Powder Room

“Women disappear into the toilet for 25 minutes at a time, what the f*ck are they doing?” This is how MJ Delaney sums up her first feature film Powder Room, an adaptation of the play When Women Wee. The film follows Sam (Sheridan Smith) on a night out in London with a couple of posh friends (played by Kate Nash and Oona Chaplin). She is trying to live up to their tales of fancy parisian life when her actual friends (Jaime Winstone, Riann Steele and Sarah Hoare), show up in the club too, drunk and dishevelled. The rest of the night is a game of cat and mouse in and out of the club, but all the revelations, fights and decisions happen in that all-important place: the ladies’ bathroom.

Powder Room sam

Despite its all-star cast, Powder Room definitely feels real and close to home: no Hollywood gloss-over here, it could be happening down your street. It’s very funny, and the girl power present on set during their 19-day shoot certainly translates onscreen in the dynamic within the group(s) of friends. Sheridan Smith keeps Sam likeable despite her sometimes questionable behaviour; actually, she is perhaps the most relatable of the lot. And as a French person, I just have to mention how good Oona Chaplin is. Her character lives in Paris and her little quips in French were just perfect. The soundtrack is energetic and the performers, FakeClub, steal the show in their few seconds onscreen. Even better, the other artists featured in the film are mostly yet unsigned bands found on SoundCloud… Here’s to hoping this gives them a much-deserved boost!

Powder Room group

On top of the fun aspect of all the gossip going on in the bathroom, I really enjoyed the contrast between the image the girls try to project in front of their friends and the reality that you see in that space – the bathroom is where they hide to cry, take drugs and fight with their husbands on the phone. This atmosphere of constant comparison and almost competition for the most “accomplished” life is very current.

This is a film about women, written and directed by women but not just for women. Everyone can enjoy a comedy and hey, I’m first in line for everything Marvel. All in all it is a lesson in not giving a shit and enjoying what you have with the people you like.

Powder Room is released in UK cinemas on 6 December.

Tick tock, it’s Catching Fire o’clock

The wait is over, as audiences finally find out what becomes of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) after they forced the Capitol to crown them both victors of the Hunger Games. There can only be one survivor in this televised fight to the death between a group of teenagers, designed to oppress and divide the twelve districts of Panem. Only, the last two standing threatened to kill themselves and leave the Games without a winner. The Hunger Games ended with the anger of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) at their act of defiance, and the promise of retaliation. Catching Fire gives a broader view of the impact of the Games: the crowds in the districts are rallying around these children who would rather have died than played by the rules, and uprisings are multiplying across the country. Katniss and Peeta must pretend that they were incapable of killing each other because they were madly in love – the only publicly acceptable excuse to keep the peace. But as they tour the country, their practised speeches do nothing to extinguish the spark of rebellion, and they become a symbol to be eliminated at all costs.

Catching Fire VictorsPeeta and Katniss tour the country as victor of the Hunger Games

I’d like to toast the writers and director Francis Lawrence, because adapting a book is hard, and adapting a book told from a single character’s point of view is harder – especially one as weary as Katniss. Yet they have found a way to expand the story outside of her mind and to fit it naturally to a film-type storytelling without resorting to voiceovers or long explanations. The best example of this is the character of President Snow, who is developed through a series of scenes with his granddaughter and head gamemaker that shed more light on his cruel and calculating ways than his outward interaction with Katniss might. The familiar settings of District 12 and the Capitol are back with some new sets as well, of which I won’t tell much to keep the surprise, but they are just like readers will have imagined them. James Newton Howard’s soundtrack is effective if a little too similar to that of the Hunger Games; we could do with some new themes, but I expect this will be the case in Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 what with the dramatic change of setting.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence at the Catching Fire premiere.

Despite a great script and direction the film rests, of course, on the shoulders of its young stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Jennifer Lawrence once again proves her ability to effortlessly switch genres after her Oscar-winning turn in Silver Linings Playbook. Her Katniss is intense and focused and conveys just enough of what is really going on inside her head – which the reader knows but the film-only audience needs to learn despite her constant attempts at not letting it show. The supporting cast play off her beautifully, especially Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, possibly the biggest character development and evolution since the first film. Effie, of all characters, shows that the glossy polish is starting to crack even in the Capitol. The love triangle arc between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) may be a little too much for a dystopian revolution story; I generally take issue with love triangles becoming the essential selling point of YA to the point of detracting from the actual plot, but this is a rant for another day.

I think it’s fair to say the Hunger Games is the best screen adaptation of YA series so far and yes, I have read and seen them all. Catching Fire is so very, very good. Watch it, bring your friends & don’t forget the sugar cubes.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released in UK cinemas on 29 November.

Frozen

After more than 50 years of adapting fairy tales, you would be forgiven for thinking Disney had exhausted the subject or at least, lost their touch a little. But as they deliver a magical rendition of the Snow Queen, hot on the heels of the excellent Tangled, this could not be further from the truth. In Frozen, Queen Elsa of Arendelle (Idina Menzel) flees her kingdom after accidentally plunging it into an eternal winter. By the time her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) sets out to find her and bring her back to restore summer, Elsa has turned her back on her people and shut herself away in a fortress of ice.

image
The cold never bothered her anyway

The story is a very loose adaptation of the tale that gives more space to family, friendships and the themes of independence and the pressure of expectations. Of course there are villains, but they are mostly opportunistic and the real threat comes from within, making Elsa more complex and conflicted than the characters we are used to. If there is a central character, it is the relationship between the two sisters and their initial misunderstanding of each other. It’s not Disney without funny sidekicks though, and Frozen doesn’t disappoint as Anna is joined in her quest by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a talking snowman named Olaf who makes for great comic relief.

image
Do you want to build a snowman?

The soundtrack is classic Disney, and I mean classic. Early 90’s Disney classic. The songs are catchy and the score perfectly captures the winter and snow as The Little Mermaid’s did the underwater world. My co-workers probably would tell you they hate it, fed up that they are by my constant humming and whistling. Idina Menzel finally voices a fully-fledged princess after her speaking-only cameo in Enchanted, and it was worth the wait. She gives a flawless performance of Let it go, the theme song of the film. Kristen Bell does some admirable voice acting as Anna, too. I enjoyed the awkwardness and was actually taken aback by her singing. If you weren’t a die-hard Veronica Mars fan, you may not have known that she started out on Broadway but after seeing this you wouldn’t doubt it. Visually speaking, the 3D is top of the range from the first scene and makes the most of its material: between spires of ice and flurries of snow, the animators are having a lot of fun and the audience will too.

Frozen follows the new trend of using a neutral title so as to not scare boys away from checking it out. Disney, please get over Princess and the Frog and name your films after their awesome female protagonists. They deserve it. More than just a similar title, Frozen cannot escape the comparison with its predecessor Tangled: Anna is also a naive, sheltered princess and looks more like Rapunzel than her own sister, and the guys’ voices had me wondering if Zachary Levi had landed a permanent contract. But the similarities end there. Tangled is a bit more tongue-in-cheek and maybe funnier to an older audience while Frozen is unabashedly candid and sentimental. It might make you roll your eyes in places when it gets a little too corny unless you can leave behind your sarcasm and the years that passed since you were six, and let it spellbind you. It’s magical, it’s wintry, it’s funny – and yes, you will melt.

Frozen is released in UK cinemas on 6 December.

Free Birds

When awkward outsider turkey Reggie (Owen Wilson) is pardoned by the American president ahead of Thanksgiving, he trades his future-meal status for a life of luxury, TV and pizza, complete with bunny slippers. If the idea of a turkey in fuzzy slippers is too much for you, you might want to stop right here. Because Reggie soon gets “recruited” by Jake (Woody Harrelson), a fellow bird on a secret mission to save all turkeys from the Thanksgiving massacre. And what better way to do that than travelling back in time (I told you) to the first Thanksgiving and somehow stop the establishment of the age-old tradition? And so Reggie and Jake embark on a journey to thwart the pilgrims’ plans and save the wild turkeys of the past.

image
Reggie ticks all the boxes of the scrawny, brainy hero

Young children will be entertained by the action and simple gags in this flick but will most likely fail to grasp the plot. Let’s face it, even we get confused by convoluted time-travel films. Unfortunately, while recent animation features usually have clever hidden jokes for grown-ups to pick up on, Free Birds remains pitched at 5-year-old level throughout.

Once the shall we say “original” premise is established, the story is cartoon-ly predictable yet cute enough to elicit a few smiles, making Free Birds basic family entertainment. Suitable for vegetarians.

Free Birds is released in UK cinemas on 29 November

Saving Mr Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is both the making of a beloved film, and the story of the life behind it. Emma Thompson is brilliant as witty and determined Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers: the famous nanny she created feels like family and she refuses to see her turned into a “silly cartoon.” But money is getting scarce and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) is unrelenting in his pursuit of the rights to the film adaptation.

image
P.L. Travers is not impressed by Disneyland

This sets the stage to the main attraction of this film: a battle of wills between two highly creative, successful, and very, very different minds. The tension and (not so) quiet power struggle underlying every conversation between the two – from movie dialogue to tea – is most entertaining and gives Thompson and Hanks the chance to shine as they play off each other. It’s no small feat to keep your viewer hooked when they already know how the story ends.

This is not, however, a documentary; and the somewhat cheesy conclusion reminds us that this has been made by the same studio who specialises in “sugarcoating darkness,” in Travers’ words. It’s doubtful she would have approved – let alone enjoyed – this romanced rendition of her life, but for us Disney fans and Mary Poppins lovers, it is a treat.

Saving Mr. Banks is released in UK theaters on 29 November.

46 takes later…

… here we go!

Welcome to 47 Takes, where you will find my film reviews  and general entertainment-related ramblings. This is a new adventure for me so comments and advice are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for visiting, and may the odds be ever in your favor 😉