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watchthis: Frozen (2013)

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Disney’s latest animated hit is wintery, beautiful, and totally worth seeing. Focusing on the relationship between two sisters, Anna and Elsa, the latter of whom has the ability to control and produce ice and snow, a gift which is ultimately powerful beyond her control. Accidentally, Elsa brings an unending winter upon the land, and Anna must find a way to return summer to the world with the help of a few friends along the way.

I saw Frozen a couple of weeks ago and really loved it. I’m a sucker for anything cute and animated and pretty and Disney (I’m wearing a Little Mermaid sweater as I write this, actually), and the film definitely holds up well as a Disney princess movie. I love the emphasis on the relationship between the two sisters rather than on romantic relationships – granted, there are some of those as well, but the film itself pokes fun at the typical fairytale notion of and points towards something at least slightly more realistic. The fact that Anna and Elsa reminded myself of me and my little red-headed sister really helped to pull at the heart strings, too.

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The animation itself is visually stunning, as well. This rings especially true in the scenery and the background settings. They are absolutely breathtaking. Since the world of Frozen is so white – a land plunged into an everlasting snowy winter – the emphasis shifts instead to the lighting. The way each scene is illuminated is completely breathtaking, and the lighting became one of my favourite aspects of the movie as a whole.

My favourite scene is the opening scene in which a group of ice cutters chip away at the ice covering the fjord in large blocks, pulling it out of the water and hauling it away singing. This scene is absolutely beautiful – the lighting, the animation (the ice looks incredibly real, sleek, and shining) and the music all combine to form a gorgeous opening scene that hooks you right from the start and pulls you into the world of the movie.

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Concept art for the opening scene

Overall, Frozen has a great message, great characters (Olaf the snowman is charmingly hilarious) and truly beautiful visuals. Definitely worth checking out. Try and see it soon while it’s still in theatres!

watchthis: The Book Thief (2013)

watchthis: The Book Thief (2013)

Okay, okay, I know. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. A long time as in, like, three months. So a really long time.

BUT I’M BACK.

And there’s a hell of a lot of amazing books, movies, and games out right now. This is exciting stuff, guys.

I saw The Book Thief last weekend and loved it. I must admit that I’ve never read the book – though I’ve heard very good things about it – but I still managed to really enjoy the story and bawled during the film. A lot.

The Book Thief is about a German community and a girl and the people she meets during World War II. At first unable to read properly, the girl – Liesel – learns about the power of the word, and language, and stories, and books. It’s a truly beautiful story that makes for a beautiful film that, without giving away too much, will have you sobbing uncontrollably in your seat by the end. That’s a guarantee.

Filled with fantastic actors including Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Canadian newcomer Sophie Nélisse, the movie properly displays the strength of humanity and the horrors of war from the perspectives of German civilians at the time. Featuring also the clever narration of Death (voiced by Roger Allam), the film reveals the fear and destruction that the second world war brought on while at the same time highlighting the little things that kept people going.

Worth checking out, whether you’ve read the book or not. I really liked it.

The Book Thief was directed by Brian Percival and is currently in theatres.

watchthis: Words and Pictures (2013)

"Words And Pictures" Premiere - Red Carpet - 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
I had the great luck of seeing this lovely film at TIFF at Roy Thomson Hall on saturday night after my volunteer shift (they had a few empty seats and let us sit in on the screening)! Also, I got to see these amazing actors, Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, who play the main characters in the film, at the screening.

Words and Pictures is a sort of romantic comedy with more dramatic elements that was truly a delight to watch. The movie features Owen as a passionate English teacher at a prep school and Binoche as his counterpart; the school’s dedicated and talented art teacher. The film has never before been showed to an audience (either through previous testing or premieres) so director Fred Schepisi joked that he was nervous as to how people would react. Laughter, shock, and tears – throughout the course of the film, the team managed to bring it all.

I must quickly mention that I missed the first 15-20 minutes of the film while finishing my shift, so I’m not actually entirely sure of how it started. What I do know, however, is that the two teachers quickly begin a clever flirtatious game with one another in which they, with the aid of their AP classes, argue over which medium is more powerful: words or pictures.

The two may bicker and argue along the way, but it isn’t long before they find that they truly do get along and that the friendly competition urges their students to give their all while working on their artistic projects.

Although lighthearted in many respects, the film does deal with the troubled lives the two teachers lead outside of school as well – Binoche’s character suffers from rheumatoid arthritis while Owen’s battles with alcoholism and his strained reputation in the workplace. These backstories serve to strike a nice balance between the comedic moments throughout the film while still grounding them in a more dramatic reality.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, knowing nothing about it in the first place and by chance being able to catch a screening, so I was truly delighted and satisfied by the simplicity and entertainment value of the story at hand. Also, Owen and Binoche pull off their characters with easy grace, and as a student of both cinema and English, I too found myself debating about the value of words verses the value of pictures.

I don’t think I can come to a conclusion on that one, but it is certainly interesting to think about.

Words and Pictures was filmed in Vancouver, BC, and does not currently have a widespread release date. If you do manage to come across the film in the following months, I’d say that overall it’s a fun film that is worth a watch.

watchthis: Monster’s University

ImageMonster’s University tells the funny and charming story of Monster’s Inc.’s beloved characters Mike and Sully during their wild years as college students. The two get off to a bumpy start as both tackle their new lives as students in completely different ways, but watching them interact as they turn from strangers to the best of friends is simply delightful. Throw in a bunch of new characters and a handful of cameos from Monster’s Inc. characters, and you get a fun flick that’s perfectly suited for all ages. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

The movie works perfectly as a prequel to Monster’s Inc., staying true to the monster world while at the same time filling out more of the details as to what life for monsters is like!

Another thing I love about the movie is the look of the different buildings at MU as well as the memorable characters that fill the campus. These details give the world a truly realistic feel – it looks a lot like where I go to school at the St. George campus at the University of Toronto! The animated architecture is beautiful.

Monster’s University is definitely worth seeing for Disney and Pixar fans – especially for those of us who grew up watching Pixar movies and are now in university ourselves!

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An additional bonus for those who go to see the film in theatres is Pixar’s latest short film, The Blue Umbrella. The short is endearing and adorable, featuring a simple love story between two umbrellas on a rainy day in the city. Notable for it’s animated photorealism, The Blue Umbrella demonstrates just why Pixar is such a groundbreaking company in the animation industry.

Have you seen Monster’s University? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

watchthis: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom

Do you love camping, the 1960’s, and all things hipster-y? If your answer is yes, then Moonrise Kingdom is the film for you.

The film tells the simple story of a young boy and a girl who fall in love and run away. Both are social outcasts for different reasons – he, an orphan, she, a problem child – and two head off to spend the rest of their days in a boy scout tent. The film is highly stylized with filters that will remind you of Instagram’s finest, as well as fashion, music, and sets inspired by vintage of the 60’s.

Moonrise Kingdom is a delightful romp that is definitely worth a watch. It’s a beautiful, simple film, full of quirky humour and filmmaking that is sure to please both the cultured moviegoer and the hippest of the hip. I love the carefully staged framing and the retro props and vibes. While perhaps a tad pretentious (you know, the kind of film that is clearly shouting, “look! I’m ARTSY”), the film is enjoyable and, for lack of a better word, quite pretty.

The film features an ensemble cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Frances McDormand. It was directed by Wes Anderson and was released in 2012.

watchthis: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Being a huge Baz Luhrmann and Leonardo DiCaprio fan I am, I was definitely excited to go see the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby in theatres. I just finished reading the novel a couples of days before I saw the film, too, so I was beyond pumped. And I can fully believe that the movie was worth the hype.

I LOVED IT. It was incredibly accurate to the novel, the acting was superb, and the music was amazing (I know that many people complained about the blending of modern music into a film set in the 1920’s, but, hello! This is from the director who gave us Romeo+Juliet, and last time I checked, Romeo didn’t carry a pistol or groove to Radiohead in the Elizabethan era).

The fact that the classic story was able to be portrayed as something that could happen just as easily today shows the true success of the filmmaking team. The costumes, music, and beautifully styled sets contribute perfectly to the glitz-and-glam atmosphere of Fitzgerald’s famous world of luxury. I raise my champagne glass to you, Luhrmann!

If you haven’t seen Gatsby yet, please do! It won’t be in theatres for much longer (some cities have already stopped playing it). Independent theatres are likely to pick it up for short runs once it finishes in the major theatres, though, so if you haven’t found the time yet, there is no need to panic.

If you have seen Gatsby, what did you think of it? Were you amazed and delighted like I was? Or did you find the fashionable attempt at a revamp fell flat? Let me know in the comments!