The Magdalene Sisters

Name: The Magdalene Sisters
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 119
Description: A thoroughly mind-provoking film about 3 young women who, under tragic circumstances, see themselves cast away to a Magdalene Asylum for young women t in 1964. One of many like institutions, the asylums are run like prisons and young girls are forced to do workhouse laundry and hard labour. The asylum, one of many that existed in Theocratic Catholic Ireland, is for supposedly ‘fallen’ women. Here, young girls are imprisoned indefinitely and endure agonizing punishments and a long, harsh working system which leaves them physically drained and mentally damaged. As the girls bond together, it soon becomes clear that the only way out of the Magdalene convent is to escape, but with twisted Sister Bridget running the wing, any chances seem limited…
Stars: Eileen Walsh, Dorothy Duffy and Nora-Jane Noone
Genres: Drama

Ah, what fun to end a Friday evening with a movie about how religion oppressed mankind… Luckily, the announcement of the expanded Titanic soundtrack was still hovering in the back of my mind, I might not have been able to bear this harrowing story otherwise. Great acting, though.

There was almost no music in the film, but Craig Armstrong’s score was very effective.

And how ironic and sinful that the audio-describer was Scottish.

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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Name: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 107
Description: When the newly-christened starship Enterprise’s shakedown cruise goes poorly, Captain Kirk and crew put it into Spacedock for repairs. But an urgent mission interrupts their Earth-bound shore leave. A renegade Vulcan named Sybok has taken three consuls hostage on the planet Nimbus III, an event which also attracts the attention of a Klingon captain who wants to make a name for himself. Sybok’s ragtag army captures the Enterprise and takes it on a journey to the center of the galaxy in search of the Supreme Being.
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Okay, I either have very poor taste or Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are consistently wrong. I had postponed watching this film for a while and decided to only do so when nothing of interest was on, which seems to be the case week after week these days. I really liked this entry, except for the fact that I didn’t understand why everyone is suddenly bad-tempered with Spock, the creature at the end could have done with a little more backstory and there were some lame jokes, but other than that, way better than the previous ones (minus 4). One question still remains, why do Klingons hate Kirk/the whole world?

And the surprises didn’t end there. Goldsmith’s score really impressed me. The main theme sounded exhilarating, the sequences in ‘heaven’ had superb music, I will finally remember a Klingon theme, the recording sounded excellent (reverb is amazing) and the sound mix was highly dynamic.

The audio description was good, but interfered a little bit too much with the film audio. That’s fine in most cases, but you can’t lower the volume when you’re dealing with majestic fanfares.

Mona Lisa Smile

Name: Mona Lisa Smile
Year: 2003
Rating: NR – Not Rated
Running Time (minutes): 117
Description: Katherine Ann Watson has accepted a position teaching art history at the prestigious Wellesley College. Watson is a very modern woman, particularly for the 1950s, and has a passion not only for art, but for her students. For the most part, the students all seem to be biding their time, waiting to find the right man to marry. The students are all very bright and Watson feels they are not reaching their potential. Altough a strong bond is formed between teacher and student, Watson’s views are incompatible with the dominant culture of the college.
Stars: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles
Genres: Drama, Romance

So all men are bastards and all women want to be housewives, do they?

Liked the source music and the rather good score.

Firewall

Name: Firewall
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 105
Description: With his family held for ransom, the head security executive for a global bank is commanded to loot his own business for millions in order to ensure his wife and children’s safety. He then faces the demanding task of thwarting the kidnapper’s grand scheme, which makes him look guilty of embezzlement.
Stars: Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen and Paul Bettany
Genres: Crime, Thriller

This was my back-up plan in case District 9 wouldn’t be good. But how could it be bad with such high approval ratings? Well, I was tired of it after 20 minutes, you can only have so many characters, fast-paced transitions and sound effects before they overwhelm you. So I watched this one instead, which was surprisingly good, though I sometimes grew tired of Ford’s incessant grumbling and rambling, but other than that, entertaining enough.

This is the first time Alexander Desplat’s score only interested me for two minutes.

It’s amazing to me that the audio-describers went out of their way to use two voices: one for the film and one for credits. An effort not worth this film, but a nice gesture all the same.

District 9

Name: District 9
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Running Time (minutes): 112
Description: In 1982, a massive star ship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed “The Prawns,” appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years later, the initial welcome by the human population has faded. The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarised ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor. In 2010, the munitions corporation, Multi-National United, is contracted to forcibly evict the population with operative Wikus van der Merwe in charge. In this operation, Wikus is exposed to a strange alien chemical and must rely on the help of his only two new Prawn friends.
Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James and Jason Cope
Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Turned it off, way too fast-paced and character-packed. A great premise, no doubt, but just not handled well. The entire thing felt so… crowded, so massively populated by sounds and dialogue that it became overwhelming.

National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets

Name: National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets
Year: 2007
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 124
Description: While Ben Gates is presenting new information about John Wilkes Booth and the 18 pages missing from Booth’s diary, a man by the name of Mitch Wilkinson stands up and presents a missing page of John Wilkes Booth’s diary. Thomas Gates, Ben’s great-grandfather, is mentioned on the page. It shows that Ben’s great-grandfather was a co-conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s murder. When doing more research, the conspiracy takes Ben, Abigail Chase, and Riley Poole to Buckingham Palace (which they break into). They discover a plank that has early Native American writing on it. The plank has only one symbol that Patrick Gates can identify. The symbol is Cibola meaning the City of Gold. In order to define the rest, they have to go to Ben’s mother, Patrick’s divorced wife. After 32 years it brings back old arguments.
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha
Genres: Action, Adventure, Mystery

I had forgotten almost everything about it so enjoyed it, even though lots of it is ridiculous.

The two themes of the score are literally the same as the beginning of Luke and Leia’s theme in Star Wars 6 and the Back to the Future theme that opens the end credits in the first film. The electric guitar is out of place too.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Name: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Year: 2014
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 130
Description: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.
Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

Very good story. But Caesar’s speaking abilities are too advanced: at least his ‘no!’ from the first film was impressive because he hardly said more than that in that one.

The score never impressed me: the final cue was horribly anti-climactic, though the end credits music is perfect for announcing a sequel.

Sleepless In Seattle

Name: Sleepless In Seattle
Year: 1993
Rating: PG
Running Time (minutes): 95
Description: After his wife Maggie passes away, Sam Baldwin and his adolescent son Jonah relocate from Chicago to Seattle to escape the grief associated with Maggie’s death. Eighteen months later, Sam is still grieving and can’t sleep. Although Jonah misses his mother, he wants his father to get a new wife despite Sam having not even contemplated dating again. On Christmas Eve, Sam, on Jonah’s initiative, ends up pouring his heart out on a national radio talk show about his magical and perfect marriage to Maggie, and how much he still misses her. Among the many women who hears Sam’s story and falls in love with him solely because of it is Annie Reed, a Baltimore based newspaper writer. Annie’s infatuation with Sam’s story and by association Sam himself is despite being already engaged. But Annie’s relationship with her straight-laced fiancé Walter is unlike her dream love life in the movie An Affair to Remember.
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and Ross Malinger
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Drama

I can’t believe I just finished watching this. Probably because Tom Hanks was in it and because my favourite audio describer, Lonny Evans, did the narration. Her enthusiasm and lovely voice makes me tolerate a lot of romantic nonsense. I did like the scene in which Annie and Sam almost met.

Bewitched

Name: Bewitched
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 102
Description: Out in California’s San Fernando Valley, Isabel is trying to reinvent herself. A naïve, good-natured witch, she is determined to disavow her supernatural powers and lead a normal life. At the same time, across town, Jack Wyatt, a tall, charming actor, is trying to get his career back on track. He sets his sights on an updated version of the beloved 1960s situation comedy Bewitched, re-conceived as a starring vehicle for himself in the role of the mere-mortal Darrin. Fate steps in when Jack accidentally runs into Isabel. He is immediately attracted to her and her nose, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the nose of Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha in the original TV version of Bewitched. He becomes convinced she could play the witch Samantha in his new series. Isabel is also taken with Jack, seeing him as the quintessential mortal man with whom she can settle down and lead the normal life she so desires…
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell and Shirley MacLaine
Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

Well, that was fun. Ridiculous, of course, but I had a good laugh. Nicole Kidman was kind of cute, Will Ferrell was hilarious at times and Michael Caine is, well, Michael Caine. I had a rather exhausting day today and just wanted to empty the brain. This film did the job, though the scriptwriters could have used some grammar lessons: men cannot be witches.

The songs were nice and the score was at times very playful and appropriate, but I missed celesta and more magic.

The volume of the original film audio wasn’t modified at all, which made understanding the audio description rather difficult during loud moments.

Inception

Name: Inception
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Running Time (minutes): 148
Description: Dom Cobb is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back, but only if he can accomplish the impossible- inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page
Genres: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

This is the third time I’ve watched it and I still really like it, though there are some minor ‘plot holes’:
1. How on earth can Arthur forget to check whether Fischer’s subconscious has been militarised? That’s just not credible.
2. Everyone clearly knows Cobb’s having some serious problems, but they follow him blindly nevertheless and only ask questions when it’s too late.
3. When Fischer gets killed in level 3, why does Cobb need Ariadne to remind him he can still go after him in Limbo? He’s been doing this stuff for years.
4. How is Fischer not going to remember anything from these wild dreams?
5. Finally, it seems absurd that Cobb, Fischer and Saito will be able to lead normal lives again after having been stuck in Limbo for so long.
Other than that, great film. Tom Hardy is as good as always, the hotel room scene still moved me, but I somehow had the impression that Watanabe’s English speaking skills had deteriorated since The Last Samurai. Also, in the hotel, Cobb says, “Do you feel that?” twice to Fischer.

Hans Zimmer’s score is still one of my favourites. Finally, he tried something new. I love the fact that some instruments almost make you drift to sleep. My only problem with the score is that the meaning of the ‘totem theme’ still isn’t clear to me because it’s used liberally throughout the entire movie, or maybe that’s just Zimmer showing off with his themes (which are great). Some chase material did cause some unwelcome associations with the Lannister theme from Game of Thrones and I absolutely hate those abrupt brass ‘stingers’, but there are some great moments to be found here, including the van pursuit music and even an ambient cue that accompanies a conversation about breaking into someone’s mind.

The sound mix is too heavily focused on the front speakers and if anyone can help me find a way to remove all that annoying rumbling from today’s blockbusters, please come forward. Even if I activate all the ‘remove low frequencies’ settings, lots of things still sound like earthquakes.

The ending is also quite ambivalent, audio description-wise. The narrator says the totem keeps spinning, while lots of other people have told me it definitely stops moving.