A Most Wanted Man – A Most Methodical Espionage

A-Most-Wanted-Man-1So going into this film, I had not yet realised that this would be the last film I would see Philip Seymour Hoffman in outside of the last two Hunger Games films. It is strange to think that, despite his death early in the year, his works will continue to come out until 2015.

Despite this being a film which, until the passage of time will mean people will either forget or merely not mention it, Hoffman’s death will be closely associated with how it is viewed, I shall attempt to put further undue kind words aide and review this film as it were any other. Death does not make a great film, great people do.

A Most Wanted Man is based upon the novel of the same name by John le Carré which is set in Hamburg which, after the 9/11 attacks which were planned in Hamburg, security has been considerably increased. Into this new and wary world steps the illegal immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Russian-Chechen Muslim seeking help which he receives from immigration lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams). Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his team, who are set up to monitor local Muslim activities, find through Russian intelligence that he is considered to be a terrorist.

A Most Wanted Man

Keeping the Americans at bay to get the job done. But coffee first.

However Bachmann sees Karpov not as an opportunity for an immediate takedown, but as a means of getting to the source of terrorist activities. Bachmann hopes that by using Karpov, he can get onto a chain of much larger threats, starting with the outwardly charitable Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi), whom he suspects of trafficking charity money for terrorist activities. However, with German security official Dieter Mohr (Rainer Bock) and American diplomatic attaché Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) taking interest in Bachmann’s case, Bachmann must keep them at arm’s length in order to catch a much bigger fish.

Credit must be given to Jina Jay for her role in casting A Most Wanted Man as, in the most part, the actors are of the same nation which their characters are from (e.g.: Germany, Iran, Russia). Yet, while the choice of two prolific actors in the form of Hoffman and McAdams may add a power to the film, it does seem to run contrary to the films ethos of having like play like.

However, at least in regard to Hoffman, the breaking of this ethos seems to have paid due dividends. Although I have not read the original novel, and thus cannot say how Hoffman’s portrayal would have transitioned well for audience members see a different character in their head to what’s on the screen, I shall say that, in spite this ignorance, I am willing to venture that Hoffman did the part justice.

While spy-thriller films bring to mind sequences of James Bond or Jason Bourne slyly getting information before shooting everything in sight and breaking limbs of those who do not get shot, Hoffman gives Bachmann a realism that is so little seen nowadays with films making spies almost like supernatural powers.

A-Most-Wanted-Man-movieHoffman, despite his lumbering frame and mild black coffee addiction, makes Bachmann feels like a genuine spy, even down to the well done German accent. Hoffman allows us to see through Bachmann’s eyes on the world after 9/11 and how security has changed in consequence to it. Yet, despite this age of fear and kneejerk reactions; Bachmann is more focused on the bigger picture rather than what is in his immediate sight, which gives Bachmann a sense of sanity in this slowly actions first world. It’s a great change compared to the usual spy films that are out there to have one that feels grounded in reality rather than hare-brained schemes by madmen to take over the world.

Hoffman’s talent in making Bachmann seem calm and collected in using a suspected terrorist in order to get someone higher on the food chain may not have been handled as well in other hands, thus highlighting talent that need not be greatly highlighted. Yet, while I would not say this is Hoffman’s defining role in any sense, I would say it is a great case study of his talents.

Yet this is where the great talent seemingly ends. While it is a joy to see McAdams out of rom-com roles, like About Time, The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife etcetera, etcetera, you get the feeling that this role could have been filled by (insert pretty young actress here) in the same way Natalie Portman could have been replaced in V for Vendetta.

There was no strong presence about her character and, while she played the role well and made no mistakes, it did not feel like she made the role her own like Hoffman did. Yet I hope this does not stop her from doing these roles as, although I highly suspect she will read this review, she does have talent as yet unmined in these different films roles which given time should reap some reward.

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Sorry Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss, but Hoffman is the main man.

Even the supporting cast did not have great amounts of time to establish their characters in a two hour movie. At times, scenes with Hoffman and Wright felt almost shoehorned in to help the plot move along and to give Wright’s character the needed screen time. Hoffman’s team felt they were just there to add other humans for Hoffman to bounce off of and, while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it sometimes does have that feel of relegating talented actors for two stars.

However to make this point to harshly I feel misses the point of the film as, while it is about a team effort to get a trapped lured for suspected terrorists, it is a vehicle for Hoffman to allow the audiences to see how he differs so much from security forces of the day. It is a critique, much like the book, on how small goals can never yield big results something which Hoffmann portrays brilliantly.

The films tone is also one of great suspense. While having never seen a film of Anton Corbijn, I must give credit to the director for knowing how to keep an audience’s attention. Corbijn allows the films to build slowly, following the case step by step which keeps you wondering what will happen next. Will the terrorists attack? Will the German or American security forces pull the plug on Bachmann’s operation? Is Bachmann on a wild goose chase? All these questions are whizzing around your mind, absorbing you further into the investigation and the cajoling and coercing that goes along with it.

However it must be admitted that, while the film can keep an audience captivated, it would be foolish to say it would keep everyone in such a state of tension. The slower pace, while making you more invested in the step by step feel of the film, may not be enough for every audience member.

They may be expecting some brawl or gunfight or some form of violence to act as a breather from the intrigue. Aside from one chase scene, A Most Wanted Man does not really have this. This is not really a criticism of the film itself as, what it does it does well, it is just an acknowledgement that for it may not be a universally liked film because of the way it is done.

But in the end, while I would not suggest you all to flood the high-street or Amazon to Wanted-man-2014buy it on release, I would most certainly advise you to go to the cinema and watch it. Its slow atmospheric pace, alongside a strangely captivating use of methodical espionage and Hoffman’s performance makes for a delightfully, yet subtlety, tense experience that would most merit a second viewing.

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read then please follow me here on WordPress or even on Facebook and Twitter as well. Also, if you fancy writing for The Chronic Chronicler, then send me an email at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Anything within reason is acceptable! Thanks again for reading!

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Our Zoo: Episode 2 – Bearing Up Well

So I have realised two things with this post. Firstly, this is the first time since October that I have posted anything one day after another post. But secondly, and more importantly, this post makes me more productive in two weeks than I was for the entirety of August. With that bit of sobering comments on my work productivity done, let’s move on to the review of Our Zoo Episode 2.

If you saw episode one you’ll know from there “Next Time” bit that this episode’s plot revolves around George Mottershead and Billy Atkinson (Ralf Little) in their attempts to lure two black bears out of a cave so they can use them in their zoo.

However there are also several smaller plotlines that fit into the final story, first of which is Lizzie coming to prominence by managing the household and getting to grips with George’s zoo plans and getting permission for its construction. Second is George’s mother Lucy finding that she is no longer the matriarch of the family and coming to terms with her different role in the family. The last of which is Muriel’s (or Mew as she is nicknamed) storyline in which she tries to get to know/stalking their gentry neighbour Lady Katherine Longmore.

I must admit that Lee Ingleby does an impressive turn in this episode, giving George more of the vitality that was present at the end of the first episode, being buoyed up by the optimism of opening a zoo. His fervour is displayed in showing the family how intends to run the zoo and, along with June’s ever present bubbly self, makes for pleasant viewing.

Saving the FoxOne of the episodes highlights was, when trimming some bushes in order to get away from some hospital equipment he discovers in a room left over from the First World War, George overhears the a bugle sounding the fox hunts approach. By chance, George encounters the fox and hides in in a stable, spreading water to mask the fox’s scent. To see how George will lovingly take in wild animals to save them from societal barbarism was brilliantly done, highlighting the sports savagery by showing the clearly knackered fox and silently approving of the UK’s ban of fox hunting in 2004.

However, despite the fact that Ingleby got to act alongside bears, his greatest scenes seemed to be when he was with his onscreen wife Lizzie. Their chemistry in bang on the money, acting like a married couple both in the happy moments when showing off the zoo plans; the angrier moments when tensions rise over whether to have bears, and vying for power over the development of the zoo.

Lizzie (Liz White) however, must take due credit as her role is expanded upon from merely the naysayer. Lizzie becomes a stronger character as for the first time she has her own household, not that of George’s mother and she is not about to let that position be lost, even taking on George’s mother to preserve it.

Liz White

Lizzie taking up the role of martiarch

There’s even a hint of feminism coming through her character, as she bemoans the fact that she needs to fill in form to get Oakfield transferred from domestic to business, needs to be done by George and not herself, saying “God forbid a woman could fill in a form!”. This keenly, whilst taking away from the overall message of the series, of the changes still needed in equality for women, despite the fact that women by 1928 could now vote at 21, the same age as men for the first time in British history.

Yet Lizzie’s focus in mainly upon her aptitude to managing a home and her intellect in changing and improving George’s plans for the zoo and for the Liz White creates a character that is strong character in her own right, not merely following George’s vision for fear of treading on his shadow.

5732724Once again Anne Reid turns out a fantastic performance as Lucy Mottershead, with her character still being denial about her position as matriarch and the respect she commanded as a shop owner being wiped away in an instant in order to go on what many may call a mad adventure. Lucy sort of symbolises the displacement the older generation feels to the newer forward thinking generation and Lucy is struggling to preserve her place of dominance which is fading fast, if not faded already, something which her husband has realised and taken in his stride.

With the husband being mentioned, I must give some credit to the smaller characters in this series. Ralf Little as the wheeling and dealing Billy Atkinson gives someone for George to bounce off of, creating scenes that are at times both touching and quite humorous, even when you are surrounded by Asian black bears. Even now I find myself smirking at him singing “Me and My Shadow” to a bear so that it will remain asleep.

Wight and Kneafsey

Oh yes, and Albert and June feed a pelican. Another nice light touch.

Peter Wight as Albert Mottershead and Honor Kneafsey as his granddaughter June, though they do not have any particularly large scenes, bring a certain sweetness to the series, as most exemplified when trying to milk a goat and, when Mew offers June to do the milking instead, June eagerly accepts only for Albert to gently push Mew to do some work.  It’s a pleasure to see them on screen and I hope they attain larger amounts of screen time as the series progresses.

Yet, and unfortunately, that cannot be said for Mew, as portrayed by Amelia Clarkson. I may be wrong, maybe she has hidden talents as yet undiscerned by me, but all I can see is a wheel that needs to be gotten rid of. Aside from the goat milking scene, she once again has very little to show in acting versatility. Mew only acts as a foil to other characters, making them more interesting and rounded characters while she herself remains a blank canvas that no-one really wants to paint on.

6834537-low_res-Apart from a pretty face, and hair reminiscent to YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher, there seems to be little reason for her to be there. Indeed, Clarkson acts as a mopey teenager desiring more which isn’t exactly pushing the boat out. Similar could be said for Kneafsey portraying a happy child, but her screen time is meaningful and her acting at least developing, whereas Clarkson does not have that blessing.

Perhaps it is not her fault and is directed in a faulty fashion, but considering the other characters good, if not excellent performances, I feel Mew should be either given greater importance to show her as of yet hidden acting talents or directions to the stage door.

While the series has not even reached the halfway point, and much is still to occur, the series is filled with promise and things seemed to be developing nicely, same of which I have left out purposefully to avoid spoilers. I hope this series builds up on its first few episodes for anything less than what they have delivered would be a disappointment, unless it were a good performance from Clarkson.

Thanks again for reading! If you liked this review please follow me on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter to keep updated on my reviews. Also, if you want to write and article for The Chronic Chronicler, my email is chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. It would be brilliant to see what people send me!

P.S.: I apologise about the incorrect emails given in two of my previous articles. They have been changed and I hope if anyone sent any articles to the incorrect email addresses will send them to this correct one. Again, thanks for reading.

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Child of Light – Pleasant or Repellent?

2624132-2766761797-ChildSo on May 5th I was browsing my WordPress feed when I stumbled upon something familiar. It was review by Pixel Vallee on the game Child of Light. It was weird seeing the name again, having to ponder where I had heard it from for a while before realisation hit me a ton of bricks with a further ton of bricks hitting mere seconds after the first load made connection with my skull.

I had mentioned it myself in my Far Cry 3 review, giving it much praise in comparison for my rather lukewarm, at best, reception of the highly rated run around shooting everything in sight like crazy game.

Now, with my complete and utter ignorance of its release being corrected I swiftly bought it on Steam and have now finally completed it. Is it that long of a game? No. Twelve hours tops. Why has it taken me so long? One word: Exams. You probably know how I felt now at that time since I said that most painful of words.

Child of Light has pretty much sat in my Steam library sullen for being bought then, after a quick play, left until I had more time for a deeper play through. Well Child of Light, you need fear no more for the play through came and let me tell you… it had its ups and downs. OK, before we get into this let’s quickly got through the obligatory overview.

You play as the Aurora, a daughter of a Duke in Austria in 1895 (although then it would have been known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire), who falls to sleep due to some non-defined illness. Aurora then awake to the mythical land of Lemuria which has had the sun, moon and stars stolen by the Dark Queen Umbra.

Eager to return to her dying father, Aurora, along with a motley crew the many different peoples of Lemuria, travels across Lemuria to retrieve the sun, moon and stars. They must fight many and varied foes in order to restore Lemuria to its former glory while also readying themselves for the inevitable battle between darkness and light.

Now I know I wrote in utter awe of the game a year ago, but having played it there are a few things that make the game feel less whimsical and more repetitive and frustrating, first of which is the insistence on poetry.

auroraNow I loved the poetry as I’m a person who still unashamedly likes to read poetry (and is reading some of Seamus Heaney’s collected poems at the time of writing). However I know that a lot of people find poetry to be an archaic form of writing which only serves as part of monotonous English lessons and, upon the end of school, is forgotten as quickly as Tamagotchi’s. So I can fully understand why the poetry may make people take an axe to their computers in complete annoyance.

Also the combat, while standard for an RPG, is a bit repetitive. The problem is that you can avoid battles if you want to, but you need to level up sufficiently in order to fight the bosses, which entails going around finding enemies so that you can level up. This, to put it bluntly, can be quite boring after a while.

There is also a problem with healing, but not in the way you are probably thinking. Alongside Aurora you also play as Igniculus, a firefly that helps Aurora by unlocking certain areas and also healing you in battle. While this is helpful in the long run, it does feel like there is no challenge with regular opponents as any damage you receive can easily be countermanded by Igniculus’ constant healing.

This also makes the wide array of healing potions redundant as they only really come into play when Igniculus’ healing ability is depleted and there is no way of replenishing it for a short period of time, which usually occurs in boss fights. Moreover, Igniculus’ healing light can also be used to slow enemies down if you hover over them, giving you more time to attack which, again, makes fights sometimes unnecessarily easy and more of a chore.

Screenshot_Skills

Just a tad too many upgrades

Furthermore, something which annoyed me with Far Cry 3 that remained in Child of Light is the upgrades tree. While upgrades are normal in games now, I do feel that Child of Light went a bit overboard with the amount of upgrades needed. Every time your character levels up, they get a skill point which can be spent on upgrades. However the upgrades only cost one, or much later on, two points so you feel like you are constantly upgrading your character.

Child of Light really could have benefitted in doling out upgrades every few levels with greater reward rather than giving them out in micro-packages every time you levelled up. By leaving upgrades to be given after a certain level, or even after certain boss fights, it would have mode them more meaningful, rather than something that appeared to have come up with the rations.

In addition, the game feels cut short. Without spoiling, the game goes from something that has the feel of a long coming-of-age tale to being swiftly dealt with in two boss battles that are almost one after the other. Rather than trying to let the game drift on in its more fairy-tale style in order to give some more profound lessons at a leisurely though more intense way near the end of the game Ubisoft seemed happy to cram the ending into half an hour of gameplay that leaves a sense of dull dissatisfaction.

Yet, despite these complaints, It may surprise you to learn that there are good, if not indeed, brilliant aspects about this game. Let’s get the obvious out of the way though: this game is gorgeously designed.

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Absolutely Beautiful

Upon turning the game on and landing in Lemuria, I just stared at the picturesque water-coloured game for about five minutes before engaging in any sort of gameplay. As a game I have never seen one so delightful to look at. For all the modern CGI effects in triple A games and the realism they try to confer, Child of Light with its simplistic, yet unique style, cannot help but to grab your attention fully.

Another brilliant aspect of the game is its side scrolling nature as, like Deadlight, it allows you to look at the brilliant artwork beyond your immediate surroundings. The fantastic artwork, as I have said before, is a wonder to behold but the side-scrolling mechanic harks back to the days of uncomplicated gameplay and yet unrestricted feel.

What also helps this is the exquisite soundtrack. the classical music, with the piano leading the melody onwards, gives the game the sense of otherworldly-ness which fits in beautifully. Rather than wax lyrical about how good the music is, I’ll just leave you with a sample and let you be the judge on how great the music is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93h-8MKG48s

Furthermore the whole coming-of-age motif this game is centred around is handled with aplomb. The development of Aurora from scared and slightly bratty child to a caring and almost worldly protagonist is on which you feel more and more invested in as the game goes along.

While Aurora may have remained a gimmicky character whose development is next to none, Ubisoft have gone down a more satisfactory route by letting the character develop as the game progresses, making her grow up in consequence to the growing realism of the plight Lemuria, and her father, faces which makes the game all the more interesting.

What I also must give points on is the storyline itself as, while it is in essence a bit basic at best, it doesn’t try to over-complicate things by becoming all existential about itself. Child of Light takes the more basic, and more enjoyable route of Person A must defeat Person B with help from Peoples C through G. Sure it has a few side quests that you can do, which give your side characters time to be fleshed out, but they don’t obscure your main mission with it only being at the end that you notice that, if you missed them, it effects a scene ever so slightly.

childoflight1Now we turn to the combat and, while Igniculus’ makes battles too easy at times, at its core it is quite fun to play, especially against bosses. The turn based combat, while not to everyone’s taste, does make sense in this RPG and since Child of Light throws a veritable plethora of enemies against you. Getting up to three enemies at a time which come in different shapes and sizes, as well as different strengths and weaknesses, Child of Light really gives you a different battle experience every time..

But that’s not only with enemies as the combination of characters you are given are magnificently varied to allow players to have a different style of play. With heavy hitting characters, magic characters, characters that hinder your opponents, characters that give you buffs and healing, there is such a wide variety of styles and tactics that you can employ that many people may have a different gaming experience because of it.

Child-of-Light-2So Child of Light, while not everything I wanted it to be, is not a bad game by far, indeed it excels. The story is captivating, as well as the artwork, bringing you along a journey that is bittersweet yet leaves you with a feeling of sweet satisfaction, although there is that yearning for something more. But, in fairness, the fairy-tale aspect of the whole game will leave you with a sense of charm and delight that obscure the faults not in darkness, but with blinding light.

Thanks for reading! Please be sure to follow me here on WordPress, as well as Facebook and Twitter, if you liked this review and wish to see more. Also if you want to write an article for The Chronic Chronicler, then please sen me an email to chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thanks again for reading.

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Our Zoo: Episode 1 – Forget Cats and Dogs, This Family Has a Camel!

So looking back over my sites hits, which I do a worryingly amount of, I was looking over my top most read articles. Omitting the Home Page, which has way too many hits compared to my actual articles, three of my top five most read articles are my reviews for the TV series The Crimson Field.

Now I’m not exactly looking for a load more hits, though that would be nice. I wasn’t even looking for articles I had written that paled in comparison to the much more well-received articles I’ve written (I’m looking at you Monsters University and Fez). No I was just thinking, I haven’t seen a TV series I wanted to review for a while.

Well that’s really a half truth. I wanted to review In the Flesh that aired on BBC Three. The first series and when the second series began airing, reviews of the episodes almost seemed inevitable. However by the time it came out, the first review of The Crimson Field had been released and, since exams were cropping up, In the Flesh was sorrowfully left by the wayside, although not seeing it would have been a crime in itself.

Then the second series of The Village came. If you have not seen it, go out and watch it now. It’s like Downton Abbey, but for the working classes. The series is completely enthralling, with such acting talents like John Simm and Maxine Peake in the cast, it captures your imagination so perfectly.

So why, you may be asking yourself, hasn’t it been reviewed on The Chronic Chronicler? Simply put: I missed the first two episodes and did not want to do three reviews in quick succession so I could be up to date with the series.

p025hkq3But fear not for, as that old maxim goes, third time’s the charm and for me it most certainly has been. So, for the second time a TV series review begins an introduction comprised of mainly waffle, here is the review of the new BBC drama Our Zoo.

It is 1930 and Lee Ingleby (yes that guy from Episode 4 of The Crimson Field) stars as George Mottershead, the younger son of Albert and Lucy Mottershead (Peter Wight and Anne Reid) who run a respected grocers shop which he is set to take over from his parents. George outwardly seems to have a good life, with his wife Lizzie (Liz White – see Life on Mars (another series with Lee Ingleby) and From There to Here) as well as his two children Muriel (Amelia Clarkson) and June (Honor Kneafsey), but there lies an inner darkness to him.

George, who fought in the First World War, suffers psychologically from the memories of the Front and the fact that his elder brother died does not help, especially due to the fact his mother clearly preferred him over George and finds his apparent weakness in recovering from the war an embarrassment.

The thing that keeps him most calm is animals and, after going to the docks to collect stock for the shop, he encounters animals that had not been collected which are about to be put down. In a fit of compassion, he saves a squirrel monkey and an Australian parrot.

624Almost understandably his family, with the exception of June, think that he has finally gone a bit mad, especially when instead of selling the monkey and the parrot to the circus, he comes back with a camel to add to his menagerie.

But fate seems to smile upon George who, after a chance meeting with the Lady Katherine Longmore (Sophia Myles) at a WWI veteran’s reunion and the discovery of the rundown manor Oakfield, the idea takes form in George’s head, a zoo where there are no cages.

To say that I have pretty much spelled out the basic plot of the first episode is pretty accurate, yet I hope I’ve kept enough from you to keep you interested. One thing that should peak your interest is the well-chosen and experienced cast.

Lee Ingleby gives a strong performance in the lead role, exemplifying the psychological traumas war can do whilst retaining certain strength of character which makes him endearing. A particular scene between himself and the Reverend Aaron Webb (Stephen Campbell Moore) shows him to be a man of determination and grit. To show that his psychological trauma does not make up his character entirely, rather it has both weakened him and steeled him in the face of adversity.

The other noteworthy performances were that of Anne Reid as George’s complicated mother. Reid gives a brilliant performance as a mother who has clearly lost her “favourite” son as, when a letter arrives from George and Stan’s old regiment, she refers to it to June as “your Uncle Stan’s old regiment”, completely disregarding George’s involvement.

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Pretty much the only picture I could find of Anne Reid in Our Zoo

Her disapproval of her surviving son is only seen more vividly in Reid’s performance by her outward disgust at George’s animals, seeing them as causing their downfall in respectable society. Reid gives Lucy Mottershead something that is difficult to do on screen, providing a character that you firmly disagree with yet completely understand her viewpoint as to why she is committing these actions. For Reid to put that all across in a single hour episode is a great achievement.

While there were other great acting talents in the episode, like Ralf Little (The Royle Family and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps) and the previously mentioned Liz White, they had little time to truly flex their acting muscles and, while neither gave bad performances in any regard, their screen time felt a bit lacking at times (though that can be said more of Little than White).

While this may be perceived a s a criticism, I do hope to see more fleshing out of these characters in future episodes as from what little time they had on screen, they captured enough of the audience’s attention for the, to become likeable.

One subplot which did nothing for the overall story, aside from leading to some clearly fabricated drama at the episode’s close was Muriel’s storyline. Muriel, who is in love with a young lad called Christopher (Parry Glasspool), wants to elope to New York with him, despite the fact she’s fifteen and he’s clearly only interested in her for one thing.

Inevitably things go wrong and the storyline only feeds into affirming George’s main overarching story. But it is told so banally, and acted by Clarkson with what I hope is only a small showing of her emotional range as otherwise it would be perceived as limited acting. She fits the bill of “pretty young girl”, but that’s it. Without being fleshed out, she will just be that character written for accuracies’ sake.

Just look at that monkey!

Just look at that monkey! I defy you to tell me it’s not awesome!

I do hope this series gets more viewers’ next episode as, while it is not a completely radical overhaul in terms of drama, it is simply great television. The concept keeps you interested, despite knowing the outcome, the acting (for the most part) is well done and the personal stories for each character (again for the most part) are so intriguing that it keeps you invested. Even if that’s not enough, the animals are enough to keep you watching, as well as the fact you see George and June on separate occasions walking around with a squirrel monkey on their shoulders. How much more do I need to convince you? In any case, I hope this series keeps the momentum going and builds upon it as an interesting series like this does not deserve to fritter away.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like the first installment of the six-part reviews of the BBC series Our Zoo, probably coming out Thursday or Friday. If you want you can still see it on BBC iPlayer and, if you can see it on TV, it comes out on Wednesday at 9:00 on BBC One. Also, if you aren’t already, don’t forget to follow me on WordPress, like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter if you are the blogger stalkers I know most of you are. Also, if you want to write for this blog (film, books, TV, poetry, etc, etc.), please send me an email to chronicchronicler1@gmail.com and I’ll have a look. Thanks again for reading!

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Up in the Air – Surprisingly Grounded

Up_in_the_Air-147711825-largeWhen Up in the Air was announced to be coming to theatres near you in 2009 I looked at the poster and thought “Well that looks boring” and decided to watch Up instead, a film with three less words in the title but packing a huge emotional wallop that we have all come to experience from that film.

However, with the magic of BBC iPlayer, I saw that it was on and decided to give the film a chance. After all, it was by the guy who made Thank You for Smoking and Juno and between 2009 and 2014 I’d watched and loved both those films so I might as well give this one a chance.

Up in the Air centres around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) who works for the almost harmlessly named Careers Transitions Corporation (CTC) which means he travels the United States firing people for bosses who are “pussies who don’t have the balls to sack their employees”. He loves his life in the skies, feeling at home in the airport and the skies rather than his tiny and sparsely filled apartment.

However Bingham is called in by his boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) to the CTC’s offices in Omaha, Nebraska to announce that he has hired some new blood, in the form of recently graduated Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), with new ideas. Instead of flying people across the country to fire people, she proposes to fire people via videoconference, thus saving a fortune for the company. This, to say the least, disgusts Bingham.

After a confrontation between Bingham and Keener, with Bingham asserting that Keener has no idea how to fire someone in real life, Gregory decides to send Keener with Bingham on the road to show her how firing is done. And thus the tale begins, between modern efficiency and the personal touch as well as a flowering relationship between Bingham and another travelling businesswoman Alexandra ‘Alex’ Gordon (Vera Famiga).

I must say that that, despite constantly confusing Up in the Air for George Orwell’s novel Coming Up for Air, this film really grows on you as the film progresses. George Clooney, for all his suave persona, has never really been an actor that I find necessary to watch, let alone seek out purposefully. However with Clooney in the role of Bingham, he makes someone who may have been seen as cold and un-relatable as charming and almost endearing.

Bingham’s life of self-imposed ostracism is surmised brilliantly in his motivational speeches called “What’s in my Bag?” using his suitcase as a metaphor to justify his unattached existence by feeling that a life with relationships will only weigh you down. Yet this defiance of cultural norms would be nothing without challenge to obscure his view of the world, which is where Keener and Alex come in.

Admittedly I had never heard of Anna Kendrick or Vera Famiga prior to seeing this film, despite seeing Famiga in Source Code and Kendrick in Scott Pilgrim vs The World and ParaNorman however it is their performances that truly ground the film (pardon the pun).

up-in-the-air-004Kendirck as the inexperienced, yet ambitious graduate gives the film a viewing point for Bingham’s actions. Though at times she becomes slightly irritating due to her complete ineptitude at firing people, it is only briefly done to highlight how she is trying to best the veteran Bingham.

Aside from this, Keener actually serves as quite a standard character, trying to get Bingham to see the value of societal norms and that relationships and family are not necessarily things that tie you down and, while on her own she is not successful, it does provide good opportunity for Bingham and Keener to become fuller characters which on their own they may not have achieved.

Yet, while Keener is a good character and partially integral to the overall storyline, there are occasions that leave you feeling that they should focus more on Bingham’s relationship with Alex and of that of his estranged family. And on that note, let’s have a look at Alex.

up-in-the-air-1024This is where the film thrives in my book as, while Bingham and Keener’s relationship gives Bingham verbal acknowledgement of the need for relationships with other people, Alex is the subtle version, although it is blatantly obvious to the audience. To see their relationship progress is one that actually pulls on the heartstrings, with them checking their flight plans so that they can hook up again with what turns from casual sex into a more meaningful relationship.

Famiga plays the role beautifully and, while her role is sometimes a bit obvious, as well as the eventual outcome of her and Bingham’s relationship, she creates a more human side to both seemingly unfeeling people, even giving a rather good speech on how the young always go for perfection in relationship when those who are older, and more experienced, realise that a compromise is always necessary.

However what most caught me off-guard about this film was one of its smaller, yet overarching storylines, being that of Bingham’s younger sister’s wedding. Throughout the film Bingham is getting Keener to take pictures of a cardboard cut-out of his sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), and her fiancé Jim (Danny McBride) in various places since they cannot afford a honeymoon trip.

Up in the Air http://teaser-trailer.comYet on the day of the wedding, which Bingham turns up to despite being characteristically cold about it for most of the film, the fiancé has cold feet and Bingham is called upon by Kara (Amy Morton), Bingham’s older sister, to use his motivational skills to get Julie’s fiancé to commit, something which seems counterintuitive to Bingham’s philosophy.

Not to give what was said in the scene away, though some of it was in the trailer, the scene is actually rather touching in a refreshingly honest sought of way, with human connections being seen to be part and partial of a fuller life, whatever form they may be.

Jason Bateman also deserves a quick bit of praise as, despite his messy CV, with films like Horrible Bosses (and presumably Horrible Bosses 2), Identity Thief and The Switch to name a few distorting his acting capabilities, reuniting with director Jason Reitman must be something good for him as, although in a smaller role than in the indie success Juno was, Bateman as Bingham’s boss gives the film drive.

Bateman acts as the driving force for the film and, although his screen time is short, he uses it effectively giving the plot that extra push it needs to keep the audience invested.  Kudos Bateman, please do more like this.

One thing that really should have been mentioned by now is the actually firing Bingham and Keener do and that it provides a lot of comedy and drama to the film as a whole. Zach Galifianakis acts as Steve, an employee fired by Bingham and, although only on screen for minutes, his renditions of “How an Employee can react to Being Fired” are quite amusing. Tamala Jones also shows this in a blunter, colder fashion, showing audiences how some people really act to unemployment in a decidedly uncomfortable manner.

009UIA_J_K__Simmons_001Yet it is acting veteran J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Juno, and Portal 2) gives the film more time with firing employees than any other. Keener realises the reality which Bingham faces on a daily basis and the whole host of issues arising from it, as well as her lack of real world experience when her academic mind is swiftly denounced by Simmons’ visibly distraught character. Simmons gives the recently unemployed a voice in how unemployment will affect them in real terms.

In the end though, this film does push the “Live Life with Those you Care About” message pretty hard, it feels as if it flows naturally, rather than getting preachy about the subject. It allows Bingham to be his ostracised self while moving the plot along while slowly questioning Bingham’s lifestyle rather than bringing abrupt changes every fifteen minutes.

I must say that, while this film did not capture my attention at the time, I’m glad BBC iPlayer reminded me of it as it was most certainly worth the time to watch it. It’s witty, charming and keeps you invested in the characters without making them to feel like caricatures.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. If you like please follow me, as well as liking my Facebook and following me on Twitter to keep updated on more reviews and other articles I’ll be doing. Also, if you want to write as a guest blogger please leave email chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thanks again for reading!

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What Do I Want?

Hello again. This is going to be a bit different from my usual stuff so I apologise in advance for disturbing the usual order of things. But first let’s get some things out of the way, as if to make a clean slate as it were.

Yes, I have been on holiday so I haven’t been able to write, but I had a very lovely time relaxing and getting knackered by walking up mountains. Yes, I was deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, as everyone is, but I shall not be making a tribute post to him as it is now too far gone and there is sufficient tributes to such a man covering the internet already which would leave my efforts to surmise his attributes to be paltry in comparison. And yes, I have some reviews in mind for the future so please stick around for those.

But moving on I must tell you something that has been preying on my mind of late and, for some reason, I find I must share with you all. It started in the pub I currently work at. I was working the bar when a lady, about early forties I guess, approached on of my colleagues wanting to order a meal. My colleague asked: “What would you like?” At which she furrowed her brow and stared at him and, as if the thought never occurred to her and said “What do I want?”

Initially, I found this quite amusing. I’d seen her come in. She’d pondered the menu for a while before coming to the till and to completely forget her order somehow made me smile at her folly and engage in a silent agreement with my colleague that she was a bit of a div.

But the thought clung on to me like jeans when walking in heavy rain. I couldn’t shake it and for a few hours failed in attempts to reason why. It wasn’t that funny and, if relayed to someone else afterwards, they’d probably give you a strange look as if to say “That was it?” But still the thought persisted.

Then I realised it, after leaving work and wandering home where my thought were not cluttered by orders for drinks, food and directions to the toilets. It was that singular thought “What do I want?”. She could have put it any other way, but chose that way. Now she may have not meant it the way my mind construed it, but it festered in my mind until it turned into something much different than the slightly embarrassing moment forgetting of one’s order.

That “what do I want” question made me realise that I, like that lady, do not know what I want either. That’s not to way that I want nothing, I want many things, as probably do many of you. For some of you it may be you want more money, or a new car, or to get that promotion or even to get that guy/girl to like you. It could be any number of things and perhaps a whole cluster of them.

We always seem to be surrounded by I want people. Sometimes they are clawing people who want something without any regard for how they get it, so long as it is soon. Other I want people work for what they want over long periods of time. Some people may just get what they want dropping into their laps but, unfortunately, that is the rarer kind that is seldom seen now.

But the true realisation of this almost rhetorical question is that although we will want much, we will inevitably never get all we want. Some may get closer than others but there is always that something else we shall aspire to. That new car, new job, new computer, new this, that and everything else. But in the end we never will get to that place of perfect want-lessness. Trying to get there is like trying to get to the horizon. Foolish.

But does that mean we should not want? My mum used to tell me when I was being a petulant little child that “I wants never gets”, especially if there were sweets or an expensive toy involved. I still find that statement hold true in some cases, but I also feel that wanting is only the first stage of getting.

We may never truly know what we want or whether it will make us happy, but at least it’s a start. Perhaps we will drop some things we want and pick up new wants along the way, perhaps even incorporating other peoples wants along with yours.

So here I go. I want to be a writer and, to an extent I am already fulfilling this ambition by writing this blog post. But I want to be more than this. I enjoy this, but my want wants me to do more. I may be a master procrastinator, but I want more. I know this sounds very vague and whatnot, but that’s how my want is at the moment, incoherent yet somehow precise. This want may recede and change, but at its core I feel it shall remain much the same as I assume it is for many of you.

There are other things I want but to divulge them would be to obscure this message. Thanks for taking the time to read this rambling post on wants and I hope you all get, or at least try, to get what you want as well. Legally at least.

P.S.: Normal programming will resume in the same lackadaisical fashion as ever.

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Guest Blogger: The Stuff

Well hello everyone. I hope you’ve all been enjoying my reviews as of late but today it’s time for a change. I shall be introducing Fallyn Aingeal of the popular blog Late Night Comic. Over on his blog Fallyn delves into films, games, anime, comics, books and more so please go and have a look at his site! From the looks of things Fallyn has given me something quite different from my usual stuff so I hope you all like the change. Well without further ado, I hand over to Fallyn.

The_Stuff_DVD_boxart

This movie is awesome!!!!! Okay that was enough of that, no in reality this movie is terrifying, and not in the sense that it’s a horror movie and it’s going to make you run for mommy, no it’s terrifying in the fact that someone thought this was a good idea in the first place enough to make it into an actual movie.

The opening alone sets up exactly how the rest of this movie is going to feel…a hobo standing around, picking up something that looks like shaving cream bubbling out of the ground and eating it…thinking it’s so incredibly good that he calls another one over to taste it, and both agreeing that it’s infinitely better than ice cream, which I find incredibly hard to believe on so many levels it’s not even funny.

Okay so we kind of have a set up in a sense…well more or less, moving on though and it’s a little later, the Stuff, as it’s also branded in the movie (creativity at its best folks) is now a world-wide sensation…or at least one across the US which, why not, it’s what we do right…cram whatever is hot down our gullets and keep in mind this was even in the 80s so we’ve been doing it for years…moving on again. Anyway, the Stuff is everywhere and here’s the hook, the more you eat it the more you want it and that’s what draws you in, to the point that the Stuff is all you want to eat, ever.

Now the meat of this movie is the fact that the big Ice Cream Mafia…might as well call them that since that’s the road this movie takes anyway, wants to know how the Stuff is made so they can copy…err…improve on it…sure, cause that’s how it works, so they hire a former FBI agent to do a little corporate espionage and find out. What does he find out you might be asking yourself…if not then you obviously were smarter than me and didn’t bother watching this movie in the first place, what he finds out is what we already know by this point that the Stuff brainwashes people into eating more and for reasons that are never entirely quite made clear.

imagesIn all of this there are less than a handful of people that know what the Stuff really is, and three of them are trying to stop it all, but let’s not drag all of this out any longer than it already is, the Stuff, when you actually see it on screen, looks like someone popped open a tanker full of shaving cream and it just started flowing around as it engulfed random people, or made them explode, or one of the many other ways this crap kills you.

I’m all for B-Movies, some of them are actually good, but holy hell, I felt like I not only lost an hour and a half of my life, but I quite possibly might have dropped an IQ point or two somewhere along the way. Should you watch it? That depends, are you a masochist? If so then by all means, watch it until your eyes falls out…which they quite possible will, otherwise…steer clear of The Stuff by any means necessary.

Thank you Fallyn for that look into the weird, very weird, world of B-movies. Don’t forget to go and look at Late Night Comic for more of his snappy reviews (God I sounded old when I said “snappy” didn’t I?) I hope you all enjoyed that and, if you want to write a Guest Blog for the Chronic Chronicler, please don’t hesitate to email me at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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