Review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

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“Each perfume contains three chords: the head, the heart and the base, necessitating 12 notes in all. The head chord contains the first impression, lasting a few minutes before giving way to the heart chord, the theme of the perfume, lasting several hours. Finally, the base chord, the trail of the perfume lasting several days.”
– Giuseppe Baldini

SYNOPSIS: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille came into the world unwanted, expected to die, yet born with an unnerving sense of smell that created alienation as well as talent. Of all the smells around him, Grenouille is beckoned to the scent of a woman’s soul, and spends the rest of his life attempting to smell her essence again by becoming a perfumer, and creating the essence of an innocence lost. – via IMDB

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So, it was movie day recently, and my friend is a huge fan of this movie. I have said for years I will get to it, and then never did (we all have that list), but now it has changed, and wow, I am glad I finally checked this movie out. I was entranced from the off, with the narrator telling us this weird and bizarre story (and John Hurt was a fantastic pick for this), from the way it was shot, everything. I have got to commend the way the film was directed, as well as the way it looked. So washed out and dreary, and yet things with beautiful smells had vivid colours, which in turn made me think of the scents tied to it.

The movie has this air of doom and creepiness hanging over it, this cannot be denied, the atmosphere is dark and broody, and Ben Whishaw is a fantastic Grenouille – he really just seems too damn off. You want to pity him, you do, and on the other hand, he is so outlandishly different you cannot help but recoil. The score suited this movie wonderfully, blending in, never taking over, always complementing. The performances, too, were impressive, and I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing of the movie. The storytelling and writing was brilliant because, while we know what Grenouille is doing is beyond heinous and wrong, we also want to see what will happen if he achieves his goal. Yes, it is that sick. It’s not about his success at killing these girls, it is just to see what he is willing to do about his obsession, how far he is willing to take it. I

have always known this movie to get a lot of hate, but I don’t understand that. It isn’t a bad movie at all. But then, maybe it is just too different, too weird, that it sets people on edge? It is dark, for sure, and it tells of Grenouille’s love story with smell, and later his obsession to forever capture it, and the story has many dark avenues it explores. Maybe because people took it too seriously, expected a realistic story, when it was so obviously not that from the off. I think the best way to describe this film would be disturbing. I honestly do, after the movie is over, you feel unsettled, yet the movie is put together well, incredibly well acted, very strange and out there, and it gets under your skin.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is dark, broody, creepy, unusual, fascinating and extremely lonely, and worth a watch at least once. I will definitely be seeking the book out now!

December Blind Spot Review: Love Actually (2003)

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“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
– Prime Minister

SYNOPSIS: Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6.5Initially this was supposed to work out as my February Blind Spot (that was an age ago, right?!), but then everything was so damn Christmassy in here I knew it was not going to work out for that. Seeing as I don’t usually do holiday themed posts, I thought I would hold Love Actually over for December. Long holdover! Anyway, Love Actually is that typical soppy romance (though not nearly as bad as some can be), but in the long run it is a pretty forgettable movie. I am saying this based on when watching it, I remembered having seen scenes, though not how they play out. Some of the stories and characters could certainly have used a little more development and time (for instance, I love Martin Freeman, but his story arc seemed to be squeezed in every now and again, as well as Kris Marshall’s escapades and decision to check out the States). The performances all round were pretty good, and it was an impressive cast to pull together for this one. Had a good few giggles at Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy was a nightmare but also someone to laugh at, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster was just too damn adorable for words. I was very happy that I did not have to watch Keira Knightley for any length of time, I really don’t like her, and I really thought the whole thing going on between Juliet and Mark was just messed up. She married Mark’s best friend, they should both just leave it at that! The pacing was a bit of an issue at times, and naturally some stories were far more interesting and engaging than others, and I was not always a fan of the soundtrack. There are things that work and things that don’t work in this movie, but it is certainly not the worst movie of its kind that you could be wasting your time on and it is a very Christmas-heavy movie, but there we have it. I can at least cross it off my list and say I have seen it. People are always going on and on about this movie. Finally I am included in the conversation!

Rapid Review: Die Hard (1988)

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“‘And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.’ Benefits of a classical education.”
– Hans Gruber

SYNOPSIS: NYPD cop John McClane goes on a Christmas vacation to visit his wife Holly in Los Angeles where she works for the Nakatomi Corporation. While they are at the Nakatomi headquarters for a Christmas party, a group of bank robbers led by Hans Gruber take control of the building and hold everyone hostage, with the exception of John, while they plan to perform a lucrative heist. Unable to escape and with no immediate police response, John is forced to take matters into his own hands. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7.5Bruce Willis is endlessly entertaining as John McClane – he’s insufferable, he knows it, but he is really good at what he does, and he misses his family. So I suppose Hans Gruber deciding to screw with trying to patch things up with his wife wasn’t going to go down too well. The whole way through McClane is the man, and you have to admire and appreciate him. I had a good laugh at his silly comebacks and overall style. Alan Rickman needs to be commended for his role of Hans Gruber because that is one movie villain who is simply awesome. That’s right, awesome. I was not aware that this was his first feature length film, and I never would have guessed. He is so well constructed, intelligent and chilling and you just want to see what he will do. You know how I like my villains to be written! Plus the way that Rickman and Willis play off of each other is just wonderful – their continual banter and opposing desires were constantly at war. Gruber really was the biggest selling point for me when it came to this film. I also liked the chats between Al and McClane, got a few smiles in there. I enjoyed the way that this movie progressed – it takes time to set the scene, to start up and move on to the events that are about to unfold, and doesn’t become this crazy intense action movie immediately. It gets there, but it takes time, and that’s what makes this so good to watch, but it is also something that is going to count against the film for some. I am not one that minds a longer movie though. Maybe not Lethal Weapon great (do I hear the mobs assembling?), but cool nonetheless.

The Potter Perceptions: The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

harry potter and the philosopher's stone

Recently an idea struck me while thinking of Shitfest and my Potter (book) reviews that were going up, and I had an epiphany. I enlisted the help of the ever-trusty Eric over at the IPC. I have read Potter since I was a kid, he has never read them, but watched a few minutes of the last one (I think, I stand to be corrected). I wanted an unbiased point of view of the films threaded through the opinion of someone who was irrevocably let down by one of the worst film franchises in all of history (I may be persecuted for this). Eric has the view that I never will have, and I a view he currently doesn’t. He watched without reading, I watched after reading. I firmly believe if you read the books after watching, you might still enjoy the movies (it seems to be the case with a lot of people I have met).

But rapidly after I threw this ingenious idea out there, something else struck me… how could I do this to myself? Then I realized, never mind me, I roped Eric into this whole debacle, too, without a thought in the world for his well-being!

In any event, here are our thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s / Sorcerer’s Stone!

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HARRY POOTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE

One day I was minding my own business, eating a bowl of fruit, probably doing some morning beer farting and I looked at my email and our friend Zoë had posted something about one of those Harry Potter books. I don’t remember what I said to her that day but somehow we ended up signing a contract to watch and write about all 314 of these damned movies. To start this thing off, I want to note that I have never read one letter of any of these books and only seen a few frames of the very last movie in the series (the actual very end of the last movie) so I went into the first one with a clean slate and no real bias other than “aren’t these kid’s movies??”

So I got this thing in the mail one day and put it in one afternoon and watched the first five minutes of it and thought “WHAT THE FUCK did I get myself into???” Some dude in a wizard’s cap was waving something around and street lights were turning off and some cat turned into a lady and then some dude rides a motorcycle out of the sky holding a baby…???!!??!?!?! Well, I turned that shit off and put in something else and emailed her that I didn’t really know if this was gonna work out.

A few days later I put it back in and Harry Potter was living in a closet and his uncle or whatever really hated getting mail so they moved into a lighthouse out in the middle of the ocean and then the bicycle guy was there with a freaking cake and I was really hating this movie all the way and turned it off again. A few days later I got pissed ecause this was clogging up my Netflix queue and I was being forced to watch shit on YouTube so I put it back in and muscled through it.

I think this franchise has made 47 billion dollars and everyone in the world has written about it, so there’s nothing new I could add but I just wanted to put this out there. I didn’t hate it. The action scenes – as sparse as they were – were actually pretty good and the special effects were still looking good 12 years later. The sappy shit like the flying broomstick game and the shit with his parents really put me off but in the end, I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. I’m not saying I am looking forward to the next one but I’m not dreading it like I was when I pressed play a week ago.

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I got myself into this. Me, and me alone. Oh well. I have been putting off the viewing for weeks, because I know how much I love the Potter film franchise – which is to say, not at all. But hey, before I could even consider putting a pin in the crazy operation, Eric hopped on over and gave me his views on the film as planned. He had endured the two and a half hours, it was my turn now…

Upon watching these films a second time, I tried really hard to like them more than I know I ever have. However, I went into a nerd rage soon after it had started, which promptly led me to dragging my best friend Natasha into my bitch session, which she gladly jumped into. I thought for me the way I am going to look at these films will be a pros and cons list, it is the only way I won’t fly off the handle, so let’s start with that then, shall we? I will go with the positives, first, and then go into the not so good. This way I have to make sure that I look for something nice, too!

The good:

  • Sticking to characters and their descriptions. As much as possible, anyhow. For example, Hermione actually had sort of bushy hair here, Neville really was round faced, Ron had a shock of red hair, the Weasley twins were fantastic, Dumbledore had the long hair and beard and half-moon specs. Argus Filch was disgusting, and pretty much what I thought him to be in the books.
  •  Alan Rickman. I know it belongs with the bit above this, but I think it truly deserves a whole thing to itself: Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape. He was the true embodiment of everything I ever pictured when reading about Snape in the books. Alan Rickman nailed it, got him down to a tee.
  • Robbie Coltrane. He was pretty good, seems to have that slight Hagrid humour down, and was actually roughly the correct size in this film.
  • The Hogwarts Express. Truly, a beautiful scarlet steam train waiting to take all the magical folk out to their magical school on the ever secret Platform 9 ¾.
  • Sticking (mostly/sort of) to the original plot from the books. Most of the correct dialogue was used; most of the correct scenes were used, even if they were changed to accommodate the idea that the director had for the show.
  • Maggie Smith. She was a great Minerva McGonagall, though I really thought there were too many times where a ghost of a grin was visible. She did, however, embody the strictness that is McGonagall.
  • The score. I really think that John Williams did a pretty damn fine job of the score, it is really great for what it is supposed to represent – it was magical and hopeful and downright pretty cool!

The bad:

  • The blue eyes. Dammit, seven entire books and we are constantly told about Harry’s incredibly green eyes, and they waltz in with a blue-eyed actor. Has nobody ever heard of contacts?! Sorry, truly something that annoyed me.
  • Richard Harris really just failed to embody the zany Professor Dumbledore. Not a bad attempt, but as serious as Dumbledore is, he is also pretty nutty, to be honest.
  • Quidditch. Are there no such things as referees anymore? All the books depict the matches and the strict rules. This movie? Knock them off of their brooms, who gives a damn? Nobody is watching anyway, apparently. Plus it sucked overall.
  • Neville Longbottom was not given as much attention as he should have been.
  • The relationship between Draco Malfoy and Potter. They completely missed how vile this kid is, and how the rivalry between him and Harry is not truly adequately explained.
  • Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. No contact with Ron’s brother, Charlie, who works with dragons in Romania to assist on their plight to get Norbert out of Hogwarts, fast? Please. That was pretty important. Nobody knew about the dragon like they made out here.
  • The Sorting Hat. It seems to let the whole Hall know exactly how he is deliberating the Houses in which to place the student, and they cut the Sorting Hat’s song out altogether.
  • The Hogwarts ghosts. Oki, maybe more the Bloody Baron. Since when is he laughing, joking and all that? No.
  • (Courtesy of Nish) Talentless rugrats. I promise, they did nothing in terms of carrying the story and their acting was completely wooden… granted, they are kids, but that is also no excuse for me, there are a lot of great kids acting!

The movies tended to get progressively worse the further you go into the book series. This movie was long, and for all that time, they managed to keep it predominantly loyal to the book. The story it contained was mostly the same. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was far more accurate than most to follow, though definitely no great film. There were good things, and there were flaws, but I suppose most movies are like that. I know that bringing a book to screen is not always the easiest thing, and that there are changes that need to be made. Also, these movies came when Potter was in a serious hype mode. I know that I am a die-hard fan of the books but I am truly not so of the movies.