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Into Film Project: 21 – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, and in honour of that I watched The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, as the suggested film (Wakolda) was too new to be available to me. I first watched the film in Year 9 when we were studying the holocaust, and I think that was of use in me rewatching it as I was prepared for the events shown. This review will be short as I don’t want to give too much away.

The film is a fantastic portrayal of the realities of the holocaust in my opinion. Although it focuses on a small camp, the atrocities alluded to in the film are reflected as larger scale occurrences – a systematic, state ordered genocide.

What gives the film its charm and emotion is that the holocaust is experienced by an 8 year old boy. The way that it was filmed was such that they maintained the innocence of the child actors until the final scenes so that the response to events depicted in the film was accurate to how children, and even adults, would have responded at the time.

Heartbreaking to watch, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an important exploration of the events of the holocaust that should be watched by all. Four stars.

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Into Film Project: 20 – Peter and Wendy

This is my 20th film for my Into Film project and concerns the ITV drama Peter and Wendy. I chose this film to replace Murderball for International Day of Persons With Disabilities on 3rd December, because I felt that a heart condition is often a hidden disability and so a film following a young cardiac inpatient fits this theme.

If I could use just one word to describe this film it would be ‘magical’. It is actually incredibly hard to review because part of the charm of the film is discovering the little quirks and clever ideas for yourself as you watch it.

One thing that deserves a spoiler-free mention is the superb acting. Being set partly in a hospital, the majority of the cast are children but they were as good as, if not better than, the seasoned professionals around them. They dealt with the strong films extremely maturely and communicated the feelings they were expressing immensely well.

The cinematography was stunning, even though it was only a TV drama and the script was both poignant and funny. An early stand out line was “No-one has to apologise for crying in this place“, a greatly true statement about hospitals and one that I certainly relate to.

A film that will make you laugh and cry in equal measures, Peter and Wendy is spellbinding and a film everyone should take the chance to see. Five stars.

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Into Film Project: 19 – The IT Crowd

Today’s review is, again, not of a film. Back in November we saw Anti-Bullying Week from 16th and 22nd of the month (as well as Parliament Week). The suggestion from Into Film was Set Fire to the Stars but, with its recent release, I could not find a copy and so instead I have chosen to write about the Channel 4 series, The IT Crowd, which aired its final episode in 2013. I have just finished watching the entire box set on All 4, and as it follows the working life of the geeky underdogs, it seemed fitting for an Anti-Bullying theme.

Spanning 4 series and a double episode special, the IT Crowd ran from 2006 to 2010, with the final special episode airing in September 2013. It followed the careers of Roy Trenneman and Maurice Moss, two IT technicians, and their relationship manager, Jen Barber. Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson are fantastic in their lead roles, so good in fact that I struggle to imagine them playing any other sort of character. Gawky Roy and Moss at first reflect the stereotypical character of an IT technician, but there has been great investment into their character development and the series sees them change and grow in different ways – but still keeping their original charm. There is a growth in the role of the entire

Favourite episodes for me include the first one, entitled Yesterday’s Jam, and the second, where they introduce a new emergency phone number (0118 999 881 999 119 7253). Future series’ highlights include Moss and the German, The Final Countdown and Bad Boys, particularly for O’Dowd and Ayoade’s characters. The IT Crowd is one of the few TV programmes I watch for the strength of the male characters rather than that of the female.

A superb series from Graham Linehan, with relatable characters and hilarious situations, The IT Crowd deserves five stars. It is also true that IT technicians genuinely say “Have you tried turning off and on again?”.

If you enjoyed this review, you might also enjoy this extended remix of the theme tune: http://theapexbeat.bandcamp.com/track/the-it-crowd-the-apex-beat-remix.

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Into Film Project: 18 – Private Peaceful

For Remembrance Day (11th November) Into Film suggested the film Private Peaceful, which I have not had a chance to look at until now. However, it is not the film that I was able to peruse, nor the book, but the Radio 4 audio drama, adapted by Simon Reade. Yes, it is not a film, but I thought it would be a good format to review, especially considering my love for Torchwood audio plays during my recovery.

I own the Michael Morpurgo novel that the film and drama are based on and I feel like I must have read it as a child, but it clearly didn’t make much of an impact on me. However, having listened to the audio version I find it hard to understand how it didn’t make more of an impact. Set in World War I, it follows two boys thrust into the world of adulthood as soldiers, both too young to serve overseas but keen to do their bit for the war effort.

Knowing it was a story about the war, there was a considerable amount of detail before war even broke out, something that I surprisingly enjoyed, despite meaning that the main portion of the story about Private Peaceful did not begin until what seemed like halfway through. I really managed to connect with the brothers and their friends and family because of this and the nature of an audio play meant that there were only a select few characters involved, so no confusion between minor and major players in the story. The incidental music clearly defined the chapters of Tommo and Charlie’s lives, and was a beautiful addition to this beautiful story. The composer of the film score, Rachel Portman, is one of my favourite composers, previously known for One Day and Never Let Me Go – one reason I hope to one day watch the film.

Poignant, thought-provoking and full of twists, Private Peaceful is one of many productions that brings the horrors of World War One to life, with happiness and tragedy in equal parts. Four stars.

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Into Film Project: 17 – Brave

A month after St Andrew’s Day on 30th November, here is my review of Brave, the 2012 Disney Pixar film following the adventures of Scottish princess Merida. This was actually my third time watching the film and it holds happy memories of pre-GCSE Results Day and the EPIC Weekend Away. On seeing Brave on the Christmas Day schedule I knew it was time to watch it again and write this review.

Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, it is the first feature length Pixar film to be directed by a woman and the strength of the first Pixar princess clearly reflects this. The complexity of the mother-daughter relationship in the film shows how Chapman drew on her own experience with her daughter. It is this relationship that is at the centre of this story and it is Merida’s defiance of her mother’s regulation of her life that is the most refreshing aspect of the 90 minutes.

As a cartoon the casting directors have much more freedom with who to place in each role. I was surprised with how fantastic Kelly Macdonald was at portraying the young princess despite being in her 30s when the film was produced. Emma Thompson was fantastic as her mother as well and I wonder how much her and Macdonald interacted in recording the dialogue between them. Combined with the fantastic animation you really see the troubled but loving relationship between them. The Scottish accents are incredibly good too and add authenticity to the film.

The film itself is slow to start and on a first watch seems in two parts, but is very enjoyable none the less, and needs to contain the slower contextual background at the beginning to truly understand the storyline. Another part of the production that deserves a mention is the fantastic score by Patrick Doyle. It is music that I would listen to outside of the film, especially while studying, and depicts the dramatic action particularly well.

Brave is a family film with an important view of women that everyone can enjoy. Four stars.

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Into Film Project: 16 – Shaun the Sheep (sort of)

Today is the Winter Solstice and the suggested film was Shaun the Sheep. However, as a very new film I don’t have any way of watching it, so instead I will be reviewing the TV series.

I watched this particular episode of the TV series on BBC Alba, which I though may pose a problem, being in Scottish Gaelic. This is not something that is an issue with this Aardman animation though, as there is no speaking involved from Shaun and his sheep friends (and the farmer and dog). I don’t have a clue whether dialogue actually exists in the film version, but I feel like I would get fractious about it if there was no speech for the entire 90 minutes or so.

With only 7 minutes to go on, it’s hard to get the gist of the programme from one episode, but the premise is that the sheep cause havoc for their farmer and manage to get away with it without anyone noticing. I’m not sure how this will work on the big screen with the inevitable increase in length, but I imagine it could. From a TV point of view, 7 minutes seems the optimum time to spend on an episode of Shaun the Sheep – I didn’t get bored but it wasn’t over in the blink of an eye either.

Funny and perfect for children, Shaun the Sheep on TV has intrigued me for what the film has in store. Three stars.

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Into Film Project 15: Dirty Pretty Things

Today is International Migrants Day and in honour of this I watched the film Dirty Pretty Things. This is not a film I had heard of outside of the Into Film wallchart but with its short length (just shy of 100 minutes) I thought it would be an okay watch for an evening after work. Audrey Tautou’s name in the opening credits also piqued my interest and her portrayal of Turkish Senay did not disappoint.

The cast was the thing that really kept me watching. From leading man Chiwetel Ejiofor, who I recognised from not only 12 Years A Slave (see my last Into Film post) but also Love Actually, to helping hand Sophie Okonedo, the cast is vastly varied and immensely talented. Even in a film less than two hours long there was great character development too.

The plot is full of twists and turns and you can get emotionally attached to the characters quite easily. I don’t want to say much more about it, but this is certainly a film with a moral centre. There are multiple moral dilemmas for the illegal immigrants who just want to survive in the UK and escape the horrors of wherever they are from, not least the fact that everything must be done without alerting anyone in authority. The bleak future that they often see is summarised by the words of Ejiofor’s character: “For you and I there is only survival”

Full of storylines I didn’t see coming, Dirty Pretty Things is not afraid to showcase the lengths people will go to gain a better life for themselves, portrayed by a wonderful cast. Three stars, only due to the deep and uncomfortable subject matter.