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Top 10 Films of the Year, 2017

2017 has almost drawn to a close, and even though it does seem a little early, it’s time to name my top ten films of the year. The key word is ‘my‘. Please do not kill me.

This is definitely not the objective ‘best films of the year’ list. This is my list, based on nothing but my opinion. Also, I have not watched every film this year, so, there are going to be some great ones that I’ve missed.

Honourable mentions:

The Lego Batman Movie
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

10: Wonder Woman

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2017 has, by far, been the DCEU’s strongest year so far, and Wonder Woman has been its best film. Patty Jenkins’ World War I piece is an enthralling origin story that takes the character to new heights. It’s not necessarily the most original superhero film, but it is still great, and is truly DC’s shining diamond.

9: Baby Driver

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Ansel Elgort proves the true versatility of his acting ability in Edgar Wright’s latest, and it helps that he’s in a really good film. Baby Driver may not be Edgar Wright’s best, but it is still one of 2017’s best, and that really speaks to Wright’s ability. There are problems with Baby Driver, particularly to do with the pacing, but it is still one of 2017’s more memorable efforts.

8: The Big Sick

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The biggest surprise of the year is Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick. It truly hit me in the face, and it’s driven be real performances and great writing. It’s a touching story that is serious when it needs to be, and funny when it can be. If you haven’t watched it yet, get onto Amazon Prime and do it now.

7: Get Out

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Get Out takes my spot for best horror film of the year for two reasons: I haven’t watched IT, and Get Out is not scary in the conventional sense. Get Out’s true horror is racism, and the reality of the situation is what makes Get Out a truly scary experience. Jordan Peele’s very original satire deserves to be remembered.

6: Thor: Ragnarok

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I probably like Thor: Ragnarok more than most people, but, I don’t care. I love what Taika Waititi did with this film, and I love how he made it his own. It’s one of the most unique Marvel films, and it definitely earns points for that. It embraces its comedic genre, and goes all out at making you laugh. It isn’t exactly what you would imagine a Ragnarok movie being, but I’m so happy it is what it is.

5: Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is paper thin, but that’s the point. It is a war film that focuses on the event it is centred around rather than the people that are experiencing the event. In doing so, it becomes a very thrilling film, and sadly one that I probably will not enjoy as much on a second viewing because it blew me away on the big screen. Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece, and very much the best theatre experience I had this year.

Christopher Nolan is a gift.

4: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Spider-Man: Homecoming is a film that makes me smile every single time I think about it. This is largely because Spider-Man has always been important to me, and Homecoming is able to capture the essence of Spider-Man perfectly. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is perfect. Add to this an incredible villain in Michael Keaton’s Vulture, and what you have is a movie that, at least to me, can be re-watched every single day. I cannot fully put into words what Spider-Man: Homecoming is to me, but, all that matters is that it’s good enough to be this high on this list.

3: Logan

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What Fox (or, what used to be Fox) must have understood after Deadpool is that they tend to produce exceptional comic book movies when they don’t slip their slimy hands into them.

James Mangold’s Logan is special. It is a farewell to Hugh Jackman that couldn’t have been better, and even though I’m not a fan of the ‘everything has to be darker’ movement, the way Logan handles its maturity is worthy of applause. It isn’t necessarily the greatest comic book film ever, and nor does it have the greatest story, or greatest effects, or anything really. But there is no denying that Logan is one of the most courageous comic book films ever, and definitely the best one of 2017.

2: Mother!

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Mother! is… Well… It is by far the strangest film I’ve watched this year. There are many that definitively do not like it, but I, on the other hand, love it.

Mother! is intentionally vague and open to interpretation, and if I’m honest, my interpretation was rather embarrassing compared to some others I’ve read. If those are to be true, then what Mother! is, really, is the deepest film of the year. I will not reveal my interpretation or any others I’ve read because I don’t want to spoil this film for anyone who hasn’t watched it.

Mother! is a film that leaves you thinking about it for a very long time. It’s the kind of film that’s a rarity, and the only reason it’s at number two on this list is personal bias.

Number one should be pretty obvious by now. Please save the death threats until after I’ve finished.

1: Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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The Last Jedi being my favourite film of 2017 could be due to the facts that I hadn’t been anticipating a movie this year as much as this one, and that it is the film on this list that I’ve most recently watched.

Regardless, it should be known that I love The Last Jedi because it is a great Star Wars film, and I refuse to take that back. Yes, Finn’s story is a little off-putting, but other than that, The Last Jedi is raw, emotional, risk-taking and has a great number of surprises. Rian Johnson adds his stamp to the film, and the way it utilises both old and new characters is astonishing. Not only do Rey, Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker excel in The Last Jedi, Poe Dameron also shines.

The Last Jedi’s biggest strength is its ability to get people talking, and to leave an impact on people, whether that be a positive or negative one, and this is because it pushes the boundaries with its characters. Kylo Ren and Rey, thanks in large part to Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, are such compelling characters that they even make the likes of Luke Skywalker have to take a backseat to them. And Luke himself is aided by Mark Hamill’s strongest performance to date, and his character is something unexpected in this film too.

Even two days after watching The Last Jedi, it’s still hitting me in waves. I will not deny that this may be because of bias, but, when a film is great, it’s great. It isn’t perfect, but there is so much greatness in The Last Jedi that it can be excused.

As much as this seems like I want the world to be taken over by giant corporations, 2017 belongs to Disney – also for strong Marvel films – and Star Wars. Episode IX can’t come soon enough, but, until then, let’s hope 2018 is a year to remember.

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The White Tiger: A Dark, Haunting Reflection of Life in India

I haven’t reviewed a book in quite a long time, and this will be my last book review (and indeed last review, with only my top ten films of the year article left) of the year. And there is probably no better book for me to have returned with, and then closed on, than this one.

The White Tiger is written by Aravind Adiga, and it follows a man from a poor class in Northern India, who finds a way to become a driver – and servant – for one of the super rich families of the country.

However, the book is about so much more than that. The White Tiger is about class, money, corruption, loyalty, and the ever-fading line between good and bad.

And it is, undeniably, dark. It is rather surprising, then, that it is such an easy read, because this is how Adiga crafts the narration of the book. Similar in some ways to The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The White Tiger literally speaks to you, although in this case, you actually are someone. Specifically, you are Premier Wen Jiabao, a Chinese authority figure. This itself is quite clever, as the book’s satirical views about democracy are addressed to someone who does not believe in the concept.

It is this relaxed narration, laced with euphemism, that enables you to read through the book so effortlessly, and therefore reflect on its story and underlying commentary so clearly. Despite being so terrifyingly depressing in its depiction of the political system and class system in India, The White Tiger gets by this simply because its depiction is real. It would be a betrayal to the reader if it held back any detail, and it very much doesn’t.

The raw product the reader does receive is funny, witty, cheeky and yet so eye-opening. Even the narrator, the protagonist, is not necessarily what most people would call ‘good’. Nobody is really good or bad, everyone is just a person, and the book illustrates well that everyone isn’t so different. While so many other things do this in a good light, The White Tiger does so in a bad light too. That’s what makes it stand out.

The White Tiger is a book that not many would end up loving, but everyone who reads it will end up being impacted by it. It is smart, satirical, dark and moving. It deserves to be read.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The White Tiger: MIHIR

 

The Last Jedi is among Star Wars’ Best (no spoilers)

Christmas is here, and of course, what I mean by this is that Star Wars season is here.

And as I did last year, I made my review a video review with Abhijit Vempati of The Boss Writes. This year, however, our video is scripted, edited and short.

And here it is.

Remembering Seinfeld, An Icon of Television

It’s been almost twenty years since the final episode of Seinfeld aired, and the show still stands as one of the most memorable television shows of all time.

The charm of Seinfeld is that it never takes itself too seriously. While every sitcom is, by nature, not serious, almost all of them eventually have serious consequences or deal with serious issues. In the case of Seinfeld, however, this never happens, and the result of this is a show that is nothing but funny.

With a rather rocky first two seasons, one would be surprised with how great Seinfeld would be from its third season on, especially when it even becomes a parody of itself in the fourth. Seinfeld knows what it is, and it even makes fun of it, with Jason Alexander’s George Costanza pitching to NBC a show called ‘Jerry’, which is about nothing. A friend of mine told me to stick around beyond the first couple of seasons, and that I’d see how special the show really is later on, and he certainly was not wrong.

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In its commitment to staying light, Seinfeld also has minimal character growth for all four of its main characters, and oddly, this is a compliment. George, for example, may move up the ladder career-wise (albeit very slowly) throughout all nine seasons, but he is still as pathetic as ever. Alexander gets better and better in his role as the show goes along, and I’m not just saying this. Comparing first episode George to last episode George, you can see that there’s an overall better performance from Alexander as the years go by.

Similarly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine Benes is all over the place professionally throughout the series, but as a character, she is always the same. Unlike the other characters, there isn’t a distinct characteristic to Elaine, and what this allows for is a lot of versatility in all her stories. There is no denying that Louis-Dreyfus is capable of everything Elaine asks of her.

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The titular character of the show isn’t necessarily its singular main. Jerry Seinfeld, playing Jerry Seinfeld, probably has the easiest job of the lot, because not only is he playing himself, he’s playing a comedian too. However, even so, Jerry is a delight on screen because he is the audience character. He’s sarcastic and genuinely funny. He is perhaps the most real of all the characters, but there’s still a certain flair to him that makes you love him.

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Seinfeld’s stand-out character, obviously, is Michael Richards’ Cosmo Kramer. Richards in real life is irrelevant and I will not get into that, but Kramer himself is such a delight. There is not a single moment with Kramer that isn’t memorable, and every second of Richards’ performance is spectacular. Kramer is quirky, unstable, and there’s always a certain welcome mystery to him.

Cosmo Kramer may indeed be one of the best characters TV has ever seen.

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My one critique of Seinfeld is that its main set, Jerry’s apartment, can have a little bit more life to it. I’m not implying it has to be as colourful as Monica’s purple apartment from Friends, but, it could use just a little bit more colour. There’s a prominent grey to the set, which in fairness is just a regular apartment, but for something we see so often, it could use a little bit more. But that’s just a minor critique, and that’s just me.

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Seinfeld’s laid back nature also enables it to be able to explore virtually any topic in its episodes, and it most certainly does. Seinfeld often handles controversial topics like mental health and death very lightly, and if this isn’t done just right, it could spark a lot of backlash. Thankfully, Seinfeld somehow manages to deliver just the right amounts of everything, and you end up laughing at whatever it gives you.

Seinfeld’s greatest strength, despite all I’ve said, is its memorability. There are a lot of episodes on most sitcoms that are fine but forgettable, but with Seinfeld, nearly all of them are worth remembering, from the episode where Kramer turns his apartment into the set of The Merv Griffin Show, to the episode where Elaine befriends a group of the opposites of Jerry, George and Kramer, to even the brilliant bottle episodes such as “The Chinese Restaurant” and “The Parking Garage”.

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Seinfeld is legendary, and it always will be. It truly embraces the idea of being a show about nothing, and in doing so, ends up being a show with everything anyone would want. The penultimate episode, The Clip Show, admittedly does get a tear rolling down in its blooper reel, and Seinfeld deserves that tear.

Even twenty years on, Seinfeld continues to be watched and re-watched. And it likely will be twenty years from now, too. Giddy-up!

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Why Do So Many Fans Dislike Kylo Ren?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is almost upon us, and in trying hard to find a relevant article to write leading into it, I finally settled upon this one. I could have ranked all seven prior theatrical films, but, I didn’t feel like sitting through the prequels again. So, here we are.

What I am going to do instead is make a case for Kylo Ren, the main antagonist in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and possibly in The Last Jedi too.

Played by Adam Driver, Kylo Ren – or Ben Solo – is the son of Han Solo and Leia Skywalker. As questionably as this reveal was done, this is an interesting aspect of the character. The Skywalkers simply cannot stop shaping the entire galaxy.

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Not only does this add a more personal layer to Kylo, it also becomes an intriguing plot point. How could two of the three main good guys from the original trilogy have a child that has turned bad? Furthermore, Ben was under the tutelage of the other main protagonist from the original trilogy. Without any explanation, it is rather perplexing how Ben Solo could have ended up like he did. Immediately, there’s so much to his character.

Moving on, the biggest disappointment many had with Kylo’s character is that he is nowhere near as powerful or dominating as anyone expected. He doesn’t have the authority, demeanor or… Evilness… That Darth Vader had.

But that is what makes Kylo Ren an incredible character. He isn’t one-dimensional, or without vulnerability. Yes, Darth Vader isn’t either, but think, for one second, what the world knew about Darth Vader after only the original Star Wars (which I will not call A New Hope). Don’t consider the following two films or the entire prequel trilogy. Consider all we know about Vader in the original.

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Almost nothing. Yes, he is an absolute badass. He is menacing, terrifying and a force to be reckoned with (pun may have been intended). But other than the “Now I am the master” line, we know nothing at all about Vader. Even the fact that he “killed Luke’s father” doesn’t even count, although I do like the metaphor there.

In one film, we know so much about Kylo Ren, and comparing him to one film Darth Vader, there is no denying that Kylo is the better character.

I still didn’t address the issue that many have with him, though. It’s true that if one film Darth Vader went toe-to-toe with Kylo Ren, Ben Solo would be as dead as Ben Kenobi. But isn’t this what makes Kylo unique? Imagine if there was just another Darth Vader, mask and all.

That’s the beauty of Kylo Ren. Darth Vader wore the suit and mask because he had no choice. Kylo Ren chooses to wear the mask, because he is conflicted between the light and dark side, and because he tries to make himself seem a lot stronger than he really is.

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In the third act of The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren murders his father, and then loses to Rey in a lightsaber battle.

These two things are what define the character. He is trying so desperately to stop being so conflicted between the light and the dark that he takes his own father’s life to try and find the answer he’s looking for.

But when it comes down to it, his inexperience shows. Ren is used to being the alpha, and not having someone stand up to him. When someone actually does, he doesn’t know how to handle it, and goes down to Rey. (This isn’t an article about Rey. Even though I love Rey and the idea that we have a female lead for a Star Wars saga, I’m not going to go into how she seemingly knows everything).

Even his own lightsaber is a metaphor for Kylo Ren. The instability represents how he is so torn inside, and the two hilts show that he is always trying to be the one with the advantage, and isn’t used to not being in control.

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What baffles me is that a large chunk of the fan base doesn’t like Kylo, simply because he isn’t a definitive, authoritative bad guy. Yes, he is weaker than he lets on, he is conflicted and he even throws violent fits at times, but that’s what makes Kylo Ren stand out, and it’s what makes him so good.

The character’s strength is his complexity, and even though I was expecting a hard, no-nonsense antagonist when I walked into The Force Awakens as well, I really couldn’t have asked for a better bad guy.

The Last Jedi is very close. It has been my most anticipated film of the year, and the excitement is almost too much to bear. It’s just so close…

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Begin Again: Film Analysis of the Week

Begin Again is a film about music, featuring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, is written and directed by John Carney, and is technically an independent film. Everything about that appeals to me. There’s no way Begin Again would not have been one of my favourite films ever.

Greta is a songwriter who’s hit rock bottom after her relationship with Dave (Adam Levine) goes south, and Dan is a music producer who’s been down on his luck for a couple of years. Circumstances enable them to find each other, and they decide to make an outdoor album together, celebrating New York City.

That’s it without spoilers. Here’s your spoiler warning. You have been warned.

It’s no secret that a lot of people do not like this movie, but the fact is that I don’t care.

Begin Again is that one John Carney film that isn’t universally beloved, and it’s the least independent of his films. One could argue that it loses some of that Carney flair in the process, but it really doesn’t. It’s actually rather nice that it’s still there despite it being so much bigger than his first film, Once.

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley have brilliant chemistry in the film, and that’s really essential. It was never questionable that they’d be good, but the way they play off each other and are able to connect so much on screen says something about the actors. This is a film that’s much smaller than both are used to, but that doesn’t take away from the marvel of their performances.

It’s smart that the film isn’t exactly chronologically told, because we first see both characters at their lowest points. Greta has just found out that her boyfriend cheated on her, and Dan’s professional and personal life is in ruins.

The way Dan is introduced really makes him seem like a terrible person, from his outbursts to his apparent hatred of all music to his alcoholism. But this is, again, smart, because for the rest of the film, we see him become better.

This introduction particularly aids what I think is one of the best scenes in film history. I’m not taking that back.

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Dan walks into a bar at the end of a bad day, and sees Greta singing on stage. We already see her do this at the start of the film, but this time, we see it as Dan does, with all the instruments in the background playing themselves in Dan’s head, and making the song a lot better. Everybody in the bar isn’t pleased, but Dan sees something special.

Having this come right after he’s been seen as nothing but bad really helps this aspect of his character shine. It’s the first good we see in him.

Something Begin Again does well is have a commentary on the current state of music, and all its problems. Dan sees all the music he receives as generic, his company wants nothing but revenue and is willing to produce generic music to make money. Greta questions the idea of how a musician should look, because music is about “ears and not eyes”. She also refuses to sell her album to Dan’s company because she makes one dollar for every nine the company makes.

However, what the film also does is highlight the real magic of music too. Throughout the film, it’s used as a catalyst to bring people together, to add colour to life and to express what cannot be said in words.

This overview of music is something that elevates Begin Again, because what it’s saying is true. The film isn’t just a beautiful story unfolding. It’s relevant.

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Despite all this, however, the crowning jewel of Begin Again is something I took a long, long time to notice, and it’s the fact that its entire story can be told by its music.

As someone who regularly listens to this film’s soundtrack, I do love its music, but, in the context of the film, there is actually more than meets the eye.

Chronologically, the sequence in which Greta writes all her songs actually reflect the current state of the character, and can tell the whole story of the film on their own (if you can interpret the songs as such, of course).

The first song that Greta writes in the film (not the first song in the film. The first song she chronologically writes) is titled Lost Stars, and is a song about wandering, being young, being lost and wanting to be noticed. It is, essentially, about Greta.

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What’s funny is that in the scene, even when the song is clearly about Greta, Dave, her boyfriend at the time, says ‘It’s about me, right?’. That, right there, is why Greta wrote the song in the first place.

Following Greta’s discovery that Dave cheated on her, she goes to New York to meet her best friend Steve (played by James Corden, who is nothing but a delight in this film) before flying back home to the UK. This is when the opening scene takes place, and the song Greta sings on stage, A Step You Can’t Take Back, is just dark. If you actually pay attention to the lyrics – “Here comes the train/Upon the tracks/And there goes the pain/It cuts to black” – they’re suicidal.

Ultimately, it seems like Dan saves her from drowning in the deep end, and as they begin their journey of recording their album, the songs Greta writes are a little more hopeful.

The music, lyric-less, for Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home play next, indicating that Greta wrote this song before the rest, and it’s a song about uncertainty and taking leaps of faith, which is exactly what Greta is doing by agreeing to work with Dan.

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The first song they record is Coming Up Roses, and this is an even more positive song, about change and making things better for yourself. It’s apparent that, psychologically, Greta is getting better.

Now, what appears to be an upward slope abruptly drops when Greta watches an award acceptance speech that her ex-boyfriend Dave delivers, and once again, she plummets back down, writing Like a Fool specifically for Dave. Despite its upbeat rhythm, it’s still a sad song. And it’s essential to Greta finding closure with Dave.

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Finally, the last song that’s recorded is Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home, this time with the lyrics, and just before they begin recording, Dave calls Greta and asks to meet up.

Once again, the song is about uncertainty, but this time, the focus is on the idea of leaving your past in the past, which is what Greta is trying to do with Dave.

After this, everyone is elated that they are done, except Greta, because recording the album is what made her escape her troubles with Dave. She agrees to meet Dave, and she learns that he’s stolen Lost Stars and recorded it in a ‘radio’ style. This is when she finally snaps, because she’s reminded of what she really is to Dave, and how easily he’s willing to overlook her for himself. Despite this, he still asks her to come to his show that night, and she goes.

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It’s interesting that this is the song that closes out the movie, because there is so much meaning to it. First, Dave actually sings the song how Greta intended it to be, and it’s visible on Greta’s face that this makes her happy. However, when Dave sees that he’s done his job in making her smile, he immediately reverts to his version of the song, and Greta leaves in tears.

As she rides away on her bicycle, it looks like she’s finally, really moved on, because by letting go of Lost Stars, a song from her past about her insecurities, she appears to have literally let go of her insecurities, and is looking up at a promising future. This indeed may be the case, as she immediately goes to publish her music online for only a dollar for the whole album, and proposes to Dan that they make more albums.

Begin Again is, in my opinion, despite many disagreeing with me, a beautiful film, that tells its story two ways. It’s about music, but also about so much more, and uses its music in a unique way. I’ve watched it five times, but I know there’s no cap on that number.

It isn’t, in any way, the greatest film ever. I just love it.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Film Analysis of the Week

It was inevitable that this weekly series of mine would eventually lead to a comparison between book and film, and as it would be, here we are.

There is no Harry Potter film that is as removed from the book as The Goblet of Fire. It is, quite frankly, a bit of a tragedy. I say this knowing that a lot of people see this as the best Harry Potter film, and to be honest, if one completely ignores the book, this film actually is the most popcorn-in-your-face entertaining of all eight movies, including the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

That, in essence, is The Goblet of Fire: style over substance. And that’s putting it lightly.

As I delve into this, be warned that there are spoilers for both book and film, so, even if you have watched the movie but haven’t read the book, don’t read on. Seriously, just go read the book. You’ll thank me later.

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In a 636-page Goblet of Fire, it takes 150 pages for the book to even start the year at Hogwarts. That is how much there is in in the book. The Quidditch World Cup is barely given any importance in the film, and in doing so, the film even completely omits a character, of whom movie-only Potterheads would never even have heard: Ludo Bagman. Admittedly, the story works fine without him, but the Weasley twins suffer a big blow in this film because of this. Probably the least prominent plot point of the Goblet of Fire is Fred and George Weasley trying to kick-start  a joke-selling business for themselves, and Ludo Bagman is a big part of this. Even if this is a tiny sub-plot, it’s worth noting that the very last thing that happens in the book is Harry handing over his Triwizard Tournament winnings, of 1000 galleons, to the Weasley twins to help open up their shop.

What has to be understood when removing little moments like these is that they are of great significance. In the Half-Blood Prince film, the Weasleys do have their joke shop, and it would have been nice to know that Harry was the one that enabled them to achieve their dream.

That’s just an example of the most glaring flaw of the Goblet of Fire: it fails every single one of its characters. More on that later, though.

Even for a two and a half hour movie, this film has a very rushed pace, especially for someone familiar with everything in the book. The most noticeable effect this has is on the central mystery of the story: who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire?

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In the book, there are subtle hints at (fake) Alastair ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody being the one who did it. The two most memorable clues were that his house was supposedly broken into the day before Hogwarts was to begin its term, and that when Barty Crouch is found and then goes missing immediately, in the Forbidden Forest, Moody is at the scene a little quickly. That’s it.

The film, however, apparently doesn’t even try to conceal this for a surprising reveal at the end. Not only does it completely not have the entire Barty Crouch sub-plot (which is one of the most intriguing elements of the book), it gives Barty Crouch Jr. a stupid tongue-licking habit, that Moody does a couple of times, and then Crouch Jr. does in the pensieve memory Harry sees.

And to add insult to injury, the film tries to spice up this ‘mystery’ by placing two new ‘clues’ into the story. One is Moaning Myrtle telling Harry she saw some polyjuice potion in the drains, and the second is Durmstrang Headmaster Igor Karkaroff going into the Great Hall alone – to seemingly put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire – for no reason whatsoever.

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Now, if anyone dare as the question ‘why?’, both of those seem remarkably stupid. Why would Barty Crouch Jr. throw away polyjuice potion, the very thing helping him keep his cover? And why, since it is later revealed that he did not put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire, would Karkaroff even ominously go into the Great Hall in the middle of the night?

Okay, moving on. The problem with removing the entire Barty Crouch story in the film is that it leaves a massive plot-hole. How did Barty Crouch Jr. escape from Azkaban in the first place? It’s elaborately explained in the book. The film just forgets and moves the story along anyway.

On a similar note, Frank Bryce dies at the beginning of The Goblet of Fire. That, I’m afraid, is all anyone who only watched the movie would know. Who is Frank Bryce? Why should we care about his death? Why was Voldemort in the house he was in? The book answers all these questions. The movie just wants you to care about a dead person, whose name you don’t even know.

Before I mention the bigger character disappointments, there are a couple of things worth noting. First, it is rather lazy that both Patel twins are in Gryffindor, when Padma is actually in Ravenclaw. It’s not a big detail, but, was it really needed?

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Second, this is the first time we ever see students from other Wizarding schools, and seeing as there are only eleven in the entire world, with Beauxbatons and Durmstrang being the only two, other than Hogwarts, in Europe, why, with common sense in mind, would Durmstrang be an all-boys school and Beauxbatons be an all-girls school? This isn’t even the case in the book. Apparently, if you’re a young male wizard in France, you have to go all the way to England, or far up north, to go to Wizarding school. It just makes no sense.

The biggest criticism that most people have with this film involves one scene (so much so that it’s become a meme). Just after Harry’s name emerges from the Goblet of Fire, the Triwizard Tournament judges question Harry. Dumbledore, in the book, calmly asks Harry ‘Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?’.

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For some strange reason, Dumbledore in the film holds Harry by the collar, and very not-calmly asks him the same question.

This is not Albus Dumbledore. This is such a blatant betrayal of the character that it’s baffling how anyone working on this film didn’t do anything about it.

Finally, we’ve come to the biggest problem with The Goblet of Fire: It fails Hermione and Ron so terribly that it’s completely inexcusable.

The Goblet of Fire is a huge book for both Ron and Hermione.

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Choosing not to include Dobby and Winky, Barty Crouch’s house-elf, robs Hermione of her entire campaign for House-Elf rights, which is one of the most defining things for her character. Furthermore, while Rita Skeeter is in the movie, her role is very brief. She has quite a big role in the book though, and Hermione’s ability to discover her tactics for all her undermining stories is another big moment for the character. The movie omits this too.

In the case of Ron, while it is touched upon that he feels in the shadow of Harry and that he doesn’t approve of Hermione’s relationship with Victor Krum, neither are ever really explored. Ron, in the film, is just a bad friend, which is actually not the case.

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In The Goblet of Fire, Ron feels bad because he is much poorer than Harry, and he does feel like he is always in his shadow. These are things that should have been explored in the film, because Ron is just bland compared to Harry and Hermione. In regard to his ideas about Hermione and Krum, the movie just makes it look like he doesn’t like her ‘fraternising with the enemy’, when it’s really Ron having feelings for Hermione but not expressing them properly. That’s the biggest dynamic between Ron and Hermione in the book, and it’s an important one for both characters. In this case, Ron does suffer more, because while one can really sympathise with, and understand, him in the book, the movie truly makes him seem like he’s a bad friend.

The tragedy is that The Goblet of Fire is the turning point of the entire Harry Potter series. Lord Voldemort returns, and it will always be remembered for that. The film should have been memorable, and I know that if everything I mentioned was included, it could easily have been an hour longer. But that’s okay. Every Lord of the Rings film is over three hours (The Two Towers being painfully four hours long in its entirety), and they’re all so beloved. This should have been longer, and should have included everything in it. The problem with sacrificing so much, just to make it a quicker, more entertaining film, is that all the characters lose out. It’s not like any other film in the series didn’t omit anything (it’s still unforgivable that Peeves does not exist in the movies), but every other film puts its characters first.

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The Goblet of Fire is my least favourite all of the films, but the funny thing is that it’s my second favourite book. Interestingly, my favourite book, The Half-Blood Prince, became my second least favourite movie. Perhaps there’s a correlation here.

Regardless, The Goblet of Fire is what it is. Style, over so much substance.

 

Silicon Valley: Like The Big Bang Theory, But Better In Every Way

Over time, one comes to realise that the better modern sitcoms/comedy series are those which do not have laugh tracks tacked on. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Modern Family and Master of None are just three examples of this.

Silicon Valley, like the last of those examples, is also a drama with an overarching story, which so far has taken place over four seasons. The HBO original follows Richard Hendricks as he tries desperately to get his software company, Pied Piper, off the ground, with his friends/colleagues Jared, Gilfoyle, Dinesh and Erlich.

Set in the titular location, Silicon Valley manages to excellently capture the environment of the world’s leading technology hub, and often becomes a parody of it too. It has quite a vast mix of characters, from CEOs to investors to lawyers to competitors, and it does a great job of balancing all these characters, especially in seasons three and four.

This leads into a criticism of the first two seasons, which do feature stories that are good enough, but are stubbornly one-note when it comes to its characters, except Richard. Erlich, Jared, Dinesh and Gilfoyle are one-dimensional, especially the last two, which does get a little tiring because there are often the same dynamics between the two.

Season three, however, allows for better character development, and it allows the show to live up to its title, rather than just being ‘the Richard Hendricks show’. The humour also steps up from the third season on, and it does feel like the writers seemed to understand what worked in the first two seasons and kept going down those paths. Seasons one and two feature some good humour, but oftentimes it does feel rather unoriginal. Seasons three and four have a certain flair to them, almost as if it could be used as a comparative tool for other shows. ‘It has a Silicon Valley-esque approach to humour‘.

The crowning jewel is season three, for which I cannot remember having found any flaws. While it is clear that the show completely understands what it is in the fourth season, there are certainly some questionable creative decisions towards the end, especially regarding Richard, which sort of make the character’s growth over time a little redundant.

Even as initially one-dimensional as the other characters are, there is no denying that they have their own distinct charms. Erlich is, by far, the funniest, thanks not only to the writing, but also to TJ Miller’s perfect performance. Gilfoyle, the show’s own biggest critic, and Dinesh, the show’s token loser tech guy, play off each other really well as time goes on, mostly because their relationship changes from being one dominating the other, to both trying to be dominant over one another. Jared, who is a really, really strange character if you catch all the absurd throw-away lines there are about his lifestyle and his past, is my personal favourite, being responsible, soft and having all the show’s deepest feelings attached to him.

The show has strong supporting characters too, from the snobbish CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, Gavin Belson, to Nelson ‘Big Head’ Bagetti, an idiot who stumbles upon good fortune without even knowing it, all the time. And that’s only mentioning two of them.

Finally, it is upsetting that TJ Miller is leaving the show for good, for a number of reasons, and the way his character is written off the show is rather disappointing.

Silicon Valley is funny, engaging and clever, and seems to get better with each season. It isn’t perfect, but it is definitely worth watching.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Silicon Valley: MIHIR

Analysing the Avengers: Infinity War Trailer… With a Lot of Speculation

As with any trailer for a comic book movie, there is a lot that can be taken away from the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, which is #1 Trending on YouTube with more than 30 million views already, having been unveiled just over fourteen hours before beginning to write this.

This isn’t an article about my thoughts on the trailer. That article can be found here. This is purely speculation.

Beginning with something I did not actually catch no matter how many times I watched the trailer – and having been pointed out by a Facebook page – the image above highlights a flip-up phone in Tony Stark’s hand, which is the same phone Steve Rogers mailed to him at the end of Captain America: Civil War. This is a nice touch. They may have finished that film on different sides, but all differences have to be put aside when Tony sees the threat that Thanos poises, and he calls in Captain America himself.

Something which I’ve surprisingly found nobody talking about is that when we see the same characters later on in the trailer, surrounded by wreckage, everything and everyone is frozen, except Tony Stark.

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I think it’s safe to say this is the moment Thanos, or someone from the Black Order, attains the Eye of Agamotto – and therefore the Time Gem – from Doctor Strange, and is manipulating time with it.

Finally, it appears as if Bruce Banner crash lands in the Sanctum Sanctorum after supposedly being shot back out into space by Thanos, which is a parallel to the Silver Surfer doing the same thing in the Infinity War comic storyline, when he warns Doctor Strange that Thanos is coming. I have not read the comic, but a lot of people have pointed this out, and it could ultimately be a good way to begin the movie, with Doctor Strange taking the warning seriously and calling Tony Stark to tell him about it.

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Moving on, as I mentioned in review yesterday, it appears as if Loki could either be the sinister mastermind he always has been, or has actually become a better person, as he walks through dead bodies (supposedly Asgardians) to present the Tesseract to Thanos.

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Now, even though this seems less likely, I do think Loki puts up a fight here, because he too looks worn out. It could ultimately end up being that Loki sees no way out of handing Thanos the Space Gem, and inevitably hands it over to the man he once served.

This may (speculation only) be the demise of everyone’s favourite villain/anti-hero, as Thanos could just kill him after taking what he wants. This would be a beautiful way for him to go. Not only would he have died with honour, but Thanos killing Marvel’s greatest villain would establish him as something bigger than we’ve ever seen before.

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As I also mentioned in my review, Thanos looks like he has the Power Gem before returning to Earth, so Xandar is probably completely annihilated in this film. This would make for a brilliant opening scene – which could possibly involve the Guardians of the Galaxy – but a way of making it even better is to involve someone who isn’t even featured in the trailer.

Nebula ended Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 by setting out to find her abusive father, and murder him. This shouldn’t be too hard for her, considering she knows where he would be. She could follow him to Xandar and try to defend the Infinity Stone there with all she can muster, and put up a formidable fight against Thanos, to ultimately be killed by her own father. Like Loki, this would be a fitting end to the character, and Thanos killing his own daughter to get what he wants would be powerful.

The final two things I want to talk about are rather far-fetched, but there could be something to them.

First is something I really, really want to be false, but very well could be true.

We see Peter Parker in this trailer as Thanos first arrives, and we see him in his Iron Spider suit in the same situation. Now, what’s concerning is that the only other time we see him, he is being severely beat down by Thanos himself.

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It could very much be true that Spider-Man is the world’s first line of defense considering he’s the only one around when Thanos arrives, and the Mad Titan kills him early on in the film. We don’t even see Spider-Man anywhere later on, not even in the huge battle in Wakanda. This is only aided by the fact that in the Comic Con trailer, Peter Parker is injured and frantically apologising to Tony Stark for failing, which many speculate is actually something to do with this shot.

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This could be disproved by the fact that the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is already confirmed, but with Miles Morales known to exist in the MCU, that could mean anything. Peter Parker dying so quickly after being introduced in the MCU is, truthfully, heartbreaking, and my biggest hope for this film is that this prediction is not true.

Personally, if Thanos does kill Spider-Man, that would define him as the worst of the worst, at least in my books. And as much as I want to think of Thanos that way… This isn’t how I want that to happen.

Finally is Wakanda, a nation first seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, known for its rich deposits of Vibranium, and that it hides its advanced self from the rest of the world. The fictional nation has always been an important place in Marvel, but there does need to be some sort of firm reason for the biggest ‘war’ in the trailer to be taking place there.

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Thankfully, Black Panther speculation has actually provided a possible answer for this, indicated by the fact that T’Challa visits his ancestors in the trailer for that film: The Soul Gem.

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Taken from the Black Panther trailer

Now I am aware of the THANOS theory, and the strong possibility of the Soul Gem being associated with Heimdall, but that theory could still be proven right if the gem is in a… Hyena?

Regardless, it has always been a bit strange to me that the Soul Gem will apparently make its first appearance in Infinity War itself, and whether it aligns with the THANOS theory or not, I do predict that the Soul Gem may be in Wakanda. It isn’t so surprising considering how advanced Wakanda is.

Naturally, I can only be proven correct or wrong in February, but this would be an appropriate reason for Wakanda being a major setting in Infinity War. Perhaps it could be a scenario in which Thanos has all the other stones and only needs the Soul Gem to complete his collection, but Wakandans and the Avengers will stop at nothing to defend their nation and this prized possession they have. It makes sense.

Obviously, most of what I’ve said can be entirely untrue, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are correct (except Spider-Man dying. Please no).

Interestingly, Avengers: Infinity War is releasing on Star Wars day (well played, Disney), but for any geek out there, May 4th is arguably the biggest day of 2018. This is only the beginning of all the speculation, and it is appropriate that Marvel have highlighted the fans for all their enthusiasm over the last ten years. It’s things like these that make millions around the world come together, and come May, it’ll be no different.

 

The Infinity War Trailer Couldn’t Be More Beautiful Even If It Tried

Let Wednesday, 29th November, 2017 be remembered as the day every nerd on the planet collectively lost their minds.

Three years after the announcement of its existence, the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War is finally here, which is officially the first footage we peasants who couldn’t go to San Diego Comic Con this year received (unofficially, of course, we all saw that trailer). Thankfully, this trailer is different. And it is so much better.

The genius of the Infinity War trailer is that it knows just how monumental it is. It opens with shots of various characters, saying the original line that prompted the Avengers to initially assemble in The Avengers from Nick Fury: “There was an idea…”.

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After the greatest start to any trailer ever, Marvel proceed to give us the entire Marvel logo, and even if this takes quite a bit of the trailer’s time, it doesn’t matter, because it’s set to Alan Silvenstri’s original score from The Avengers, as the entire trailer is, and that just makes the film feel like something everything has been leading up to. Which it is.

What’s interesting is that we see Vision as just Paul Bettany at first, with a yellow gem stuck in his forehead, of course. Later on, we see what could potentially be his death, which is not much of a spoiler considering it’s essential to the plot, but is no less tragic.

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The Infinity War trailer is bleak, but it’s so beautifully bleak. It reminds me of the Age of Ultron trailer, but you know this is so much more significant. Every single frame of this trailer has so much weight attached to it. The one above, for example, sees the most powerful Avenger, worthy of wielding Mjolnir, screaming helplessly in pain. You couldn’t be more bleak than that.

We get quite a lot of Spider-Man in this trailer, which is always welcome. The Iron Spider suit is obviously featured, but it isn’t like all of us didn’t know about its inclusion. It’s fitting that this is the first time he employs it, even after turning it down at the end of Homecoming. It’s little details like that that are so important to selling Thanos as a threat.

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And this trailer does a wonderful job of establishing Thanos’ power. The whole world is shaken by his arrival.

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Seeing every Avenger in nothing but peril throughout the trailer is what makes Thanos seem like more than just a threat. We don’t see a lot of Thanos in this trailer, but even the two scenes he is a foreboding presence in are jaw-dropping. Chaos is all over the place, and they’re all because of one being.

Unlike the trailer for the first two Avengers films, we never see all the Avengers together as a singular unit, and that is wise because the trailer indicates how dangerous Thanos is by showing action from all over the world. Everything looks so vastly scattered, and that itself speaks for the scale of the film.

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They are not, obviously, separated in groups for the whole film, indicated by The Hulk being in the final shot of the trailer. The shot below is actually really interesting, because in the five consecutive times I watched the trailer, I saw someone new in the shot every time. I only spotted Falcon on the last watch.

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There are a couple of other interesting developments on display. The first is that Loki appears to be battle-worn and walking through a sea of bodies before he (supposedly) presents the Space Gem in the Tesseract to Thanos, which could either mean Loki has changed to be a much better person and tried to fight off Thanos’ assault, or he is still his maniacal self and fought through an entire army to get the gem to Thanos. I’m not going to speculate further because this is a mystery I want to reserve for the film.

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The other interesting detail is that we actually do see Thanos filling the slots on the Infinity Gauntlet in the trailer, and the second one he is placing in its slot appears to be the blue Space Gem that Loki presents to him. However, what is to be noted is that the first slot is already filled by the purple Power Gem, which was left in the protection of the Nova Corps at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy. It appears as if Thanos will make a disastrous stop on his way to Earth.

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After the title card, which is, again, set to Alan Silvestri’s original masterpiece, we see a final tease at the Guardians of the Galaxy (complete with Teenage Groot!), who were previously absent from the entire trailer. We see them after Thor, eye-patch and all, apparently crash-lands on their ship.

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The Avengers: Infinity War trailer is what one would get if they tried to define ‘perfection’ with an example. No trailer has ever been this anticipated, and I doubt any in the future will be either. Ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has all led to this, and the movie – and this trailer – knows how much of a spectacle it is.

Avengers: Infinity War will be beautiful. In the hands of the Russo brothers, that was never any doubt. Having come this far, it’s still a wonder how this movie manages to have us all jumping up and down in excitement.

Avengers: Infinity War will be beautiful.

After all, its very trailer made me tear up.