‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 187

#143 / 365 – ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ (2002) – 161 mins
Cinema Challenge #58 / 115

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts School for his second year, but is warned by a mysterious creature that danger awaits him at the school. Malevolent voices whisper from the bloodied walls. When every one suspects that it is Harry, the trio then set out to find the culprit and but uncover something than they bargained for.

Time for day two of the Film Club Harry Potter marathon (where we have own potter queen who is truly knowledgable on all things Hogwarts, Vicky) and in terms of box office revenue ($6 billion) the most successful franchise in film history.

Having introduced us to the world of bewitching wizardry of Mr. Potter in the Philosophers Stone there is no need to explain his back story as much this time around. Chris Columbus returning to the directors in his second Potter outing weaves his magic wand in other areas, mainly the production design and the vastly improved effects that are integrated into the intriguing and darker narrative – the subterranean spiders which impressively haunt out inside a huge atmospheric amphitheatre, the gigantic slithering snake which inhabits the chamber and the Whomping Willow tree.

The Chamber of Secrets brims with new ideas and inventions and despite the mammoth 161 minute running time the story never wilts, meaning this wizardry ride is fun and exciting and leaves you eagerly leaves awaiting chapter three.

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‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 186

#142 / 365 – ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ (2001) – 152 mins
Cinema Challenge #57 / 115

An ordinary suburban boy, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), learns on his 11th birthday that he is really a wizard. What’s more, he’s famous throughout the wizarding world for surviving an attack by evil Lord Voldemort, an attack that killed his parents but left him with just a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. The hulking stranger who delivers this information, Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), then invites Harry to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Aboard the school train, he meets fellow first-years Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), who are destined to become his firm friends and allies during the great tests ahead…

Ok so first up as Cheltenham Film Club begin their Harry Potter viewing marathon where we will be living and breathing Cinema for the next 7 nights, was where the special boy wizard began his first big screen movie adventure all the way back in 2001. In terms of the casting it is the naturalness of young unknown child actors at the time is what makes ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ click, with the friendship between the three leads always appearing to warm and genuine. Daniel Radcliffe is perfect as Harry in transferring the wonder to us, but for me of the trio proving the most memorable is that of Emma Watson in portraying Hermione Granger as the Miss smarty-pants witch with a hidden heart of gold.

Not forgetting, the cast’s solid backbone with impeccable performances from thesps Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and Alan Rickman who nearly steals every scene he’s in as the eccentric sinister Professor Snipe.

Director Chris Columbus (‘Home Alone’) has created a mesmerising and entertaining exercise in opening your eyes to a creative world of fantastic fantasy that oozes with a tingling atmosphere, in what was the first step of an extraordinary phenomenal saga that was to engulf the world entire.

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‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 185

Two films viewed today…

#140 / 365 – ‘Life of Brian’ (1979) – 94 mins
IMDb Challenge #85 / 250 – Ranked #164 – Via DVD Collection

On a midnight clear 2,000 years ago, three wise men enter a manger where a babe is wrapped in swaddling clothes. It is an infant called Brian…and the three wise men are in the wrong manger. For the rest of his life, Brian (Graham Chapman) finds himself regarded as something of a messiah — yet he’s always in the shadow of this other guy from Galilee. Brian is witness to the Sermon of the Mount, but his seat is in such a bad location that he can’t hear any of it (“Blessed are the cheesemakers?”). Ultimately, he is brought before Pontius Pilate and sentenced to crucifixion, which takes place at that crowded, nonexclusive execution site a few blocks shy of Calvary.

After sending up the legend of King Arthur in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1975), (which I’m immensely looking forward to enjoying yet again when I reach its ranking of #73 on the IMDb), those Pythons of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman, and Terry Jones zoned in their next target for humorous ridicule – religion. Monty Python’s Life of Brian is sure to offend many a defender of politically correct humor, luckily I don’t care for any of that and can therefore say I found this takeoff to be highly and equally amusing as The Holy Grail.

Whilst The Holy Grail does have more quotable dialogue in its script, the jokes here are equally memorable as they come at you like a speeding bullet – Brian’s Mother: “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!” or the moment when the ever growing band of newly converted disciples decide to worship an incensed Brian by following the ‘shoe’ Brian: “What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!…Now, fuck off!”.

Then to finish off that brilliant end credit music ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ – timeless and pure class these pythons are a very British institute.

#141 / 365 – ‘The Wrestler’ (2008) – 109 mins
IMDb Challenge #86 / 250 – Ranked #157 – Via iTunes

Back in the late ’80s, Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of die-hard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centers around New Jersey. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans. However, a heart attack forces him into retirement. As his sense of identity starts to slip away, he begins to evaluate the state of his life – trying to reconnect with his daughter, and strikes up a blossoming romance with stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). Yet all this cannot compare to the allure of the ring and passion for his art, which threatens to pull Randy “The Ram” back into his world of wrestling.

I watched Mickey Rourke’s formidable comeback performance for the first time, only late last year and thought then at the time, this brutal but honest human drama from extraordinary director Darren Aronofsky (‘The Fountain’, ‘Black Swan’) wasn’t desperately original and was all a bit too formulaic. The second time around that same outcome is still there, but at the same time The Wrestler is a tremendously moving film.

Along with Rourke central standout performance, it’s also worth noting Marisa Tomei delivering a very fine Oscar nominated performance as aging stripper Cassidy.

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‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 184

#139 / 365 – ‘Larry Crowne’ – 98 mins
Cinema Challenge #56 / 115

Until he was downsized, affable, amiable Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) was a superstar team leader at the big-box company where he’s worked since his time in the Navy. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, Larry heads to his local college to start over. There he becomes part of a colorful community of outcasts, also-rans and the overlooked all trying to find a better future for themselves…often moving around town in a herd of scooters. In his public-speaking class, Larry develops an unexpected crush on his teacher Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband. The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live.

With both Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts being on fine form and remaining highly watchable throughout, George Takei, the Economics professor makes you laugh with his maniacal laugh. But it is Brit, Gugu Mbatha-Raw sparkling performance as scooter girl Talia, and just takes charge of every scene she appears in. Warm and funny, this is a refreshing new star in Hollywood.

Larry Crowne’s paper-thin plot flirts with the difficulties of unemployment and recession. Except that when I say flirt, I mean the script touches upon it once or twice and then it’s just gone. Which means in essence, Tom Hanks second directorial effort after his 1996 ‘That Thing You Do’ is a pleasant and breezy rom-com-drama, that is not nearly as romantic, comic or dramatic as it could and should have been. And, from someone of Hanks stature, you just expect a whole lot more.

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‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 182

#138 / 365 – ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003) – 100 mins
IMDb Challenge #84 / 250 – Ranked #166 – Via DVD Collection

Life in the Great Barrier Reef is full of dangers when you are a tiny fish. When Marlin (Albert Brooks), an overly cautious clown fish, watches his son get scooped up by a diver, he must put aside his fears of the ocean and leave the safety of his coral enclave to find Nemo (Alexander Gould). Buoyed by the companionship of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a forgetful but relentlessly optimistic fish, Marlin finds himself an unlikely hero in a seemingly impossible land-and-sea rescue.

For their fourth animated feature Pixar have served up a comedy, a love story, an escape movie and an adventure all in one which is endlessly inventive. In time honoured tradition Pixar have stuck with that Disney sentimentality of simplistic storytelling which is guaranteed to brighten up anyones day, and at the same time give you a rollercoaster of emotions in between.

Yet again the animation is superlative to anything other studio had produced at the time of 2003, where is everything is awash in a wonderland of exquisite visuals, the photo-realistic ocean-bed floor, the multi-textured corals and rocks and then of course the abundance of brightly coloured fish in Nemo’s tank.

With ‘The Incredibles’, ‘Ratatouille’ and now Finding Nemo being the first of many Pixar delights encountered on the IMDb 250, it is further proof they are one of the very best studios at work today.

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‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 181

Ok after picking up a sickness bug which resulted me spending much of the weekend in bed and with my energy and concentrations levels being somewhat low, annoyingly mean’t I only managed the one film…

#137 / 365 – ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946) – 114 mins
IMDb Challenge #83 / 250 – Ranked #161 – Via DVD Collection

Private-eye Philip Marlowe is hired to keep an eye on General Sternwood’s youngest daughter, Carmen, who has fallen into bad company and is likely to do some damage to herself and her family before long. He soon finds himself falling in love with her older sister, Vivien, who initially takes a deep dislike to Mr Marlowe. However, the plot thickens when murder follows murder…

With a plot so convoluted it almost impossible to follow and will take several viewings to unravel the intricate layers of mystery, of who has murdered who. Netherless with its witty dialogue and the style of dark lighting tones prolific director of any genre, Howard Hawks used throughout the film to create such atmospheric pleasure means you do get swept away with the mood of the film.

On top there are unforgettable performances from husband and wife (they wed shortly after starring alongside each other in ‘To Have and Have Not’ 1944) Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall who emit such sizzling intimacy it almost smoulders the screen – after sixty years ‘The Big Sleep‘ still remains an example of classic Hollywood film noir at it’s finest.

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‘1 Man 365 Films 365 Days’ – Day 178

#136 / 365 – ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ – 154 mins
Cinema Challenge #55 / 115

The interstellar war between the Autobots and Decepticons shifts into overdrive following the discovery of Sentinel Prime (voice of Leonard Nimoy). Only a precious handful of officials in the government and military realize that the 1969 moon mission was the result of an event that threatened profound repercussions for the entire human race. When the Apollo 11 astronauts discover the wrecked remains of Sentinel Prime on the surface of our natural satellite, they bring him back to planet Earth. But Sentinel Prime wasn’t the only alien object on the moon, and when a malevolent new enemy makes its presence known, only the Autobots can save humankind from certain destruction.

Ok lets cut to the chase and the way everyone should approach every Michael Bay movie. Checklist in hand, he doesn’t do plot development, he will never draw credible performances from his cast, the dialogue will always be a joke. However there are some positives (I promise) in this third and final? outing of the robotic trilogy, which will give you a pleasurable experience in the end.

Transformers : Dark of the Moon opens up with a promising start, with an alternative history/conspiracy plot about the Space Race and the 1969 NASA moon landing which is genuinely engaging and the presentation of this footage as a nice feel too it. After this something else happens and in all honestly you could fast-forward the next 90 minutes of the film, because quite frankly and for lack of a better word, its shit and is as bad as any film can get.

So queue the last 45 minutes, those positives, and where Michael Bay will always deliver and come out a winner every single time – in its large-scale action set pieces and what my star rating is soley based on. Bay presents this relentless and unprecedented robot on robot carnage like only he can and the segments albeit short that they are involving shockwave are jaw dropping. Also I can’t believe I’m saying this….the 3D actually works, not only this but it is one of the finest examples of live-action 3-D cinema and the best since Avatar started setting the benchmark with the technique.

A quick note on Megan Fox’s replacement and Sam Witwicky new love, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, her acting is some of most wooden ever to grace the screen – but she does give some good eye candy.

With Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bay has effectively made two films in one, but at least he had the the deceny to put the best part last. I rarely say this beacuse it goes against everything I look for in a film, but just for this one-time instance lets put two fingers up to plot, scripts, acting and character development even though Bay did promise us this after ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ – and revel in this spectacle cinema at its very finest, where you’re not meant to sit up and pay attention, you’re meant to leave your brain at the door and let the sheer wave upon wave of ridiculousness mayhem wash over you – Mission accomplished.

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