Archive for the Teen Category

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I (2010)

Posted in 2010, Action, Blockbuster, Drama, Reviews, Teen with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

This is part one of the seventh installment of the hugely successful Harry Potter series. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about Harry and his adventures, and this film sets the scene for the grand finale. The question is, does it live up to its predecessors?

With Lord Voldermort in power, the wizarding world is now a dangerous place, where a Nazi-like regime threatens muggles and mixed-blood wizards. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are on the search for Horcruxes, objects that contain parts of Voldermort’s soul. Two horcruxes have already been destroyed, but they must find and destroy the remaining four before Lord Voldermort can be killed.  Finding and destroying the horcruxes proves more difficult than they imagined, and their friendships are tested and their lives put in danger….but hey, I’m sure you know all of this already!

There have been many mixed reviews for this film, but Potter fans will probably love it. It’s great to catch up with these characters and see them grow. Harry, Hermione and Ron really come into their own in this film, the first time they have been of age and away from Hogwarts. Their relationships with each other are more complex than ever, particularly in the confines of a tent as they move around the countryside. Apart from Harry, Ron and Hermione, not many of the other characters get much screen-time. We see the Dursley’s very briefly (which is a shame, because it would have been nice to have seen the scene with Dudley from the book play out) at the beginning, and also see the Weasley family at the beginning. We see Luna (the lovely Evanna Lynch), Snape (Alan Rickman), Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes), the Malfoy’s, a brief glimpse of Neville…but really, the primary focus of this film is the trio. This is essentially a road movie, and they won’t reach their destination until the next installment.

The performances are all fine. Alan Rickman is only in one scene at the beginning but he manages to steal it even when he says very little. His on-screen presence is impressive, and Rickman is certainly one of the best performers in the franchise (though he doesn’t have much screen-time in this one). Daniel Radcliffe is good as Harry, Emma Watson has really improved and is lovely as Hermione, and Rupert Grint gets some meaty angst that he plays it very well. Ron is a flawed character but he’s also very genuine, and I get the feeling he’s the firm fan favourite (but maybe I’m just biased, he’s certainly my favourite!)

Casual Potter fans will have trouble keeping up, and Potter first-timers will have absolutely no chance of understanding what’s going. The days of Potter being family entertainment are over; this is definitely not a film for children. It has got some scary sequences (especially with the snake) and mature themes. Romance blooms between Ron and Hermione (Yay! Adorable!) but it falters when Ron suspects that Hermione has feelings for Harry. DRAMA!

 The film has one main fault: it’s just too long. I really enjoyed the movie, but, as Part I of this book, 2.5 hours is much too long, it should have been 2 hours maximum. It tends to drag in places, particularly for people who haven’t read the book.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT PARAGRAPH>>>>>>> 

The Godric’s Hollow sequence is the most superfluous in the film, and could easily have been cut. It worked in the book but only weighed the movie down. We didn’t need to see Harry at his parents’ graves, and we certainly didn’t need to see the sequence with Bathilda Bagshot. It added nothing to the story. The only thing that furthered the plot here was that Hermione found the book by Rita Skeeter, which led them to finding out who the boy in Harry’s visions was (Grindelwald), but they could have found another way to do this, because this section of the movie really drags, especially since Ron is MIA. Another thing: if you’re a softie, be prepared for a few tears at the end when our beloved Dobby dies!

 END SPOILERS

I saw this film twice in the cinemas and I will be buying it on DVD. This is not a masterpiece by any standards, but it is very competent filmmaking and fans of Harry Potter will really enjoy seeing the saga played out on-screen. I, like many others, have come to love these characters and this world, and I will feel sad to say goodbye to Harry Potter, a franchise that’s been in my life since I was 10-years-old, when the 2nd Part is released next year.

My rating:

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Posted in 1986, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Teen with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

18-year-old Andie (Molly Ringwald) lives with her father on the wrong side of the tracks (literally). Her best friend is Duckie (Jon Cryer), a sometimes annoying/sometimes endearing pal since childhood. Andie is an intelligent individual, creating her own clothes from items she finds in second-hand stores. Of course, this makes her somewhat the outcast at school. Andie manages to catch the eye of wealthy boy Blaine (Andrew McCarthy), a sensitive type who is unlike his pretentious friends. He asks her out on a date, and from here the develop a relationship with many obstacles…

Of all the Brat Pack films, this is probably my favourite. It’s not as original as Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but there’s a real honesty here. This kind of story has been done over and over. Poor girl, rich boy, disapproval from both sides. However, it is, probably thanks to the king of teen cinema, the late great John Hughes, a wonderful teen romance. The film manages to be tender and feels fresh despite the apparent cliches.

A lot of the success of the film can be pinned on the wonderful performances of the leads. Nothing too special, but all of them are charismatic with good screen presence. Molly Ringwald really was something in those days. Several of the other main cast are still working today…see Two and a Half Men, my most hated TV show, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, another of my most hated.

 

It’s refreshing to see a film where not everyone lives in an upper-middle-class world where nobody seems to work but there’s always enough money for everything. Andie has real problems. Her mum left her and her dad. Her dad has been depressed and can’t hold a steady job. She is frequently ridiculed at school, but she is strong and faces her problems with dignity. This might not be the most original story ever but it is told sincerely and with heart.

 

I really liked this movie, I thought it was sweet and even though the concept is old I felt like I was seeing a ‘new’ story, one in which the outcome was not necessarily set in stone. A good teen flick.

My rating:

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Reviews, Teen, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

I have been eagerly anticipating The Lovely Bones for a couple of years, ever since I first read that Peter Jackson would be adapting it. This is partly because I read and enjoyed the book, but also because I am a great fan of Peter’s and I’m always interested to see what he does next. I’d read some mixed reviews so I went into this with mixed expectations.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl who is murdered by a neighbour. It’s the 1970s and things like that are almost unheard of, particularly in pleasant suburbia where Susie’s family lives. The film deals with her death and her subsequent afterlife as she watches her family, unable to move on from the ‘in-between’ (the place between heaven and Earth) whilst her family is emotionally tormented and her killer still at large.

Alice Sebold’s book has been extremely popular, probably mainly with teenagers. It might seem a strange choice for Jackson to adapt this novel, but I guess it spoke to him in a certain way.

There are some sequences in The Lovely Bones that are so beautiful, so perfectly put together that it’s a shame the whole thing isn’t so finely tuned. This is a film that could have been incredible, but it falls short. I actually like the changes made to the novel. I like that the ending has changed, I liked that Jackson did not show Susie’s brutal rape and murder, instead adopting a more elusive approach. But the material isn’t taken far enough. Reviews have been mixed and you will probably leave the theatre with quite mixed feelings. I know I did.

All of the actors are  very good, if somewhat underused. For all the negative anticipation surrounding Mark Wahlberg, he is actually believable empathetic here as a grieving father. Rachel Weisz has one of the smallest parts as Susie’s mother, but she does well with what she has. Susan Saranon provides comic relief for the audience, emotional support for the family. Rose McIver is good as Susie’s younger sister Lindsay (even though Rose is actually 6 years older than Saoirse), who takes it upon herself to find Susie’s killer. Saoirse Ronan is as good as you would expect from a young Oscar nominee, but the real standout here is Stanley Tucci. I know it can be really cliched for an actor to get accolades for such an extreme role, but he really does bring this real edge to Mr Harvey. A lot of people have made comments about his supposely stereotypical paedophile moustache, but I don’t think he was cliched in this role. He gave me the creeps, especially since I’m so used to seeing him in likeable roles.

The most problematic thing about The Lovely Bones is the sequences of Susie in the in-between. Whenever the action moves to Susie we want it to move back to the family, we want the story to move on., because there is no real storyline involving Susie. She just watches, wanting her killer to be caught and for her family to be ok. Although there are some moments with Susie (when she connects with her family) that work really well, most have a really lame Ghost (the Demi Moore film) feel to them, right down to the breathy voice uttering wise words. And even though the ending is far better than that of the novel, it’s still not satisfying, and may have a few audience members rolling their eyes. The Lovely Bones is so grounded in reality that these fantasy sequences don’t fit in.

But there is a lot to like about this film. Suspense is built really well (even though we know who the murderer is) and, as I said, some sequences are close to perfection. I loved the music, and I actually liked the design of the film (which some have derisively likened to a 70s record cover)I would love to see Peter do just one film without any fantasy sequence. I know he loves and specialises in special effects, but I think he could make a really terrific film without special effects.

As it is, this one falls a bit flat, but it still has a lot to offer.

My rating:

Adventureland (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Romance, Teen with tags , , , on December 15, 2009 by filmglutton

Adventureland, set in 1987, focuses on recent college graduate James (Jesse Eisenberg). James has planned a summer trip to Europe with friends, followed by a journalism post-grad degree at Columbia University. His plans unravel when his parents tell him they can no longer afford to fund his trip and that he must get a job if he wants to make it to Columbia. So James, with limited work experience, has no other choice than to get a job at Adventureland, a run-down theme park in his hometown of Pittsburgh. We can all relate: that sucks. The job is far from glamorous, but James meets an eclectic group of young people his own age, including the alluring Em (Kristen Stewart), with whom he embarks on a tentative friendship/relationship.

Adventureland was directed by Greg Mottola, who also directed the hit teen film Superbad. I haven’t seen Superbad, but I rented this after reading a few favourable reviews. I’m glad I did. Adventureland was a really enjoyable film, a sweet exploration of the lives of these 20-something people who are trying to figure out what they want. I think that’s a strength of the film, it shows 20-somethings for what we are: slightly older teens with more freedom. We don’t hit our 20s and suddenly grow up, have corporate jobs. Most 20-somethings are still unsettled and changing university degrees or careers. I thought this film captured the age group really well.

The performances are good. Jesse Eisenberg is really likeable and natural as James (and he actually looks around the right age, which is a rare thing); he might draw comparisons with Michael Cera, but he is less awkward (and less funny, I guess). Kirsten Stewart is quietly charming as Em. I haven’t seen enough of her to judge if she is a versatile actress, but I really like her onscreen, I can’t help but be drawn to her. So much better that her work in Twilight, which was released at the cinemas not long before this one. All of the supporting cast are good too (Ryan Reynolds has a small role), and I liked that they weren’t insantly recognisable, it made me feel like these could all be real people, unlike the shallow, fake versions of real people that we so often see.

I think this was billed as a comedy-drama, but it’s not actually very funny. In fact, the parts where it tries to be funny (such as with the immature ex-friend who keeps hitting James in the crotch) are quite unfunny and a little annoying. I also didn’t particularly like Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the managers of Adventureland. This film is not an absurd comedy (as I’ve heard Superbad was), and these two were a little over-pronounced in their roles, desperately trying to milk laughs but falling a bit flat (especially Wiig; I quite like her, but I swear she does the same thing in every film…)

This is much better than standard teen fare, but there is something missing, even though the performances are good and the story is quite fresh. I think the problem is that, as a drama, it lacks emotional punch (I know I just said a similar thing about Julie and Julia, but emotion matters, dammit!). The narrative development is fine and the characters themselves do experience turbulent emotions, but as an audience member you never feel too connected to the characters. You might recognise them, but you don’t really empathise or worry about what will happen to them. I hate melodrama, but a more focused emotional through-line would have been nice.

Still a film worth watching on a quiet night in. It might have some cliches, but it is well executed…and hey, who doesn’t love the eighties?!

My Rating:

Whip It (2009)

Posted in 2009, Comedy, Drama, Reviews, Teen with tags , , , , , , on November 6, 2009 by filmglutton

whipit1

Whip It is Drew Barrymore’s first foray into directing – quite a long time coming considering she has been acting and producing business for so long.

The movie focuses on Bliss (Ellen Page), a 17-year-old living in Bodeen, Texas, a small town in close proximity to Austin. Bliss is a bit of a misfit. She’s a student at the local high school (though we only see her at school in one brief scene) and works at the Oink Joint, a tacky takeaway store. Bliss’ best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) also works at Oink Joint and they have a lot of fun teasing their supervisor ‘Birdman’ (Carlo Alban). Both of them want to get out and see the world, with Pash hoping for an Ivy League education and Bliss hoping to do anything but beauty pageants. Her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) makes both Bliss and her younger daughter Shania (Eulala Scheel) participate in pageant after pageant, reliving a bit of her own lost youth. Bliss’ father Earl (Daniel Stern) is a football fan and is more encouraging of Bliss, wanting her to do something she enjoys. One day while shopping in Austin Bliss sees a flyer for a roller derby display, which she and Pash attend. After telling one of the ‘Hurl Scouts’ that they are her new heroes, she is encouraged to attend tryouts. Finally Bliss has something to aim for; she practise with old Barbie skates until she has the hang of it again, and she makes it into the team because of her great speed. She calls herself Babe Ruthless. From here the plot moves between the Roller Derby games, where the Hurl Scouts try to actually win some games, and Bliss’ relationship with her parents, from whom she keeps roller derby a secret.

whipit4

There are a lot of minor characters in this, most of whom are pretty forgettable. Juliette Lewis, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell and Eve all have small roles as part of the Hurl Scouts. Drew Barrymore cast herself in a small part, and Bliss has a love interest in Oliver (Landon Pigg) – I found him to be really insipid and annoying. Overall the cast is strong, especially Ellen Page, who is always likeable onscreen. I also really liked Alia Shawkat, whom I hadn’t seen before (yes, I know she is in Arrested Development, one day I will get around to it).

whipit3

The roller derby sequences are handled quite well; they are exciting and the constant commentary helps us understand what is happening in the sport. I think it’s great that they’ve taken this sport and glorified it on film…you know, girl power and all that. I’d say this film would most appeal to girls in their early to mid teens. Apparently all the actors did their own skating, and it certainly looks very believable. There is nothing too racy apart from Bliss and Oliver kissing underwater and stripping their clothes, and a bit of underage drinking.

whipit2

Whip It isn’t particularly fresh or new, and it is certainly bogged down a bit by cliché, but it does stand out amongst sports films, mainly because Roller Derby strikes us as something new and exciting. It has your typical teen angst, teen finding an outlet to express her true personality, parents disagreeing etc, and of course it builds to a grand final game. There is something quite strange about the tone of the film; it’s as if it doesn’t know its genre, doesn’t quite know if it’s aiming for indie or commercial or comedy or drama. And, as I’ve already noted, the romance seemed a little forced. However, Whip It is and enjoyable film that’s better than most other teen flicks out there.

My Rating: 1112