Gravity (2013)

Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón , George Clooney (un-credited)

Starring: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock

Rating: ★★★★½

Visually breath-taking and flawless. Gravity is easily one of the “Best Picture” candidates for the Oscars as director Alfonso Cuarón’s special effects allows for one of the best cinema viewings in recent years. The film in simple terms can be described as Cast Away in space, but this isn’t at all flattering towards Hollywood’s new in the spotlight master-piece. Gravity is more than about the battle against isolation and survival, but a story showing the power and strength the human mind can possess even in the darkest of times.

There is little neither introduction nor an easing into action as we begin our experience mid-way through what seems to be an expected routine operation for a space team. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is an attending her first space mission as a medical engineer whilst her company is in the form of a composed, laid-back veteran Kowalski (George Clooney) attending his last space mission before retirement. Their simple objective of repairing a broken telescope however is quickly abandoned as a flood of fast coming debris smash into their shuttle flinging them into the wilderness and emptiness that is space. Separated, alone and in shock a frantic Ryan spins away. Joined by the comforting voice of Houston and Kowalski, Stone eventually gets instructed and locates a nearby station that could lead her homebound and to safety. However after contact is lost and another wave of debris soon approaching, Stone has to decide whether to simply let go and float away, or to hold on with passion and grit to find a solution.

Sandra Bullock presents the performance of her career, capturing a highly believable and realistic display despite being in a very drastic and hyperbolic situation.  The pain that’s afflicted on Stone whether emotional, mental or physical leaves you sympathetic and sweating; this is significantly down to the amazing mastered performance. The absolute mental torture that Stone goes through takes us on an adventure of our own allowing us to feel the extreme loneliness and pain alongside Bullock’s character. Bullock will also be proud to be associated with such a prestigious film in terms of Gravity’s use of 3D and visual effects.

The use of 3D in Gravity is astonishing, showing just how fast the popular modern-day feature is being developed.  There are many scenes that use 3D to amazing effects, my personal favourites occur in the scenes where Stone is in the pod. At one point we see her painful teardrop float up and away from her cheek towards our jaw-dropped and trembling faces. It is not only the 3D in this film that makes Gravity visually flawless but the use of shooting all digitally allows a much more defined quality. The element that separates Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity from the other space sci-fi films of this year such as Pacific Rim, Elysium and Oblivion is the cinematography and unbelievably scenery displayed throughout the film. It’s the small things in this film that really do add up to make perfection; the opening scene is breath-taking as we see an establishing shot of Earth as George Clooney’s character rather causally floats by.

The story to Gravity is simple but it is that very same simplicity that makes the film so enjoyable and such an amazing visual experience. Finding faults is rather difficult, there are areas where the story lacks depth, and in a personal perspective I would have much preferred more closure in the final scene and much more of an introduction to characters at the beginning. However the lack of these elements only emphasises and highlights the quality of others. I can predict now that Gravity will win many awards and possibly one or two Oscars. It’s a highlight film of 2013 for sure and one that advertises cinema as the beautiful art form it is. It was very hard deciding what rating Gravity deserved, many times I have considered it to be a perfect five stars but it is one nevertheless to view, to appreciate and to enjoy.

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Saving Mr Banks (2013)

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) PosterGenre: Comedy, Biography, Drama

Director: John Lee Hancock

Writers: Sue Smith, Kelly Marcel

Starring: Tom Hanks. Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell

Rating:★★★★½

A film that blew me away completely, reaching greater expectations than I first imagined. It’s not every day you get to watch a piece of real-life cinema history unfold in front of you, nor do you get to watch such a tragic and sad story be told in such a magical “Disney” way. There’s so much about Saving Mr Banks that makes it unique and a cut above the rest. Not only does the story hold truth, engage the imagination and touch the heart but the acting is truly outstanding with cast and crew delivering to achieve such a great end product.

“It’s Mrs P L Travers” she instructs many times, and it’s this extraordinary  yet classical  “posh” British woman we follow, as she battles to keep her much loved Mary Poppins being turned into one of Walt Disney’s “silly cartoons”. Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) is the author of the famous Mary Poppins however trying to keep a twenty year old promise to his daughters; Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has two weeks to convince her to let Mary Poppins flourish on the big screen. In 1961 after a twenty year history of constant and firm rejection Travers has no choice but to fly to Walt’s studios in Los Angeles as the battling author faces rough financial difficulties. In the hope of retaining his promise and the rights to such a classic book Walt Disney pulls out all of the stops, presenting a number of colourful pictures, toys, tours and musical performances but the non-budge author suggests “Mary Poppins isn’t for sale and she certainly does not sing!” It is then at the end of those long-winded two weeks in the rehearsal room, that we alongside Mr. Disney begin to realise that the magical nanny means more to Travers than could have ever been thought.

As Travers is forced to reflect on a rough childhood haunted by her beloved drunken father (Colin Farrell) Walt Disney gives her the chance to finally have the happy ending she dreamt of, for not only herself and Mary Poppins but for her father. It’s within Travers own story that Mary Poppins is created and it’s the flashbacks of Mrs Travers childhood that really makes the story heart-warming and that lump in your throat ever much present.  Colin Farrell plays his role as Travers’ father unbelievably well, giving an amazing performance that makes you smile yet at the same time in your eyes tears still seem to glaze over. Although just having a co-star role his performance was by far the stand out in my view. Whilst there is a sad undertone to the story there are many of laughs too, something i admired about the film is the balance between the two. Travers although maybe being stereotyped too much has great dialogue throughout; likewise with Walt himself, as the two start to find each other a little too overwhelming it leads way for some comical frustrated mutters. My favourite humour providers however are the Sherman Brothers (B.J Novak and Jason Schwartzman) as they battle to not only make Mary Poppins sing, but to make her sing made-up words. They hide “superfragicallistic” from Travers after she states “responstible? Responstible isn’t even a word, un-make it up”.  It’s hard to fault the script of Saving Mr Banks at all, with every single syllable seemingly fitting into place perfectly and suiting each and every character.

The portrayal of Walt Disney from the film itself and Tom Hanks is good; however a few lines do make the idolised figure seem rather shallow. He is funny, sarcastic but most of all caring and I couldn’t have pictured anyone but Tom Hanks playing the role. I do hope Saving Mr Banks holds a lot of truth to its story as the history of Walt Disney himself is told as he speaks of when he was just a boy with a sketch of Minnie delivering newspapers for his father. It’s the belief you have that the story is true that amplifies the magical feel to this film, and when it concerns the “magical Disney feel” you couldn’t obtain more if you tried.

The score by Thomas Newman is entertaining and utilising, making real use of engaging the classic Mary Poppins original scores into the story. Saving Mr Banks has a habit of engaging and linking ideas together as many links are used throughout on several occasions not only linking fiction to reality but past to present. It’s a film that is well adapted too; the humour and puns alongside the story can be enjoyed and felt by everyone even if you haven’t seen Mary Poppins.  Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith should be given huge credit for their ability to not only adapt this film so well, but to present it to make it so understandable and heart-felt.

The marketing and advertisement campaign hasn’t really done Saving Mr Banks justice as for me this is possibly one of the best films of the year. The execution from story to performance is phenomenal. Travers’ father explains in the film “this world Ginty, it’s just an illusion”, and in some ways if you see past what could have been a generic Disney feature, you then realise that this film is about more than the creation of Mary Poppins and Walt Disney’s and Mrs Travers battle, but their struggle and grit to hold onto memories and people. It holds real heart-warming tales and relationships in the most unlikely of places, it’s an Oscar winner and a must watch certainly.