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Archive for May, 2012

Easy A directed by Will Gluck; released in 2010

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This film answers the question for a number of teens currently studying at an american high school, which is, don’t worry about losing your virginity. Do it when you want to. Don’t become a slut at a young age. This does not mean the film is the story of a girl who loses her virginity at a young age and becomes a slut, it is the complete opposite. It explains how the rumour mill can damage or build reputation and make a nobody a somebody in a matter of seconds. It tells the story of Olive (Emma Stone) an 18 year old girl with a best friend Rhi (Aly Michalka), who after Olive makes up a lie that she is going on a date with a college jock to get out of going camping with Rhi and her family, spreads a rumour that Olive spent all weekend having sex. The rumour spirals madly out of control, going to such lengths that ‘geeks’ approach her with money to spread rumours about herself and them ‘doing it’. This goes on for a while until Olive realises what she is doing is hurting herself and making her realise how harmful the high school rumour mill can be. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, especially the performance of Emma Stone, who after appearing in ‘Superbad’ and ‘Zombieland’, has gone on to establish herself as one of the best upcoming comedy drama actors in America. The way in which she can turn from comedy to drama in an instant enables her to connect with the audience as though she was your friend. The film explores themes of homophobia, love, sadness, family relationships and growing up, it could be seen as great tool for teenagers and show them how whatever comes your way when dealing with a school bully or troubles with your love life, in the end, everything is going to be okay. Another great aspect of the film is the amount of great cameos, all performed brilliantly; Amanda Bynes plays Olive’s high school enemy and does well to come off as a complete bitch and sweet high school girl at the same time, Stanley Tucci and  Patricia Clarkson are hilarious as Olive’s chilled out stonerish parents, Thoman Haden Church is supportive and grown up as her teacher Jack and Lisa Kudrow is evil as Jack’s wife, a high school councillor. They all come together to present, what is, a great film, that defines the high school playground rules; not only does it do this but is a gateway for Emma Stone to achieve success in mainstream and indie cinema roles. I highly enjoyed this film and recommend it to the teen audience and lover of indie cinema.

8/10

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Categories: Comedy Films

The Proposal directed by Anne Fletcher; released in 2009

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From the director of ’27 Dresses’ comes another cheesy romantic comedy that I thought would make me cringe and turn off within the first 15 minutes. Surprisingly I enjoyed ‘The Proposal’, with thanks to the chemistry between the two lead stars Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. They really make their fake-relationship, which comes full circle in an ending that will make you smile, convincing enough to make the re-hash of rom com clichés not seem as annoying as they usually are. I enjoyed the way in which their arguments seemed as though they actually bared a grudge off screen and brought it on to the screen, much to the delight of the audience and other actors, as apart from maybe Gammy’s (Betty White) performance had any other significance. The film is based on the usual big budget romantic comedy premise i.e. the actors involved have a much better film out at the same time or maybe within the last two years and do the film to keep up appearances and receive a big pay cheque. This does apply to ‘The Proposal’ but surprisingly there is an inkling when watching the film that all the cast enjoyed making this film, the comedy seemed to work, the serious emotional scenes were not only bearable but heart-warming and nearly even brought a tiny tear to my eye. As I said before, the rest of the cast are so insignificant that it may aswell have just been the two lead stars and numerous unknown actors popping up and saying a line every so often. The comedy scenes are good, for example when Sandra Bullock is on the phone to someone from head office and an eagle snatches it and when the two leads are completely naked and have an awkward hug, which in time has bearing on the overall outcome. I would recommend this to film to fans of 27 Dresses, the romantic comedy genre as a whole and fans of the two lead actors.

6/10

Categories: Comedy Films

Control directed by Anton Corbijn; released in 2007

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Before I watch this film I always remember the great music that Joy Division created, just so I can go into the film thinking of something happy. I do this to help with the depressed feel that the director, Anton Corbijn, applies to the cruel and short life of Ian Curtis (Sam Riley). The film, shot in black and white, is a well crafted biopic that shows the love Ian had for two different women (Samantha Morton and Alexandra Maria Lara), the trouble he had performing and writing beautiful music and finally the difficult relationships that occured with his friends (band members, manager and record label). The film is shot so well that each scene can make you laugh and cry at the same time and from watching the ‘Making Of’ documentary on the DVD of the film, the director and screenwriter each put their heart and soul into making it so. A lot of research went into making this film as accurate as possible; Sam Riley spoke of how Ian’s actual house was used and how emotional it was being in the same kitchen where he hung himself, this again is echoed in the incredibly dark feel to scenes where Ian is by himself drinking, smoking and dealing with epilepsy. The film, even though at some points, is incredibly hard to watch tells a great story and is a very good film, to people who haven’t heard of Joy Division or Ian Curtis will still find it tough to watch and enjoy how the music is used to echo a scenes feelings and emotions. The only way to describe this film would to mix the music and joy of ‘Almost Famous’ (Cameron Crowe, 2000) and the distinct emotional life of ‘Malcolm X’ (Spike Lee, 1992). Looking back on the  music that was created by the post-punk bands of the 70’s and 80’s, this film is great homage to the feel and look of the time, you really believe the scenes could have actually happened, as some may bend the truth to help the films overall feel and also to increase the sadness needed to propel it towards its known shocking climax. Anton Corbijn does amazingly to not make the final scene of the film, Ian’s suicide, not seem corny or too gory, it is done in a way that would put a smile to the face of Ian himself, an isolated event that shouldn’t be seen by everyone, just by the one he really loved, his wife Deborah, who would agree, she should be the last one to see him before he took the choice to end it all. If you choose to watch this film, remember how much of an icon Ian Curtis was and then sit through it see to see how much of a nice person he was and not just a troubled soul, as he brought not only incredible lyrics to the great music made by Joy Division but also a smile to all people who knew him so well. I recommend this film to fans of Joy Division, 80’s styles and also film biopics.

8/10

Categories: Drama Films

Due Date directed by Todd Phillips; released in 2010

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From looking at reviews of this film, which were predominantly negative, I really felt as though I should give it a watch and hopefully prove all the doubters wrong, sadly, this wasn’t the case. Due Date fails to deliver throughout, I found myself sitting watching it laughing out of pity. It really did have all the makings of a buddy extreme funny movie, much like Todd Phillips’ other films ‘Old School’ and ‘The Hangover’. The stars Robert Downey Jr. and funny new guy on the block Zack Galifianakis really didn’t seem to connect during jokes that lacked the enthusiasm of previous comedies they have appeared in, such as The Hangover and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Every time a scene was built up to a punch line the delivery and timing would be dry and therefore not allow a joke to have any sort of humour. At times the film did have the occasional funny moments, for example the incident with weed in Mexico and when Ethan (Galifianakis) shoots Peter (Downey Jr.) but sadly these were two moments that couldn’t bring the film to the level of humour you come to expect from director Todd Phillips. Some of the best scenes in the film are the action sequences, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in any of the Die Hard movies; however within this sort of movie each action sequence should be followed by a look that leaves the audience in fits of laughter whereas this film at some of its worst points may have seen me leave the cinema. The chemistry between the two leads really doesn’t have the same chemistry as buddy road trip movies of the past, such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which this film, for some strange reason has been compared to. Steve Martin and John Candy have you in fits of laughter and at times tears of joy and sadness, which make that film a classic, this film however, severely misses the mark. One saving grace of this film is the drama, as I feel, if you look at it as a buddy drama movie, with moments of sadness – the death of Ethan’s father and Peter’s discovery that Darryl (Jamie Foxx) may have slept with his wife, then it could be a decent film but due the fact this has been billed as a road ‘Comedy’ movie this thought has to be dismissed. In a year where Downey Jr. starred superbly in ‘Iron Man’ and Galifianakis made you laugh as hard as he does in ‘Between two Ferns’ in ‘Youth in Revolt’, this film should be dismissed as a quick pay cheque for each actor and one that they should leave off their resume. I happily, do not recommend this film to anyone, especially fans of Todd Phillips.

3/10

Categories: Comedy Films

Garden State directed by Zach Braff; released in 2004

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This film really shows the talent’s of the writer, director, actor, soundtrack compiler and all around guy Zach Braff. Written with a real sense of truth, this film tells the story of Andrew Largeman (Braff) who has to return home, to where he hasn’t been since the age of 16, to attend his mum’s funeral. A trip home for Andrew is tough due to his Dad blaming him for putting her in a wheelchair for a lot of her adult life. This is helped even less by the darkness and dreary weather which welcomes his return. The shining light of his return is young epileptic quirky girl Sam (Natalie Portman) who acts as a rock for Andrew at this hard time in his life. She enables him to smile for once and live his life, also helped by the fact he is not on any form of medication while he in New Jersey – he has been on a mixture of drugs since the age of 11, prescribed by his broken dad (Ian Holm). The main focus of this film is the relationships between Andrew and Sam and Andrew and his dad. They both completely juxtapose each other in a way that is so sad to watch. Scenes involving Braff and Portman have a brutal honesty and a mix of the unsure and true love. From their first meeting they have a great on screen chemistry and from no fault of his own as a director, Braff may have fallen in love with Portman during filming as the connection they have during the film is untold. The film is all about trying to rediscover lost lives where there has been an ambition to do something great that was never achieved, Andrew’s obvious love for his Dad which he can’t put in to words and actually say to him, Sam’s trouble with epilepsy and constant lying which holds her back to do something great; maybe within music and Andrew’s Dad’s obvious real feelings towards Andrew and how his mum’s paralysation really wasn’t his fault. These are all acted superbly during the 97 minute duration and are helped by the acting skills, obvious great direction from Braff; this film was heralded at many film festival and has now gone on to be a Miramax Cult Classic, up there with such films as ‘Dogma’ and ‘Adventureland’. Peter Sarsgaard plays Mark, an old school friend of Andrew, who is the obvious character who never had any ambition and is happy to dig graves, live with his mum and party hard each weekend. He is used well by Braff to show why Andrew had to get out of New Jersey but also to show he never forgot his roots and did have people who appreciated him. This highlights another real important character in the film, New Jersey. Its great look on screen really shows the feelings Andrew has, it is dark and dreary and lacks ambition, it could have been a great place to live and attract tourists but never realised this. I highly recommend this film to all fans of Zach Braff, Cult films and people stuck in a life of lost ambition; you aren’t the only one. The soundtrack was also greatly awarded, it also helps the film get across the true reality of the film and push artists such as ‘The Shins’, ‘Coldplay’ and ‘Remy Zero’ more and more into the public eye and great success.

8/10

Categories: Drama Films

Dogma directed by Kevin Smith; released in 1999

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This film is another cult classic from the writer and director of ‘Jay and Silent Bob’, ‘Mallrats’, ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’ and ‘Clerks’. Kevin Smith brings his usual mix of foul sexual humour and witty sarcasm in Dogma, a film that shows how taking the piss out of religion isn’t necessarily going to be offensive. The film tells the story of two renegade angels; Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck) who are on a quest to return to heaven to spite the almighty. The two frequent Kevin Smith collaborators do very well to highlight the way in which religion is seen as very real by a large majority of society and how it is seen as farcical by others. Loki is intent on destroying Mooby’s, a toy corporation who he believes have idolised ‘Mooby’, their main product and turned it into a god-like creature and see it as more important than God. This theme runs throughout the film; Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) works at an abortion clinic, an obvious target for religion fundamentalists. She is a direct descendent of Jesus Christ and is being sent to stop the renegade angels on completing their task. It is hard to say whether or not this film is anti religious or subconsciously religious as it has many opposing characters; a black apostle (Chris Rock) who continually tries to persuade Bethany that God is black and maybe a woman, Serendipity (Selma Hayek) who is trying to convince Bethany that God is definitely a woman and Azrael (Jason Lee) who is intent on destroying all of existence. I believe the film is showing how everybody is allowed to have their own belief about religion and about the film’s true meaning. It is though highly enjoyable and a great surprise is the acting skills of Chris Rock. He has had some very poor films throughout his career, such as ‘Head of State’ and ‘Bad Company’ but thankfully he is able to bring his stand-up comedian persona to the big screen and I’m sure other cast members were finding it hard to complete scenes without stopping to laugh at his timing and delivery. Still at relatively early points in their careers Damon and Affleck really do steal the show; you watch and if you have seen any of their post-Dogma films or directorial works find it hard not to see why they have gone on to achieve great success. Matt Damon has proven his worth in such films as ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ and ‘The Bourne Identity’, each performance very similar to the talents he shows in this film, great timing for comedic scenes and brutally honest in a scene containing action or violence. Ben Affleck’s real calling has been as a director but you still understand why other director’s cast him, he has a great on screen presence and steals scenes where he has a monologue or is being critical of another character. Alan Rickman’s performance as the voice of God is surely a reason why he was chosen as Severus Snape, he can be funny and evil during each scene he is involved in. There are also great cameos from long time collaborators of Kevin Smith and the late comedian George Carlin; Kevin Smith must of wrote his role with him in mind and could be seen as a bit of a fan boy; this however does not overshadow Carlin’s great dark performance as a belligerent old vicar. I highly recommend this film for all agnostic or atheist people and fans of Kevin Smith.

8/10

Categories: Comedy Films

American History X directed by Tony Kaye; released in 1998

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One of the most heart wrenching destructive pieces of cinema I believe that has ever been conceived. Starring Edward Norton, in one of his best performances, in what was only his 5th film is the powerful story of Danny, who after the death of his father when he was a teen, turns into a headstrong white supremacist with what he believes, nothing else to live for. Norton’s performance is outstanding, he makes you cry as a youngster, having to deal with the death of his father and then makes you smile with joy when realising how much his past has affected his family and the people surrounding him. Edward Furlong plays his younger brother, Derek, who from a young age idolizes Danny and does his utmost to copy his traits and mannerisms to impress not only Danny but himself and the entire neighbourhood, with dire consequences. Their relationship as two troubled brothers is compelling viewing, not only do you hate them for the atrocities they have taken part in but feel deeply sorry for the deluded mind of their father during their younger years. As you watch the film, you find it hard to understand the life they have chosen to live and how it has severely damaged their health, family life and future. The use of black and white flashback to show the history of the white supremacist gang and Danny’s time in prison is brutally honest and at some points very difficult to watch but you wouldn’t expect any less with the story and themes that Tony Kaye has chosen to include. The historical accuracy within the film also make it so easy but yet so horrible to watch, the presentation of the KKK, Nazism, racial hatred in America in the nineties and many more examples are understandably sickening. The film moves effectively slowly towards it’s shocking climax but you will be gripped the entire way; this is the sort of film which you can’t just watch five minutes of, once you have decided to watch it, you are in it for the long term. The film itself is described as ‘Violence as a way of life’ and this sums it up perfectly; I would recommend this film to anyone with an interest in the historical background of American racial hatred and fans of Edward Norton, as this is up there with the best leading role performances of the past 20 years.

9/10