Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Snow Queen (2005) Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
James Andrew Hall

Based on the Story By
Hans Christian Andersen

Directed By
Julian Gibbs

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure

Cast
Pax Baldwin as Kay
Sydney White as Gerda
Juliet Stevenson as Gerda's Mother
Tiffany Amber Knight as The Snow Queen
Patrick Stewart as The Raven

Year Released
2005

Certificate
U

Synopsis

When Gerda befriends penniless Kay their growing friendship is cut short after a fragment of glass pieces his eye and turns his heart cold and cruel.

Enchanted by the Snow Queen, he is swept away on her chariot over the icy landscape to her frozen palace in the North.

Gerda embarks on a dangerous but magical journey to find and rescue Kay from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen but will this girl in her red velvet cloak be a match for the winter witch?

Review

I'd heard many things about this BBC version of the often filmed tale of the Snow Queen.  I've heard it as an unwatchable mess and I've heard it described as a thing of beauty with a graphic novel feel so I was eager to get it home to watch after finding it in a charity store.  So where on the scale does it land?  Is it an unwatchable mess or is it a thing of beauty?

Well, if I'm being completely honest, it's a bit of both.

Originally intended to just be the music with some computer generated graphics, this version of the Snow Queen was meant as a travelling live performance with an orchestra peforming the music while the animated sequences played on the screen.  With this adaptation of that, they've added some live action scenes, over the top of the generated backgrounds, to try to give it some substance.  On paper, that sounds like it should work.  The story itself is a lively one that soars when it's adapted well but here, it comes across as rather liveless in places and messy in others.  I get that they were going for a classicly animated and jerky feel of the old European cartoons but all that's succeeded in coming across is a matter of style over substance.

The performances are all rather odd.  A couple are completely devoid of emotion and others are over the top, hammy performances that feel at odds with the other characters.  Even the raven, voiced by the wonderful Patrick Stewart himself, feels like Stewart was rather bored or frustrated with his lines and that ends up coming across as monotone.

One thing that annoyed me, as a fan of the original story itself, was that the really short run time of 56 minutes really hampered the growth of the characters and a large chunk of the story was carved out and replaced with scenes with repetative music and scenes.  My favourite part of the original story was the slow growth of Gerda falling in love with Kay and it being that love that spurred her on to confronting the Queen.  Here, there's none of that.  Instead the pair come across as friends that are only slightly close and Kay's transformation in to a cold hearted and mean person is only shown by him pushing the head off of a snowman so that subtle part of the characters storyline is lost entirely.  Instead, it came across as little more than him having a tantrum.

The movie built to it's conclusion and with some of the beautiful background scenes and use of the computer generated graphics really felt like the conclusion was going to be eye catching but it came across as massively underwhelming and anti-climactic at best.

It wasn't all bad.  The computer generated backgrounds, while hit and miss in some places, were for the most part really pretty and nicely done at least.

Movie 4/10

Monday, 3 December 2018

Taxi Brooklyn: Season 1 Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Created By
Franck Ollivier
Gary Scott Thompson
Stephen Tolkin

Based on the 'Taxi' Movies Created By
Luc Beeson

Genre
Crime, Action, Comedy

Cast
Chyler Leigh as Detective Caitlyn Sullivan
Jacky Ido as Leo Romba
James Colby as Captain John Baker
Jose Zuniga as Detective Eddie Esposito
Jennifer Esposito as Doctor Monica Pena
Bill Heck as Gregg James
Ally Walker as Frankie Sullivan
Raul Casso as Ronnie

Synopsis

After her father was murdered and her license taken away, Brooklyn detective Cat Sullivan partners with a taxi cab driver Leo Romba to be her unofficial police consultant. While she and Leo solve cases and put away criminals Cat partners with her ex husband to find out who killed her father.

Review

I love the two Taxi movies that Luc Beeson wrote in the late 90's early 2000's.  I found them funny, fresh and exciting when I watched them for the first time.  That's when I stumbled upon this television series on Netflix which is not only based on those movies but also has Luc Beeson taking part in the writing as well so I had really high hopes for it.

After watching the fast paced but short series, it's only 12 episodes long, I came away having enjoyed it but also feeling a bit disappointed with the finished product.

The thing that annoyed me the most was the ever changing tone of the show.  It was almost as if the team involved in making it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a series crime show or be a comedy show that sometimes veered in to slapstick at times.  There were quite a few scenes where there would be a really important or interesting twist that gave the characters new motivations for their actions but then there would be a really badly time moment of humour that completely took you out of the scene.

Taxi Brooklyn also came across as a bit of a clone of the Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic front series Castle but where that series fell, Castle soared.  It's a bit of a shame because Taxi Brooklyn had some really interesting ideas, really interesting stories but the execution of it all just wasn't there.  It was the same with the revelations that came throughout the series.  With better writing then they could have been shocking or surprising but they were telegraphed so such a degree that you saw it coming a mile off.  There were also some major moments where they happened and then an episode later, they were completely forgotten about.  That's just lazy writing.

The cast however, did really well and created some really memorable characters consdering how cliched some of the writing was.  I especially loved the relationship between Caitlyn and Romba and would have loved to have seen the two characters be given more space to grow as a duo but I suppose that may have been down to the fact that the show itself was cancelled after these 12 episodes.

I did really like the soundtrack and the show has given me a few new bands and singers to check out when I've got the time.  I also liked seeing Robin Lord Taylor, Penguin in Gotham, in an earlier role as well as Tony Plana from Ugly Betty as a bad guy.

All in all, while a bit of a disappointing series, it's still an enjoyable series to watch at times and comes across as a bit of a fun distraction while it's on.

Show 5/10

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
J.K. Rowling

Based on Characters Created By
J.K. Rowling

Directed By
David Yates

Genre
Adventure, Fantasy

Cast
Eddie Redmaybe as Newt Scamander
Johnny Depp as Grindelwald
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore
Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone
Kevin Guthrie as Abernathy
Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange
Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein
Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein

Year Released
2018

Certificate
12A

Synopsis

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald's plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, though he's unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

Review

As an Eddie Redmayne fan, I was really excited to see this second installment of his adventures as Newt Scamander in the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling.  I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them but felt it came across as more of an introduction to Scamanders world and as such, felt like it was missing something.

With this, the second movie in the series, all that is changed.  Where the movie ended and left you wanting more, this one not only picks up where that left off but fully rounds out the world and characters.

Redmayne and Depp are in absolutely top form here.  The interplay between the two, albeit brief, really crackles and makes me want to see more scenes of them together.  Also the introduction of Newt's brother, played by Callum Turner, was fantastic and really helped ground the sometimes manic character.

Storywise, there are some absolutely fantastic twists and revelations for the characters and also for their motivations, especially at the end of the movie where some of the puzzle pieces fall in to place with tragic and heart breaking consequences.

One of the things I loved was the fact that Jude Law, who I've never been that big a fan of his, is absolutely super as Dumbledore.  I was dubious with his casting after the portrayal of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies, but here he plays the earlier version of the character with subtle flair and with some really nice nods to the character he will become in the later movies.  You can tell that Dumbledore is haunted by something and that is hinted at in this movie, which Law plays very well and gives Dumbledore a sympathetic yet strong performance.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Ezra Miller's performance as Credence, managing to come across as angry and bitter in one scene and like he needs a hug and to be protected in the next.

I was really impressed with this movie and personally can't wait for the next installment, especially after that twist at the end!

Movie 8/10

 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Winter Ghosts Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Kate Mosse

Published By
Orion

Genre
Historical, Mystery, Fantasy

Synopsis

In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation. 

Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.

Review

I was driven to reading this novel after finding it in a second hand bookstore for two reasons.  One, it had a stunningly beautiful cover and two, the synopsis on the back of the book sounded absolutely magical.  I'd been reading a lot of crime and thriller books and fancied a change and this sounded exactly my kind of thing.

Released in 2009, The Winter Ghosts is based on an earlier novella by Kate Mosse called The Cave and takes some of the ideas that she used there in to this story as well as adding more story.

I do love a book that tells a story from a personal point of view and this one does exactly that.  It tells the story of Freddie and his struggles with grief, depression and suicidal thoughts without falling in to the trap of being melodramatic once.  Instead, it gives a grounded and heart wrenching rendition of the thoughts that can invade a persons mental health when faced with the things that Freddie has had to deal with in his life.  The scenes where he sees the ghost of his brother are lyrically and beautifully written and really makes the reader feel like they are involved in the story itself.

The journey in to France that Freddie embarks on to make sense of the new world around him is stunning.  Mosse's easy flowing writing style creates some amazing images in to the readers mind that really gives the story a sense of belonging and realism.

With that in mind, there are some moments where the story time jumps, although I can't explain why as it will be too much of a spoiler, and in the hands of a lesser writer it would come across as jarring yet Mosse makes sure they completely fit in with the narrative and really hits an emotional punch.

Some of the reviews I've read about The Winter Ghosts complain that it is too short a book to have a lasting impression or give the characters time to grow.  I disagree.  I think it's the perfect length and gives such a clear and sometimes concise look at Freddie's journey that you can't help but be sucked in to the story, the emotions and the actions of the characters themselves.

All in all, this was a truly fantastic novel and one that not only did I enjoy but I wanted to read again as soon as I finished it to see if I noticed anything new the second time around.  It's been a very long time since I've read a book that had that kind of reaction on me.

Story 8/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 10/10
Recommened 9/10
Overall 35/40

Hangman (2017) Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Michael Caissie
Charles Huttinger

Directed By
Johnny Martin

Genre
Crime, Thriller

Cast
Al Pacino as Ray Archer
Karl Urban as Detective Will Ruiney
Brittany Snow as Christi Davies
Joe Anderson as Hangman
Sarah Shahi as Captain Watson
Sloane Warren as Doctor Abbey Westlin
Chelle Ramos as Joey Truman

Year Released
2017

Certificate
15

Synopsis

Decorated homicide detective Ray Archer (Al Pacino) and his partner, criminal profiler Will Ruiney, (Karl Urban) are tasked to catch one of the city's notoriously vicious serial killers who is playing a twisted version of murder using the child's game - HANGMAN, while crime journalist Christi Davies (Brittany Snow) reports on the crime spree, shadowing the detectives.

Review

I have to say, I was a bit dubious when I heard about a movie based upon the paper and pencil game called Hangman.  How would that work?  How would they make an interesting movie based on a simplistic game such as that?  I figured I would give it a go seeing as I like Al Pacino and Karl Urban movies, plus it was on Netflix and I had an evening free so why not?

I must admit that what I ended up watching was actually a very interesting crime thriller that managed to take it's inspiration from the old game and make it in to a creepy and atmospheric thriller that invoked memories of how much I liked movies such as Seven and Along Came a Spider.

Hangman was a well paced thriller that actually gave the killer an almost sympathetic reasoning for his crimes while at the same time, not showing the cop characters as being perfect or flawless.  I liked that they used shades of grey for the characters so show that everyone has mistakes, flaws and can make the wrong decisions that affect other people down the line.  It was nice to see characters with more than just a 'I'm a good guy, you're a bad guy' type motivation.

Pacino gave a solid performance as Ray Archer, a retired detective.  The way he started the movie as having the character seeming to be almost bored by his life outside of the police force was a nice touch and then he became more animated in his personality as the investigation went further.

It was the same with Urban's portrayal of Will Ruiney, a man haunted by the mysterious death of his wife that may or may not have been connected to the case they were investigating.  It was the most inventive backstory for a character but Urban did well with the the writing he had to work with.  It was similar with Snow's character and I actually ended up wanting to know more about her than the movie gave us.

There were some rather inventive character deaths, which is good for this kind of movie, yet they kept them as realistic as they possibly could.  The discovery scenes where they not only found the bodies but also investigated them had a mix of a sense of urgency but also dread running through them.

All in all, it wasn't the most original movie I've seen, including a cliched ending.  That said, I really enjoyed it and would happily watch it again. 

Movie 6.5/10