I decided to give it another go, purely for nostalgic purposes, and I was surprised to discover I actually remembered some bits and pieces of the dialogue, even though I couldn’t speak English back then.
Why is it that everyone always needs to sound so awfully artificial in children’s movies? Only Bruno’s parents were convincing. And I also hate totally unnecessary lines, like Luke going ‘I gotta get out of here.’ Then go! The foreign accents were kind of annoying too and why, oh why, did the Grand High Witch have to have a German accent? The film had some pacing problems here and there as well.
I didn’t remember anything about the score because back in those days, film scores completely passed me by. However problematic this film was, at least I’ll have a new score to listen to now. Unsurprisingly, it’s an orchestral adventure, like so many other scores written in the 90s. I especially liked the fact that lots of piccolos were used to underscore Luke’s first moments as a mouse.
The audio-describer had a bit of a London accent and sometimes described actions way before they happened, but at least she perfectly summarised the “openin'” credits, leaving the orchestral material virtually untouched.
Name: The Terminator
Running time (minutes): 98
Description: A cyborg is sent from the future on a deadly mission. He has to kill Sarah Connor, a young woman whose life will have a great significance in years to come. Sarah has only one protector – Kyle Reese – also sent from the future. The Terminator uses his exceptional intelligence and strength to find Sarah, but is there any way to stop the seemingly indestructible cyborg?
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi
Pretty good. I usually avoid action movies because they rarely have compelling plots, but this one had a really interesting story. Only the ending bothered me, the entire sequence in the factory just wasn’t necessary.
The score was quite original. I didn’t like all of it, but it certainly worked.
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.
Name: Jupiter Ascending
Running Time (minutes): 127
Description: Jupiter Jones was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars, but wakes up to the cold reality of a job, cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine Wise, a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along – her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.
Stars: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Tried to keep watching this because Michael Giacchino’s score wasn’t bad at all, but it was just too boring, too much alien ‘terminology’, hardly any explanations, dull villains…
Name: Jurassic World
Running Time (minutes): 124
Description: Jurassic World has been running with great success for more than a decade in the wake of the disaster that haunted the island 22 years ago. The park’s geneticists have once again broken scientific and ethical boundaries in order to raise attendance for the park, now experiencing a decline in happy customers. Convinced that the new attraction will bring in many more people, but having crossed the line once again, the results may be devastating.
Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Jurassic Park was great. The Lost World was boring and I only remember one scene from Jurassic Park III. By that time, my mind was made up: you can only make one good film to prove that mankind should not breed dinosaurs, so I thought this one would be the same all over again… and it was, but this time I enjoyed it. There wasn’t a dull moment anywhere, though I’m really starting to wonder how many films they’ll still make that contain a scene in which a man holds out his hand to a woman and the woman bravely walks off on her own. Hollywood, I know perfectly well women are equal to men. You clearly don’t.
Even Giacchino’s score amazed me. This will probably become my favourite Jurassic score after Jurassic Park. I really loved the ‘Christmas-y’ parts and John Williams’ old themes were a joy to hear again as well, though Giacchino’s new theme isn’t memorable (it does work) and as usual, the lack of reverb reduces the excitement dramatically.
Finally, I wish audio-describers would stop narrating the whole end credits. I appreciate the effort and all, but would like to be able to appreciate the end credits suites for these kind of films. If you really want to know who the second-unit director was, go to Wikipedia, that’s what it’s for. The dialogue was also softer than the descriptions.
Name: The Back-Up Plan
Running Time (minutes): 106
Description: Zoe’s a woman who has a hard time letting anyone into her life. She has a habit of pushing people away when they get close. She also wants to have a baby, but because she has no man in her life decides to be artificially inseminated. Shortly after having the procedure, she meets a guy named Stan whom she connects with. But she’s still afraid to let him in and when she tells him about her pregnancy, thinking he would bail, he sticks with her.
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin and Michaela Watkins
Genres: Comedy, Romance
The story was okayish.
The score was great, especially the first cues.
Running Time (minutes): 139
Description: Set in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that each represent a different virtue, teenagers have to decide if they want to stay in their faction or switch to another – for the rest of their lives. Tris Prior makes a choice that surprises everyone. Then Tris and her fellow faction-members have to live through a highly competitive initiation process to live out the choice they have made. They must undergo extreme physical and intense psychological tests, that transform them all. But Tris has a secret that she is Divergent, which means she doesn’t fit into any one group. If anyone knew, it would mean a certain death. As she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, this secret might help her save the people she loves… or it might destroy her.
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent… What is it that people like about teenagers fighting each other in dystopian societies?
The first half was all right, though I quickly became tired of the countless scenes in which Four stalked Tris. I got bored during the second half, but have to admit that the third act really surprised me pleasantly, though some of it was predictable and I do think that the movie was too fast-paced and that they were trying to put too much into it. Some parts were rather cheesy as well, but I guess that if the boys got Maze Runner, the girls deserved Divergent.
Tom Holkenborg’s score was all right and I especially liked the non-action parts. Why can’t that guy just use his proper name, though? Does he think Junkie XL sounds so much better or will using nicknames be the next phase in the hype surrounding Hans Zimmer’s associates?
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
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.
Name: Pride & Prejudice
Running Time (minutes): 127
Description: The story is based on Jane Austen’s novel about five sisters – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia Bennet – in Georgian England. Their lives are turned upside down when a wealthy young man (Mr Bingley) and his best friend (Mr Darcy) arrive in their neighbourhood.
Stars: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen and Brenda Blethyn
Genres: Drama, Romance
LOVED IT. As usual, it took me a few moments to get into the 18th-century politics and multitude of characters (quite confusing at first), but other than that, everything was just perfect. It was amazing how fluent all the actors made Austen’s rather stilted language sound, especially Keira Knightley was absolutely brilliant there (and in all other aspects of her role as well, of course).
A great score, too. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been so touched by a piano performance (Georgiana) and the ball music was lovely too, though it was rather stupid that two characters both played the film’s main theme and the end credits suite lacks passion, energy and exuberance: everyone got married after all.
The surround sound mix could have been more dynamic as well, the rear channels were hardly used.
Name: Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
Running Time (minutes): 91
Description: Manny the woolly mammoth, Sid the sloth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and the hapless prehistoric squirrel/rat known as Scrat are still together and enjoying the perks of their now melting world. Manny may be ready to start a family, but nobody has seen another mammoth for a long time; Manny thinks he may be the last one. That is, until he miraculously finds Ellie, the only female mammoth left in the world. Their only problems: They can’t stand each other – and Ellie somehow thinks she’s a possum! Ellie comes with some excess baggage in the form of her two possum ‘brothers’ – Crash and Eddie, a couple of daredevil pranksters and cocky, loud-mouthed troublemakers. Manny, Sid and Diego quickly learn that the warming climate has one major drawback: A huge glacial dam holding off oceans of water is about to break, threatening the entire valley. The only chance of survival lies at the other end of the valley…
Stars: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary
Genres: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
Pretty entertaining, though I definitely liked the first half better. There’s also something curious going on with Ray Romano. Apart from him being kind of a bad voice actor, I could have sworn I knew him from at least two other movies, but then I found out he wasn’t involved in Stuart Little and Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure at all. Generic voice, I guess. Denis Leary, on the other hand, is really good.
Musically, things are on track this time with yet another exuberant John Powell score. What a great composer. Really liked the main theme and, well, pretty much the whole score.
This was the first time that the PAL speed-up was made so blatantly obvious: James O’Hara’s voice sounded unnaturally high. He was great as usual, though, except for the fact that I wouldn’t use the word ‘sextet’ in a children’s story. Oh well, he’s still one of the best audio-describers I know.