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James McAvoy stars in two films they are screening these days in movie theatres. First I saw the trailer for Welcome to the Punch but it is too action-packed for a two minute peek. Trance, on the other hand, looks like a very promising movie. Makes you think of Inception and wonder what Danny Boyle as director can do with such an interesting premise.

Art robbery. Narrated by Simon (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer,  the opening sequence pulls you in. We get a brief flashback to the good old days when to stage a heist for an auction painting didn’t even require a real gun. Simon goes through all the precautions they have come up with today. And then it turns out the viewers are betrayed as well, he is the essential link in the robbery. Too bad he loses his memory after being hit in the head by the superior in the group Franck (Vincent Cassel). We’re talking Goya for millions of pounds here, if cutting off fingers doesn’t help regain your memories, why not go to the hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson)?

Trance-2013-HD-WallpapersNow get on the roller coaster of twists and turns! No, Simon, you won’t have a clue of what’s happening, what is real and what is just your imagination under hypnosis. But we are in the same position, if that’s a relief for you. At least the cinematography’s beautiful.

By the time we come to the revelation of the real story, the unfolding, we are utterly lost. Then the build-up collapses on itself. We get the answers we need to stitch up the missing parts, we look at the finished puzzle and can’t help but ask: so that’s what this is all about? The grand finale feels so over the top now.

Other than that, the main cast’s performance is notable, with James McAvoy quite more impressive than the others. That and the arresting visuals are a treat.

You know the excitement and pride that you feel when one of your fellow compatriots wins an international contest?

Well, I do. I am gushing with those feelings right now thanks to Marina Koleva. This week her video was announced as the winning entry in the animation category for the BBC competition ‘What if?’.

This is it:

 

Marina Koleva is quick to note that the short film video shouldn’t be viewed as a pessimistic outlook on the future. It is intended as a warning for the future generations. “In that short video, I tried to focus on the emotional aspect of things. To make people relate to the little girl and feel compassion for her. The idea was to make everyone think about what the future would be like if children did not have the possibility to play outside together and have a happy childhood. When we were kids it was different. We all used to play outside with our friends. Technology was not so central in communicating. This helped us build healthier human relations,” the artist reveals in an interview.

The judge for the European entries Steve Harding-Hill from the Bristol-based animation company Aardman says: “It is a very simple and strong idea. It is very nicely told and animated. It makes total sense. The idea does not need to be explained. This is a dark and a scary vision of the future, but most importantly I felt something for this character. I felt compassion for this character and I found that it contains real human emotion”. Aardman studios have won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film three times and have been nominated five more.

You can take a look at the winning entries in the other categories on the BBC website.

I’m off to meet the flaky Glaswegian weather with a huge smile plastered on my face.

Do you know who Genndy Tartakovsky is? Sure, you do. That is, assuming you have grown up watching Cartoon Network. He is the creator of Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. Currently Mr Tartakovsky is involved in the production of an animated film based on Popeye.

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But we will focus now on his first feature film – Hotel Transylvania. Here’s the trailer for it:

 

I admit, when I watched it I was seriously sleep-deprived and probably anything would have seemed very funny at the time. In addition, I generally love animated films. Still I was quite baffled when I read all the negative reviews. Yeah, some of the jokes fell flat, the love story between Dracula’s daughter and Jonathan (Andy Samberg) didn’t have any real development or at least it didn’t feel believable. But the animation looked good, the monsters seemed cute and silly, and the voice acting was nice (with the exception of Selena Gomez; I’ve happened to have seen a few episodes of Wizards of Waverly Place and there she sounds exactly the same as Mavis, although she is supposed to be portraying a different character). It’s a family movie, it’s targeted at children and if you give in to your inner kid you’re probably going to like it as well despite its weaknesses.

Lately Scotland has become a pretty popular filming location for big budget movies – The Dark Knight Rises, SkyfallCloud Atlas.

Glasgow in particular is an attractive option because it is less expensive to shoot in than other cities. This year two highly anticipated pictures (partly) filmed here will be released, plus one more obscure but starring Scarlett Johansson.

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Under the Skin  is based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Faber, Dutch-born but considered Scottish. The film is currently still in the post-production stage. Scarlett Johansson would play the main character, an alien sent to Earth to kidnap hitchhikers and to deliver them back to her planet where human meat is considered a delicacy.

Moving on to another dramatic plot line (and title). World War ZDirected by Marc Forster (Stranger than Fiction, Quantum of Solace) and starring Brad Pitt, the movie depicts a zombie apocalypse. Personally not a big fan of such films, at least it will be nice to shout out: ‘George Square’, ‘[insert name] street’!

And finally, the latest instalment of The Fast and the Furious film series – Fast and Furious 6. Glaswegians got the chance to see the shooting of some car chase scenes next to the River Clyde, although none of the main cast actually came to the city.

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Do you really need to see the trailer? It’s racing, baby!

It’s a nice feeling. Two most likely summer blockbusters filmed in your city.

Find your silver lining

Posted: March 2, 2013 in Films
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All right, let’s see what Jennifer Lawrence won an Academy Award for.

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Silver Linings Playbook (dir.: David O. Russell), based on Matthew Quick’s novel, is not the next romantic comedy only with a slight twist. It is not about this recently diagnosed bipolar guy in particular dealing with his mental disorder. It is a story about people seeking happiness. It is about embracing who you are. Wholly.

The main storyline is as follows – Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), formerly a teacher, moves back home after spending 8 months in a mental hospital. He is determined to win back his ex-wife, although her cheating on him was the cause for his flipping out. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman (seemingly obsessed with him) who found a way to deal with her husband’s recent death by sleeping with every colleague at her job. Both of them challenge their families and friends with the remarks they make which ring startlingly true despite coming out of the mouths of supposedly crazy people.

The rest of the characters don’t seem that normal themselves. Pat’s father (Robert De Niro) is an extreme football fan, a gambler tending to be obsessive compulsive at times. Pat’s friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) is in an unhappy marriage with the bossy Veronica (Julia Stiles). His other friend Danny (Chris Tucker) repeatedly tries to escape from the mental hospital. And somehow all of them have depth and fit in with the principal plot line well.

We are presented with brilliant acting from the entire cast. Jennifer and Bradley absolutely deserve the Academy Award nominations they got.

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I’m always excited about the Oscars but usually I don’t watch them live because of the time difference. This year though they made me an offer that I could not resist.

When you are away from your home country, everything about it seems twice as dear. So the combination of home-made banitsa and a sleepless night spent with friends playing Academy Bingo while discussing the Awards (plus the red carpet)? Who would pass on it?

I won’t bother with debating whether everyone deserved what they got or if someone was completely overlooked. I haven’t watched anywhere nearly even half the number of films released in 2012. You will find a list of the nominees and the winners in all categories on this page. In regards to the show itself, as I wrote before I haven’t seen any of the previous ones, so I’m not the best judge there either. It had its moments – below are some of my favourite.

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Okay, this is not a moment per se. Rather the attitude of this girl, Quvenzhané Wallis, throughout the whole night was very amusing (especially her interview on the red carpet).

 

This was most touching, I need to see the film. Next:

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No, I didn’t particularly like that one but I’m sure you’ve all heard of it. Now, look at those fine gentlemen below rushing to help Jennifer Lawrence after her fall.

tumblr_mis8jiRzbr1rwwzz2o2_250Good job, Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman!

This one is a must, too.

 

In short, I liked it. But more because of the experience watching it (all of it, red carpet and post-winning interviews) for the first time than for the show itself.

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Honestly, I’m not a Bond fanatic. I’ve watched the film series only since Pierce Brosnan took over the role of Agent 007 (not because of him but because I wasn’t born for Licence to Kill).

But I’m in the United Kingdom, of course I’ll go see SkyfallPlus, that’s the 50th anniversary of the franchise and the director is Sam Mendes. I like his work (for the most part).

Even though I’m not well-versed in the spy’s previous incarnations, the atmosphere in this picture was markedly different, darker. All actors’ game was on a high level but the way Javier Bardem played his part… it was outstanding. For me he stole the show.  He should have gotten a nod from the Academy. The villain wasn’t just a shallow character blindly seeking revenge, everything he did was well calculated, he was after atonement. And as a viewer I felt sympathy toward him, empathy even.

Also, the excellent soundtrack needs to be mentioned. At least it earned what it deserved – an Oscar nomination.

[Edit: And victoryyy!]