Aloha A Heartfelt Triumph: Don’t Believe The Hype

Ignore those bad reviews: Aloha is well-worth both the cinema experience and your hard-earned money. So much so, it’s beyond me how anyone could despise this sweet, heartfelt, engaging and thoroughly entertaining film.

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What’s more, the romantic drama has a kick-arse soundtrack, a top cast, a stunning backdrop in the form of Hawaii; and well-rounded, likeable and charismatic characters you can’t help but fall in love with – indeed, all the signature hallmarks of another great Cameron Crowe flick. The Academy Award-winning writer, director and co-producer on Aloha has also given us other great films to remember, such as the iconic Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous.

In Aloha, celebrated military contractor (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the US Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a long-ago love (Rachel McAdams) while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to him. Aloha also stars Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, and Alec Baldwin.

What is NOT to love about this amazing cast?! Bill Murray’s hilarious, suave performance is reason enough to pay the admission fee for Aloha – what genius casting right there. Having said that, I also really loved stand-out actors such as Stone, Baldwin, Krasinski and the very easy-on-the-eyes Bradley Cooper, who actually surprised me with his versatility and likeability in this film.

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The movie is essentially a ménage a trois of sorts: a love triangle, if you will. But it’s also about second chances at life; the true meaning of family and friendships; and why staying true to yourself and your convictions always pays off.

I took my best friend of 20 years with me along to see this film at a premiere and both of us loved it from start-to-finish. I was on some serious antibiotics at the time, but I enjoyed a great, heartfelt banshee cry midway through the film, as did my friend – it’s touching and achingly sad in parts, while hilarious and thought-provoking in others.

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The movie has a very endearing bittersweet quality; I didn’t want it to end. And there’s one utterly hilarious and magical scene involving the male leads – which I won’t spoil here – which speaks volumes about both the actors’ talents and Crowe’s genius at conveying much in a small amount of time. Some brilliant actors can emote so much with their eyes; it’s nothing less than a God-given talent.

I must also express my love and appreciation for a film which gives strong, powerful, funny and complex female characters so much screen time – thank you, Cameron Crowe. Rachael McAdams also shines here, as one side of the love triangle.

new movie releases, movie review, Bradley Cooper

My only mild criticism of the film is, call me strange, I found the fact that Bradley Cooper’s character’s name is Brian Gilcrest somewhat off-putting. I kept envisioning plastic-fantastic American radio personality, television host, and producer Ryan Seacrest in my head – it’s just too similar-sounding – and it made me lose my concentration a few times, taking me away from Brad’s manly loveliness.

You could happily take either your man or your bestie along to see this film with you; don’t believe the hype – it’s truly great. Haters gonna hate; there’s a lot to love here. Aloha hits cinemas this week; do yourself a favour and go see it!

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Big On Effects, Short On Girlpower

If the world was ending tomorrow, we’d have to rely on a bunch of super-handsome and super-geeky superheroes – predominantly male – to save us; at least, according to the world of Disney’s and Marvel Studios’ red-hot, new movie release Avengers: Age of Ultron, that is.

RELATED: Date Night Movie: Furious 7 Is A Hell Of A Ride

This new blockbuster is both super entertaining and super long, but I also found it to be super lacking in women in powerful roles, it must be said (I’ll refrain from using any more “supers” now, I promise). My husband and I were fortunate enough to attend a media preview screening last week; our respective reviews are below for your reading pleasure.

SHESAID review:

The US superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers, stars a powerhouse of top male actors who make for both strong performances and pleasing eye candy: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson and more.

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But it was the film’s performances by the female avengers – Scarlett Johansson and Elizabeth Olsen (pictured below) – which I found most interesting, intriguing, pleasurable and fun. Here, Scarjo rocks a black leather catsuit like no one’s business and I relished seeing a female actor in such a strong, central role. Also, is she actually pregnant in this movie? Maths isn’t my strong point, but it would seem so.

And the same goes for the equally freakishly beautiful, fabulous and kick-arse Elizabeth Olsen, who’s actually a very strong, central character at the heart of the film and far more deadly and sinister than most of her male counterparts, too. Thank God for these two characters, otherwise the film would get lost in an endless sea of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ male fisticuffs, yawn.

So, where the hell are the other strong female characters? Are we really to believe only men can perform superhero duties? Puh-lease – we women are hard-wired for birth, after all. But I know there’s a script to stick to, sure – it’s the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers and the 11th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, new movie releases

And while the film’s many, many fight scenes are spectacular, I started to grow weary of them in the second half of the movie; writer/director Joss Whedon’s film is epic – no doubt about it – but it’s also bloody long and bloated. If you shaved half an hour or so off that film, plus packed additional interesting lead female roles, it’d be a damn right better film, in my opinion.

And my favourite male avenger by far? The super-manly and charismatic Jeremy Renner, who plays a tough guy with all the best one-liners, yet a committed family man to boot. Now, that’s hot. Incidentally, in real life the US actor is a doting dad of two daughters with another on the way.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is breaking box-office records with colossal earnings around the globe; go see it if you like your action adventures big, bold, long and male-dominated.

I give it a solid two out of five robots.

The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, new movie releases

HESAID review:

Short on story, big on effects, this 3D tale of good vs bad is a feast for the senses. The opening sequence alone is worth the admission price.

Massive fight scenes – which borrow a little from the X-men – are broken up with bite-size chunks of comedy and romance. Blink and you’ll miss the story line, but who cares! I’m having so much fun watching these superheroes interact and beat the hell out of the baddies that a complex plot might just get in the way.

I give it three out of five robots!

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is in all good cinemas now.

Date Night Movie: Furious 7 Is A Hell Of A Ride

Are you looking for a Friday night date-night movie this week which you and your partner can both enjoy? You could do a lot worse than Furious 7, aka Furious Seven and Fast & Furious 7.

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My husband and I paid a babysitter to mind our two banshees, sorry toddlers, while we happily trotted off to the movies for a date night earlier this week. It was “his” turn to choose a movie and so Furious 7 it was. Our respective reviews are below.

SHESAID review

Judging by its box-office records, US action movie Furious 7 is delighting hardened action movie nuts the world over – and causing them to shed some serious manly (and womanly tears) in the process – since its early April release.

For the James Wan-directed film gives lovers of the franchise exactly what they have come to love and expect: high-octane drama, death-defying stunts, tits and arse aplenty and then there’s the cars – seriously swoon-worthy and very, very fast, luxury American, French, Japanese and Italian sports cars. I don’t even love cars, but even I wanted to ditch my sedate family car for something super shiny and fast, post-film.

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In addition, the film’s release is poignant and bittersweet as it marks the untimely demise of Fast & Furious star Paul Walker (pictured), who appears in it in one of his final roles after a 2013 car crash claimed his life at age 40. Indeed, Walker’s role was only finished via the wonders of digital technology and a series of stand-ins. And so the film acts as a kind of memorial to Walker, with the tribute to the late actor at the film’s end very touching.

I quite like action films at times, truth be told, but this was my first look at one of the Fast & Furious films. It was exactly as I expected: big and dumb, but highly enjoyable.

It’s the type of big action movie adventure during which you can happily turn your brain off on a Friday night and just enjoy the ride. At 137 minutes-long, I did find my mind wondering and erm, myself dozing off a few times during the somewhat repetitive action scenes towards the end.

Starring the one-dimensional man mountain Vin Diesel, who seemingly only has a grand total of two facial expressions in his acting repertoire and the slowest, weirdest turn of the head, which would easily score him a starring role in Neighbours, Furious 7 is essentially a revenge action film.

movie review, Furious 7, Paul Walker

To sum up, without giving too much away: homicidal London killer Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is plotting world domination and vengeance after Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew put his maniacal international terrorist brother into a coma.

Aside from a weird cameo by Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea; the film also stars action greats Kurt Russell (pictured below), and Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, and the best, bad-arse gal in town, Michelle Rodriguez (pictured).

movie review, Furious 7, Paul Walker

For me, Rodriguez is one of the best things about this film – aside from the crazy, sweaty-palms inducing stunts and very fine automobiles. She’s smart and sassy and kicks some serious arse like nobody’s business, all the while looking gorgeous, feminine and strong – this is no easy feat – and I can’t remember the last time I saw a female action character of her calibre on film.

All in all, I enjoyed Furious 7. I give it a solid three muscle cars out of five.

HESAID review

I really enjoyed the movie. There’s non-stop action and not a great deal of storyline to confuse anybody; it’s a great piece of escapism.

Exotic locations, extreme car chases and lots of fist fights are the order of the day. However, I couldn’t help but to compare it to the other films in the franchise in an effort to determine where it fits in.

movie review, Furious 7, Paul Walker

There’s very little character development and let’s face it, we’ve had five other films (not including the semi-spin off Tokyo Drift) to explore these one-dimensional heroes. However, unlike Tokyo Drift and others in the franchise, the emphasis in this film seemed to be less on the cars and more about action-fight sequences.

I almost felt as though I was watching a James Bond movie with far-away locations, pretty girls and action sequences, tied together with an almost non-existent plot. And that’s not a bad thing. Overall, four out of five muscle cars.

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Disney Magic Casts An Enchanting Spell With Cinderella

Do you believe in love at first sight? And are you an incurable romantic?

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If you answered yes to either of these questions you’ll adore Disney’s Cinderella, a live-action new film inspired by the classic animated fairytale, which opens in cinemas Thursday, March 26. I was fortunate enough to see the film at a media preview and I loved it.

I found it an utterly charming and enjoyable movie experience, not the least of which because of its sumptuous costuming and visually spectacular cinematography. There’s not much not to love about costume designer Sandy Powell’s amazing work here and Cinderella’s puff-ball, butterfly-motif dream dress and accompanying magical glass slippers are awe-inspiring – the stuff of a billion little girls’ (and big girls’) fantasies.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

In addition, actor Lily James, who’s of period drama Downton Abbey fame, is the perfect modern embodiment of Cinderella; a new style muse to love who’s thrilled at every red carpet Cinderella premiere since it first opened in the US, smashing the box office with a $70 million opening weekend last week.

However, I must confess I wasn’t expecting to enjoy actor and director Kenneth Branagh’s re-imagining of Disney’s 1950 masterpiece quite so much – I’m no fan of the “princess myth” and abhor it when women describe themselves thus.

For, life ain’t no fairytale, as we all know, and all good love affairs require endless love, patience, forgiveness and understanding. In addition, let’s raise our daughters to be smart and skilful warriors in the driver’s seat of their lives, not merely pathetic, passive princesses expecting to be swept off their feet.

But if you can quieten your inner-cynic, lady, while watching the film, as I did – it’s a fairytale after all – you may well love it too. What’s more, actor Lily James’s spirited Cinderella possesses a quiet strength, and admirable feistiness, kindness and tenacity, which makes her a highly watchable heroine.

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She’s all blonde bombshell – she ain’t no fragile, hapless princess in a tower – it’s surprisingly moving and sad to watch this Cinderella summon all her courage to pick up the pieces after her beloved mother and father both die.

This soulful, loving and brave Cinderella must find joy in great darkness – such as when her wickedly cruel stepmother, played with great panache by “Queen” Cate Blanchett (pictured), and wile, evil and vacuous step-sisters treat her like little more than a servant – as the classic tale goes. Yet, despite the brutality and spitefulness inflicted upon her, Cinderella is determined to honour her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind,” which brings us to the movie’s central theme.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

And as the mother of two toddler daughters, I see the power and appeal in these words and think it’s a highly commendable message for all – it’s still poignant and important today and so the ancient fairytale never loses its lustre. I’m certainly striving to teach my girls this and set them a good example by behaving the same. And, speaking of kindness, it was heartening to see all the cute daddy and daughters enjoying themselves at the movie preview.

But back to the film – the best actor in it is by far, in my opinion, the incomparable, Bafta-winning Helena Bonham Carter (pictured) who lends her own special brand of magic and kookiness to the role of Fairy Godmother. Bonham Carter’s performance is worth the admission price alone – she even managed to outshine our queen Cate.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review
And, interestingly, the scene in which her Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella’s torn dress into her stunning ball gown is said to have been the late Walt Disney’s favourite sequence of animation. In addition, Cinderella is also believed to have been his favourite Disney film of all time. Yay, Walt – I’m inclined to agree with you on both points.

This scene was, by far, my favourite of the film too; you can’t help but be swept away by the romance of it all, thanks to the fabulous and clever special effects. Actor Richard Madden, of Game of Thrones infamy, does his best to play a dashing Prince Kit, who’s immediately impressed by the spirited and smart Cinderella.

Incidentally, when he and Cinderella meet in the woods, she’s doing a fine job of riding a horse bareback (pictured above) – now, as an avid horse rider, I know this is no easy feat. Again, Lily James’ Cinderella is a strong, young woman to admire, not pity, despite her bleak situation. Of course, true love, kindness and courage triumphs over evil and cruelty, as the story goes, and Disney’s most iconic princess learns the ultimate power and reward of staying true to yourself.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

Ah, who can resist a little sprinkling of Disney magic? Enjoy.

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