Tag Archives: Charming

FILM REVIEW: The BFG

Roald Dahl’s childrens’ (and adults’ for that matter) favourite, The BFG, has made it to the big screen, and Disney have certainly pulled out the big guns. Not only do we have the magic of Roald Dahl’s imagination to work with, but Steven Spielberg is in the director’s chair, with his trusty sidekick and master of the soundtrack, John Williams, on board once again to provide that crucial sonic sparkle.

It’s not the first time that The BFG has been turned into a film. Brian Cosgrove’s 1989 TV movie / animation, complete with David Jason’s voiceover, paved the way, but 2016’s big budget extravaganza is an altogether different beast.

A big fan of Roald Dahl’s darkly devious stories, myself, and being from that generation when Anglia Television – they of the rotating knight on a horse – adapted many of Dahl’s short stories for television in the unforgettable series, Tales of the unexpected, my own experience of Dahl’s childrens’ stories, whilst relatively comprehensive, somehow didn’t include The BFG.

Nevertheless, as with any film, a prior lack of knowledge of the storyline can so often be beneficial, dispensing with the need to constantly compare and contrast with the inevitably much better book.

Not having read it, I went in fresh for Spielberg’s vision of the Roald Dahl classic.

For those of you in a similar boat, The BFG tells the tale of a little orphaned girl, Sophie (the excellent Ruby Barnhill). Strong of mind and with a wise old head on rather young shoulders, she’s a proper vivacious little madam, living at an orphanage in her own little world of make believe.

One night, on hearing a commotion outside her window, she gingerly peeks out and spots a giant ‘going about his business’ in the shadows of the street; the only problem being that he spots her too. Taking no chances, he whisks her away with him, for fear that she might speak about what she’s seen.

Deaf to her protestations and promises of silence, he carries Sophie off, and trekking through wild and rugged terrain, they finally find themselves in the giant’s rather rustic cave-like dwelling where The BFG insists Sophie must remain for the rest of her days.

For a feisty little thing like Sophie, this is no proposition whatsoever, and so she sets about plotting her escape.

It’s only once she realises who The BFG really is, that he is in fact nothing like the ogre she had imagined him to be, and that he is actually the victim of systematic bullying by a group of other much taller and stronger giants that inhabit the same valley, that Sophie decides to remain with The BFG and give him the help that he clearly needs.

Spielberg has opted to use motion capture animation to bring The BFG to life. It’s an inspired move and Mark Rylance’s softly spoken, cuddly portrayal of the big fella with the West Country accent is nothing short of the perfect fit for the part.

A special mention too for young Ruby Barnhill, that rarest of rarities, a British child actress that is not only wholly believable in her role, but absolutely excels within it. A big future awaits there, no doubt.

Whether The BFG is a faithful rendition of Dahl’s book or not, there is no denying that it certainly works very well as a film in its own right.

It’s a film that, much like so many of Dahl’s marvellous, imaginative and magical books, champions the child, giving them the power and belief that they really can be Kings and Queens of the world, whilst cleverly teaching them the value of love, respect, tolerance and friendship at the same time.

Awash with genuinely funny jokes to bring out the giggling child in you, and just the right level of sentimentality so as not to overdo things, you’ll come away from The BFG with the very warmest of warm glows. If you don’t, let’s face it, you probably have a twitch-tickling problem understanding words, babblements and such.

Don’t worry – it happens.

Far and away the best children’s film I’ve seen in quite some time.

Hats off to one and all for The BFG. A hugely charming piece.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Me and Earl and the dying girl

If there’s one thing that the passing of time has taught me, and this is very much flying in the face of popular opinion and accepted wisdom, it’s to never trust my first impression of anything…
The opening scenes from Me and Earl and the dying girl (MEDG) briefly reminded me of the opening exchanges from another ‘kooky’ indie offering, Juno, and much like my early reaction to Juno, I feared my toes may never fully uncurl again.
I don’t do ‘kooky’ well.
Smart-ass kids with their overly world-savvy, sharp and deeply unrealistic dialogue. It just doesn’t sit well.
MEDG falls into this category, at least initially. Split into sections, each pre-empted with an on-screen ‘the part where {such and such happens}…’ text moniker, I’m suddenly watching Friends again and although Friends was admittedly well written and witty, there were aspects of its overall aura that, in the words of Friends’ own Joey Tribbiani, “made me want to rip my own arm off and hit myself with it.”
But, in the spirit of humble pie and with arms thrown aloft, conceding defeat, this is the part where I give in to the kookiness and reveal that MEDG is actually a slick, emotional and above all very poignant piece of film making; a film that has stayed with me long since the final credits rolled.
Greg (Thomas Mann) is our lead; all gangly awkwardness and self deprecation, coasting through life, shying away from interaction, genuine friendship and going to great lengths  to ensure that he remains on the path of least resistance in whatever he does. A sort of survival for the relatively anonymous.
On hearing that one of the pupils at Greg’s school, Rachel, has been diagnosed with cancer, Greg’s mother and  ‘man of the world’ father (Nick Offerman) agree that Greg, despite his reluctance to do so, should spend some time with her.
Rachel (a perfect casting for Olivia Locke), if nothing else, is surprisingly receptive of Greg’s own particular brand of clumsy, nerdish humour, perhaps offering a welcome distraction to her own problems, and despite a most inauspicious of starts, a hesitant yet tender friendship somehow begins to blossom.
Earl (RJ Cyler) is, in Greg’s own words, not his friend but his his ‘co-worker’; a straight talking kind of fella whose no nonsense approach to things often shakes Greg from his insular existence, forcing him to face up to life and his own responsibilities within it. They’re an unlikely, seemingly mismatched pairing, but through their appreciation of cult and classic movies, and more importantly their own kooky (there’s that word again) B-movie re-imagining of them, each seems to get what they need from the other in their partnership.
Together they share their creative exploits with Rachel and importantly, she seems to ‘get’ the pair of them.
In light of Rachel’s worsening health, it’s perhaps left to Greg’s tutor, Mr McCarthy, (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead fame), to impart the film’s core message, pointing out to Greg that sometimes it’s often only after someone’s gone that we truly learn about them, who they were and crucially, how they’ve shaped and will continue to shape our own lives, helping us to overcome our inadequacies and to become the person that we have the potential to be.
Although Greg is quick to dismiss this as some kind of unnecessary life lesson, these are words that might prove to be strangely prophetic.
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon judges the mood of MEDG superbly. It’s sweet, not saccharine, sad, yet not overly melancholic and amusing yet never really resorting to cheap laughs.
Enhanced by an excellent, Brian Eno-infused and predictably indie soundtrack, you could say that MEDG strikes just the right balance, exuding both warmth and charm and I suspect a longevity that perhaps wouldn’t be expected from a film within the ‘teen’ genre.
A kooky, indie gem.