Where I’m Writing: Gorilla Film Magazine

Posted on April 4, 2014

Last week I attended Birmingham’s Flatpack Film Festival on behalf of Gorilla Film Magazine. It was an eclectic lineup of imaginative and creative events from short films to open reel nights, UK premieres and archive screenings.

You can read my full coverage of the Festival over at Gorilla.Gorilla-Logo_black1

Where I’m Writing – WhatCulture.com

Posted on March 11, 2014

I’m pleased to report that I’m now writing for WhatCulture.com. If you haven’t checked it out already, it’s an online magazine focusing on list type articles from film, television and music to gaming and WWE.

My first feature has gone live this week and deliberates the impacts of Amazon Instant Video’s resurrection of BBC Victorian crime drama, Ripper Street. It’s a landmark deal from the subscription service, formerly known as LoveFilm, that adds substantial weight to ideas that television is changing. I examine the deal’s possible ramifications for the TV industry as a whole, from bigger budgets and more creative control for writers to increased viewing choices for audiences.

You can check out my first feature for the online magazine here and view my author page here where links to my new articles will be added in future weeks. Hop on over, have a read and let me know what you think in What Culture’s comment boxes.

Thanks for reading.

logo-film

The Film Blog Relaunches… WriterLovesMovies.com

Posted on January 17, 2014

Hi everyone,

Thanks to all of you for supporting my film blog over here at NatalieStendall.com. This is just a quick post to let you know that the film blog has now moved to its new location Writer Loves Movies and re-launched today with a review of American Hustle. Along with my usual reviews and features, I’ll be expanding the new blog to include more guest posts in the future so please hop on over there and stay tuned.

Meanwhile, over here at NatalieStendall.com, I’ll be keeping the site updated with all the latest links to my current writing.

Thanks for all of your comments and I hope to see you over at Writer Loves Movies sometime soon.

Natalie

Writer-Loves-Movies-Logo

One way or another, it all ends here… Film Review: The Hangover Part III

Posted on May 28, 2013

The Hangover Part III brings a disappointing end to the wolf-pack’s side-splitting road trip disasters.

The first Hangover movie surprised audiences with an outrageous morning after as the wolf-pack – uptight dentist Stu (Ed Helms), laid-back Phil (Bradley Cooper) and the unhinged Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – rescued their friend Doug (Justin Bartha), on the eve of his wedding, from the clutches of crazy international bad-guy Chow (Ken Jeong). The Hangover Part II followed in a similar stag-do vein, this time with the action relocated to Thailand.
image_001-1

Sadly the final instalment to this trilogy of mayhem lacks the outrageous comedy of its forebears. In a brave decision, series director Todd Phillips leaves the successful formula behind as the wolf-pack take Alan on an intervention road trip. As usual the trip is interrupted by a kidnapping, but there’s not a drunken blackout in sight.

A Hangover movie without an actual hangover is a risky move that doesn’t quite pay off. The tone of this final offering is much altered, stripped of the ridiculous fun that made the previous instalments so hysterical. Instead, the movie plays heavily on the consequences of wolf-pack failure, gun violence kicks in and the movie runs out of steam as it focuses on the exasperated, loud mouth reactions of Stu and Phil.

The script from Philips and Craig Mazin is loaded with nods to the earlier movies – Ed’s Las Vegas Wife (Heather Graham) makes a fleeting appearance as does Black Doug (Mike Epps) – but these nostalgic references add little to Part III’s comedy. Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin’s script is no match for the inventiveness of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s original. Even the trilogy’s most outrageously silly character, Chow – always at his best when encouraged to improvise – struggles under the weight of rigid scripting and is neither surprising nor interesting enough to propel the movie to the laugh-out-loud moments it so desperately needs.
image_005

Yet The Hangover Part III is not without its successes. Alan gets some well needed, tender character development that brings the trilogy neatly to a close with the help of an endearing role by Melissa McCarthy.

Falling short of the hysterical gags of parts one and two, The Hangover Part III is a disappointing goodbye to this well loved franchise. A hilarious treat for fans as the credits roll offers a taste of what this final movie could, and should, have been.

VERDICT:   ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩    2/5

For more information, see the official website

All Roads Lead To This… Film Review: Fast & Furious 6

Posted on May 21, 2013

Billion dollar franchise Fast & Furious returns for more nitrous fuelled action with a sixth offering, this time from director Justin Lin (The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious).
Fast 6

When evidence surfaces that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) – supposedly killed off in Fast 4 – is still alive, brawny Interpol officer Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) turns to Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) street race crew to bring down the bad-guys she’s hanging with.

Vehicular warfare ensues as the team takes on ex-Special Ops soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his military powered entourage. Enter tanks, planes and outrageous explosions. London gets the glamourous Fast & Furious treatment as this gang of English rivals make a glossy race track of Canary Wharf by night.

“London gets the glamourous Fast & Furious treatment”

Playing in to the popularity of evil English foes – The Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness – and classy British locations celebrated in last years 007 treasure Skyfall, Fast 6 makes spectacular use of its new location. British constraints such as illegal handguns are neatly molded into crucial plot points but dodgy accents and English caricatures abound in this absurd but entertaining flick.gallery27

The return of Michelle Rodriguez gives Fast 6 a clear direction and the plot hangs together well with a good variety of racing action. The script from long time Fast & Furious writer, Chris Morgan, borders on schmaltzy as Letty and Toretto meet as if for the first time but a nice spattering of gags from Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) keep Fast 6 grounded in its carefree style.

The car chase set pieces that punctuate this sixth instalment are glossy and slick as ever, but the Fast & Furious formula is increasingly focussed on hand to hand combat. A street race between Letty and Toretto harks back to earlier offerings while spectacular but illogical driving showdowns take the car chases to ludicrous extremes.
gallery22

There’s plenty for petrol heads in this latest Fast & Furious outing but its brawling action focus is likely to leave die hard fans longing for a bolder return to the franchise’s street racing niche. With some of the boldest driving yet, Fast 6 delivers high octane entertainment, even if it can’t quite top the safe dragging thrills of Fast 5. And, with the preposterous, military-powered final showdown leaving audiences with the overwhelming question, ‘how long was that runway?!’ we can only wonder where Fast 7 will take us next.

VERDICT:  ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩    3/5

For more information see the official website

Film Review: The Great Gatsby

Posted on May 17, 2013

The greatest American novel gets the lavish Baz Luhrmann treatment this spring in opulent 1920s drama The Great Gatsby.

Aspiring Wall Street banker, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), finds himself in a world of lavish parties and new money when he moves to Long Island’s West Egg and takes up residence next door to the elusive millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). As the consuming passions of Gatsby and cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) draw Carraway further into this luxurious world, despair and pain are never far away.
GG-06742r-1280x632

Luhrmann’s films (Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet) are well known for their bold, highly stylized approach and The Great Gatsby opens with more than a little of the director’s usual flair. Black and white, twenties inspired credits that flicker with the faded quality of an old film, transform into shimmering gold 3D. Quirky scene setting promptly begins with rapid footage of twenties New York accompanied by a heavy, bass powered score.

Carraway’s initial resistance to the twenties party scene is overcome in a burst of vibrant colours, noise and excessive behaviour, brought to life by Luhrmann with a contemporary edge so unexpected it could almost be from a modern teen movie.

It is this atmosphere of excess and careless wealth that Luhrmann’s adaptation cultivates, and on which it thrives. Sets and costumes are exaggerated in true Luhrmann style with detail loaded upon detail to potent effect. Gatsby’s parties see this style taken to extremes, crammed with glitter, booze and jewels, while Gatsby’s exhilarated driving in a yellow open top Rolls Royce oozes glamour. Yet even The Great Gatsby’s more intimate scenes are heady with luxury and details that play into the film’s melodramatic style. Beautifully arranged scenes litter The Great Gatsby, from a rain of silk shirts falling down on Daisy in Gatsby’s bedroom to afternoon tea encircled by exotic flowers.
GG-08424r2-1280x632

This is Lurhmann on a much bigger scale than we’ve seen him before, amped up to epic levels. Sweeping shots rapidly take us from up-close action to vast twenties landscapes and the towering mansions of the West Egg, lit nightly by the yellow glow of new electricity. The decision to offer 3D, is almost symbolic of this excessive style: a decision that seems at once unnecessary but is beautifully utilised by Luhrmann.

“A potent, invigorating viewing experience”

Luhrmann’s attention to the excesses of the twenties makes for a potent, invigorating viewing experience and the iconic director demonstrates his clear talent for nurturing atmosphere. As the film nears its crescendo he gives us a claustrophobic scene set against a hot New York summer. Using everything from shots of ice to the sound of  electric fans, Luhrmann creates such a powerfully heady atmosphere it’s almost possible to feel the heat in the room.

Accompanied by an irresistible soundtrack filled with bass pumping numbers from executive producer JAY Z and Kanye West, to twenties inspired gems from Emeli Sande and a beautiful, melancholic ballad from Lana Del Rey, The Great Gatsby is given a bold, modern edge.
The Great Gatsby

The emotional gravitas of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is at times squashed under the weight of Luhrmann’s exuberant film-making but DiCaprio’s masterful, vulnerable performance as Gatsby ensures the story’s power is not entirely crushed. Neither does Carey Mulligan’s immense beauty as Daisy overshadow her character’s flaws or emotional weaknesses, with Mulligan giving us an enticing, complicated and troubled character.

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is an intoxicating visual spectacle, yet the emotional quality of the story frequently risks suffocation by the vigorous focus on style. While this greatest of American novels does not require excessive styling to make an impact on viewers, Luhrmann’s adaptation is nonetheless an irresistible piece of cinema.

VERDICT:  ✭✭✭✭✩ 4/5

For more information, see the official website

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Posted on May 9, 2013

Master of sci-fi fantasy J.J. Abrams presents the second instalment of his rebooted Star Trek series, Into Darkness. Abrams’ 2009 prequel to the cult franchise opened to widespread acclaim reinventing the Star Trek universe for newcomers and Trekkies alike.
gallery_10

This time, our sleek villain, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) – who looks more like the milk tray man than the prequel’s more typically attired Romulan bad-guy – declares in the movie’s trailer that ‘darkness is coming’. As its name suggests, Into Darkness follows the widespread trend towards a darker tone for rebooted franchises. It’s a mood here that emanates largely from the deep vocal prowess and forbidding on-screen presence of Benedict Cumberbatch. Paralleling last year’s 007 success story, Skyfall, Cumberbatch gives us a vengeful ex-colleague in a memerizing performance to top that of BAFTA nominated Jarvier Bardem. As Cumberbatch chillingly declares ‘I will walk over your cold corpses,’ there’s no doubt that Harrison is a fearsome adversary. As John Harrison blows up London’s star fleet archives before launching a more menacing assault on star fleet itself, the familiar theme of terrorism that has pervaded numerous recent fantasies, from The Dark Knight Rises to Iron Man 3, rears its head again.

“Into Darkness dazzles with comedic interjections from Scotty and Bones”

Yet despite its early terrorism overtones, Into Darkness is not nearly as dark as similar franchise reboots. Instead, Into Darkness dazzles with comedic interjections from the excitable Scotty (Simon Pegg) and the sarcastic Bones (Karl Urban). The bromance between Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) also flourishes with tensions between the pair fast becoming the lifeblood of the reboot.
gallery_16

With backstories already established in Abrams’ prequel, this second offering lacks much of the earlier film’s charm but enables some interesting character developments. Kirk and Spock test each other’s boundaries, unwittingly learning from each others vastly differing attitudes. As Spock, Zachary Quinto continues to exploit his character’s internal conflicts – between logic and emotion – to stunning effect, proving to be the reboot’s best asset.

“This offering truly excels in its striking visuals and dizzying 3D”

Less accessible to newcomers than Abrams’ prequel, Into Darkness still makes considerable effort to assimilate first-timers, with some pretty significant nods to earlier Star Trek outings working well as stand-alone story points. Yet where this offering truly excels is in its striking visuals and dizzying 3D. The movie opens on the stunning planet of Nibiru, alive with a forest of red vines, an active volcano and a sea of crashing waves. The 3D works brilliantly here, with flying arrows apparently bursting from the screen to jump inducing effect. From this gorgeous and fertile realm we return to a futuristic London that’s equally well conceived. Visually spectacular, Into Darkness raises the bar for sci-fi visuals with the crew’s arrival on Kronos making particularly impressive use of 3D.
gallery_04

Into Darkness is not without flaws. A barrage of information dominates the midway point and the film propels into a third act dominated so heavily by action that plot is virtually obliterated.

Yet with stunning visuals, a menacing bad guy and dextrous character development, it’s hard to feel disappointed by Into Darkness. With this intense and gripping second helping that finds just enough time for comic diversion, J.J. Abrams re-affirms the merits of his reboot. As Abrams now turns his attention to Star Wars VII, here’s hoping his efforts there are just as successful.

VERDICT:  ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩    4/5

For more information, see the official site

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 369 other followers

%d bloggers like this: