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Archive for June, 2012

Wanderlust directed by David Wain; released in 2012

I’ve never really been a fan of hippie culture and people who have a lack of care for the world, as what is it they bring to society? ‘Wanderlust’ cleverly mocks those types of communes and the ridiculous nature of the people who choose to live there. If you were thrown into a situation where, as a couple, one of you have just been made redundant and the other still hasn’t decided what they want to do with their life and you had to go and live with your self-loving brother then maybe ‘Elysium’ would be the perfect place for you. From the outset, things would seem to good to be true and maybe, just maybe you would be wrong but more often than not, you are happily correct. This is what happens to city couple George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) who decide to go along with what they believe is the answer to their current problem. Once they have made the leap, things go from bad to worse and they find themselves living a life that really isn’t for them. A film that borrows stand-out comedy actors from recent years; Kathryn Hann (Step Brothers), Jo Lu Truglio (Superbad, Role Models) and the leading man Paul Rudd, all come together to present what is another clear Apatow produced film. This is definitely not a bad thing, as this film is funny, emotional and most importantly satirical. The film moves at a steady pace, containing dialogue and scenes which are as funny as ones seen in ‘Knocked Up’, ‘Pineapple Express’ and ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’, most notably Paul Rudd’s, shall we say ‘rude’ one-on-one conversation with himself in the mirror, where he tries to obtain the courage to cheat on his wife. The chemistry between the members of the commune is also a great highlight of the film, they work together to run what is really, a place to avoid the real world and smoke copious amounts of marijuana. This may sound pretty good but from the outside looks as though they are a burden on society. This is pulled off well, you believe and understand the past and present within the commune, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Jordan Peele as ‘Rodney’, the man who at times seems so unbelievable as a character due to his stupidity and stoner-ish nature but happily you grow to love his appeal and humble feelings towards being a father. Alan Alda’s performance is heartwarming, as the man who originally set up the commune and who seems to believe that anybody he meets is worth telling the story of this, again and again and again, this makes for some hilarious entertainment and from only seeing him as Senator Owen Brewster in ‘The Aviator’, I was very surprised that he could pull off a comedic role so well. Another great part of the film is scenes with Paul Rudd’s brother, played by Ken Marino, who is severely obnoxious, incredibly rude and stupidly egotistical, which makes his ending all that funnier to watch; it really reminded me of the way Jon Favreau played Joyce’s abusive husband in ‘I Love You, Man’. Overall, I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of the two lead-stars, who’s chemistry is great in this, Apatow Productions and satirical comedy.

7/10

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Young Adult directed by Jason Reitman; released in 2011

 

In the midst of depression, the best idea is definitely to realise that the person you love is back in your town of birth, happily married and now with child. Along with this, heavy drinking, hardly talking to your parents and discovering your career could be over, really puts the nail in the coffin of a life that is far from complete. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gray, the writer but NOT creator of popular young adult series ‘Waverley Prep’ who, on checking her email stumbles across a picture that on closer inspection is the daughter of the man she has lusted for since she was a ‘Young Adult’. This film, much like Jason Reitman’s previous, ‘Juno’ and ‘Up in the Air’, contains comedy which is painfully truthful and cuts deep to the bone of not only the main characters but also you as a viewer. Content which is easily relatable to  many people make the picture all that more effective as a tool for funnelling what seems to be the writer’s (Diablo Cody) own personal history. This is what makes the film’s sad moments, which there are plenty of, tough viewing, with Mavis continually digging her own grave and actually contemplating destroying a marriage, the laughs are at her but with disdain. You want her to realise that her life isn’t totally down the pan, that she has more to live for and that it shouldn’t start with attempting to woo her childhood sweetheart who is set in a new life. What I most enjoy about Reitman films, apart from how good they are, is the scenes where characters are alone, performing something in their daily routine, this really allows you to see who they really are, adding depth and true meaning to scenes that contain dialogue. I really enjoyed the interactions between Charlize Theron and her co-star Patton Oswalt, these seemed as though they actually bared a childhood grudge, that through Mavis’ intent on securing a definite future with Buddy (Patrick Wilson) is broken and in the penultimate seen of the film sees them secure a life long friendship. Oswalt’s performance needs recognising though, as he is hilariously funny, blunt when need be and portrays the link between ‘Mini-Apple’ and Mavis’ home town problems very well. Charlize Theron is great as Mavis, she is as evil as she is in ‘Prometheus’ but has the soft side that she displays in ‘Italian Job: L.A. Heist’ (she plays mainly strong evil women, this is the only film I could think of – don’t watch it though) which rounds her into a character that you want to see succeed in life but not tear apart Buddy’s blossoming marriage. Patrick Wilson is childish, immature and stuck in his hometown, which makes his character hard to judge. Throughout the film you wonder whether or not he is going to leave with Mavis and complete her life back in the big city. Happily, the film comes to a climax, which isn’t surprising but welcomed. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of the main stars and the Director/Writer team of Reitman and Cody.

8/10

Alpha Dog directed by Nick Cassavetes; released in 2006

This film is an adapted story of the real-life murder of Nicholas Markowitz in the year 2000. Filled with young up and comers Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Ben Foster and Anton Yelchin, this film is so close to being a very good film but with a script that offers little in terms of detail, it sadly just falls short of the mark. If you are unaware of the real-life story of Nicholas Markowitz then I will quickly explain; Nicholas’ older brother Ben owes local mid-level drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood $1,200 and due to this Jesse decided to take Nicholas hostage until the money is paid. From August 6th 2000-August 12th – the date Nicholas is murdered, he is held happily at his own will – according to the film – while a police search is carried out under the watching eye of his parents. It may seem as though the film is going to be a free flowing thriller that contains dialogue that keeps to the plot, however, it is a film full of good performances that do not, at all times work that well together. Justin Timberlake is probably the stand out peformer, playing Frankie, a confused ‘gangbanger’ who throughout seems to be the only one with a conscience, the only one who actually can not believe what his group of friends are intending on doing. He is able to make a weak script seem believable and is the only one who at any point has any form of fondness towards Nicholas (Anton Yelchin). Relationships never really seem to build, apart from this one, Jesse and Michelle as a couple is far from believable, as he is far too nice and if you were to imagine what he really was like, you would also take into account his feelings towards women, which the director must have forgotten. When reading the name ‘Alpha Dog’ you really think that there is going to be an evil, dictator like front man to a group which committed this brutal crime and unfortunately Emile Hirsch’s portrayal of the infamous Hollywood plays second fiddle to Timberlake as his right hand man, which is a shame, as if he had made it his own, much like his performance a year later as Christopher McCandless in the biopic ‘Into the Wild’about the adventurer’s life, then this movie could have been a lot better. The film at some points also tries to be more than it is, most notably the climax – which, even though it probably stays true to the actual goings on, is at points very tedious to watch. It seems to be that most of the actors within the film saw it as a piece of material that will see them achieve greatness once the film has seen some rotation and had critical and commercial response to it. This is the same with a lot of Cassavetes films, ‘The Notebook’ – Ryan Gosling went on to ‘Drive’ and ‘Ides of March’ and ‘John Q’ was a mediocre drama that Denzel Washington used as a stepping stone. This film though is enjoyable and makes a very sad story interesting to watch. The use of the documentary feel, which is shown between different points of flashback make it intriguing  to watch, even when you may know what is already going to happen. Another tearful part of the film is when Sharon Stone, playing Nicholas’ mother, pours out her heart to the camera, truthfully explaining how the death of her son has completely broken her heart. Her and Bruce Willis’ performances as the parents of Nicholas and Jesse are contrasting and work well to show how you will do anything for your child, whatever they are involved in. This film is enjoyable, especially the performance of Timberlake, who since this film was released, much like I said before with Cassavetes’ films, has appeared in critically acclaimed pictures, such as ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Friends with Benefits’. I would recommend it to fans of Timberlake, Anton Yelchin and crime drams.

6/10

Manhunter directed by Michael Mann; released in 1986

June 21, 2012 1 comment

Being a fan of the Hannibal franchise of movies over the past 20 years, I thought it was time to see the original, the one without Anthony Hopkins playing the infamous Hannibal Lecter. This film however, is different, in a sense that Lecter or ‘Lecktor’ in this adaptation of the book ‘Red Dragon’ hardly features the psychopathic human eater, this doesn’t though take away from the films creepy eerie feel and the fact that it is a great film. William Petersen stars as Will Graham, a man torn apart by his past involving the legendary cannibal. He is forced out of retirement to take on a case involving a man being dubbed the ‘Tooth Fairy’ and from then on has to deal with him, Hannibal and his own demons. This film has such a weird atmospheric feel to it, much like later Mann films, the way it is shot plays with your emotions and really makes you connect with the characters as they are taken on the grizzly journey involving death and the challenge the police face. It also really reminded me of the battle Pacino and DeNiro have in ‘Heat’ and Foxx and Cruise have in ‘Collateral’ but due to the fact this film pre-dates those by 10 and 20 years respectively, it has such a rough and scary feel to it that Graham’s own demons have an even greater battle with him than anyone. This is not helped by the fact he has to talk with Leckter, played in this film by Brian Cox, who in my opinion portrays the monster in a more sinister way than Hopkins and one that truly scared me, even though he is in the film for less than 15-20 minutes. The way he speaks completely embodies evil and through this and Cox’s performance, you are able to imagine the relationship and horrific past experiences he and Will have had together; this is the cherry on the icing of an already chilling movie. Another great aspect of Mann’s films are the soundtracks, they help it move at a pace that at points make it nearly unbearable to watch – this at it’s greatest when the film comes to it’s terrific climax. The song ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida‘ by Iron Butterfly makes it mesmerising viewing, the way in which Tom Noonan has no fear of the police coming to get him, is embodied in the music and lyrics of the song, ‘Oh, won’t you come with me And take my hand, Oh, won’t you come with me And walk this land, Please take my hand’, relates to his frame of mind at the time; his confused love for the blind character of Reba McClane who is played frightfully by a young Joan Allen. A film that received mediocre reviews on release and then gained a cult following throughout the years is one that is definite viewing for fans of cinema. Fans of the Hannibal franchise may be put off by the lack of screen time for their hero but this will be made up by the film’s overall scary and action packed nature. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of Michael Mann, CSI and the Hannibal franchise.

8/10

No Way Out directed by Roger Donaldson; released in 1987

From looking through the films that Roger Donaldson has directed, he really has had a hit and miss career. ‘The Recruit’, ‘Cocktail’ and ‘The Bank Job’ have hit and ‘Dante’s Peak’, ‘Seeking Justice’ and ‘Species’ haven’t. Happily, ‘No Way Out’ in my opinion is easily his best film. It tells the story of Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner) who, after performing bravely on a routine mission is given the job of being the Secretary of Defense’s David Brice(Gene Hackman) liaison to the CIA within the pentagon. The death of the woman (Sean Young) who Farrell and Brice are seeing, causes Brice to start a mole hunt within the pentagon, claiming her killer is a Russian KGB agent named ‘Yuri’ who has been raised as an American and infiltrated the U.S. Government. I really enjoy this film every time I watch it due to the acting, the pace and the distinct plot. The films moves at a fast pace from beginning to end, which keeps you on your feet, most notably the climax of the film, which leads to a twist which you will enjoy and be very surprised by. The plot is understandable but detailed, which will keep you gripped in every scene, much like a Bourne film. The action is sporadic but when it occurs is delivered to a high standard and keeps you guessing who is going to come out on top at the end. I also enjoyed the performance of Kevin Costner who is able to balance the task of being a lover with one of the efficient nature of someone in his job within the government. He is tough yet caring, confused yet focused, which makes the climax of the film a guessing game for the viewer and when you discover the truth are amazed by his loyalty and regard towards his role as a liaison to the CIA. He is able to pull this off and you are made to feel very sorry for him when he learns of the death of Susan, which enables him to bring empathy and drive to the role. This film should also give a lot of thanks to the great book ‘The Big Clock’, which it has been adapted from. This has a much more detailed plot and therefore would contain the right amount of thrills and interesting dialogue which unsurprisingly made the transfer from book to screen look easy and very enjoyable. This makes the film what it is, a puzzling thriller, hidden with sub plot that will cause you to question what you first thought from the outset. You care for the characters within the film, wanting them to achieve what they have set out to, even if it is bad. One let down I had with the film is the performance of Sean Young, she is unbelievable as somebody Kevin Costner would fall for, they could have maybe cast Sigourney Weaver or Meryl Streep in the role, both would have made the relationship seem feasible and make her death that just that bit more tough to take. The film’s plot though is what makes it a great spy thriller for the ages and enjoyable every time you watch it. The twist is so well hidden that I always forget it, which should also thank the performances of Gene Hackman and Will Patton, who are both evil as Brice and Pritchard. I really enjoy this film and would recommend it to fans of Kevin Costner and spy thrillers.

8/10

Prometheus directed by Ridley Scott; released in 2012

As a huge fan of the original ‘Alien’ series of films I was eager to see what Ridley Scott was going to do with the new film ‘Prometheus’. With a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce and Idris Elba, unsurprisingly I thoroughly enjoyed it. The film’s premise pre-dates ‘Alien’, as the crew of the ship Prometheus are sent to an outer solar system to discover the true origin of life itself. What I enjoyed most about the film was the detailed plot, that is delivered very understandably by all the cast. The film starts off slowly, which when looking back may account for the fact the crew have spent two years in hypersleep to reach their destination and when woken are still coming to grips with their crew-mates, situation and adjusting their brain but happily, after a shocking discovery, the film’s action, suspense and true scariness builds up. The film is truly scary, I found the first deaths of two crew members and the ‘abortion’ that occurs to be sickening to watch and helped it pay homage to it’s predecessor. It also reminded me of many recent space set films, such as ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Moon’ which, set in the not to distant future aren’t made to look too ridiculous, which this, with the aid of some great CGI and costumes completely matches and at some points is even more believable. As much as I loved the film, the only let-down was the predictability of the plot, which even though is acted well, didn’t add anything to the ‘Alien’ premise. There could have been something more, something that could have taken this film to another level. Don’t go into this film thinking it is going to be better than the original, it isn’t, it’s different. There are obvious parts of the film which are there to remind you of the original series and keep you grounded but these are few and far between; the film’s action is brilliant and very enjoyable. It could have turned into a slasher movie but due to great performances, it doesn’t, the deaths of many of the crew are needed, which makes the climax all that more sad to watch. Michael Fassbender’s performance as David, the android sent to accompany the crew (saying he is a robot isn’t a spoiler, it is stated at the beginning), is by the far the stand out within the film. He is able to convince the crew of his handiness but due to being a robot has been sent a real task, which makes his performance tough to watch. So human-like but nothing like a human, he pulls it off well, better than Ian Holm in ‘Alien’ and it also reminded me of the performance of Matt Damon as Bourne; extremely efficient but unable to comprehend why. Another great aspect of the film was the performance from the British trio of Idris Elba, Sean Harris and Rafe Spall, who hold their own against a big international cast and showed grit, sadness and excitement throughout. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Prometheus’ and really believe it will rejuvenate interest in the original series and thankfully has plenty of inklings to think there could be a sequel or maybe even a new quadrilogy of films. I would recommend it to fans of science-fiction films, the original series and Michael Fassbender.

8/10

Witness directed by Peter Weir; released in 1985

Many directors try to film real life but none I believe do it better than Peter Weir. Having the genial knowledge to put together films such as ‘Master and Commander: Far Side of The World’ and ‘The Truman Show’ but to name only a couple, really show how he is able to completely engross you in the characters, the plot and to such a point, that when there is sadness, completely tear you apart. This is such a unique skill and one that I love to see on-screen. ‘Witness’ therefore, does not disappoint. It tells you the story of a young Amish boy Samuel Lapp (Lukas Haas) who witnesses a murder in a train station toilet and from then on isn’t safe from anybody, most importantly the corrupt police who are after him. The man who assigns himself the job of keeping Samuel and his family safe is Philadelphia Police Captain John Book (Harrison Ford). The film is advertised as a thriller but not the sort of thriller that you would expect, it explains that the a thrill in life can not only be, the thrill of being a police officer and chasing down ‘bad guys’ but also wanting something you can’t have. He is taken into the world of the Amish and from then on does his utmost to protect Samuel and his mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis). This film was very enjoyable however don’t expect a gun fight or car chase every scene; this is the sort of thriller that builds the tension from beginning to end and then comes at you with total action during the climax. This is what I enjoyed most about the film, the way it makes you think about what could happen, whether or not Harrison Ford will be able to protect them, will he destroy a small Amish community or will everything fall apart. Like other thrillers of the era, such as ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Manhunter’, it really was before it’s time and I believe would still do well if it was released in 2012. A great aspect of the film is the love story between Brook and Rachel; this builds from the moment they meet and threatens to tear apart his career as a police officer and could cause her to be ‘shunned’ from the Amish community. I would call it a modern-day retelling of the famous Shakespeare story ‘Romeo + Juliet’; two completely different worlds and families – if they were to be together, everything could change. The performances within the film are also to a high standard, most notably that of Lukas Haas as the young Samuel. He shows emotion, holds his own on-screen with a major star at the time, Harrison Ford and is enjoyable to watch. I really am not surprised that he has gone on to appear in such films as ‘Brick’ (2005) and ‘Contraband’ (2012), making the transition from child to adult star much like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Harrison Ford is also very good and I would go as far as saying this is my favourite performance I’ve seen from him. Unlike his performances in such films as the Indiana Jones series and the Star Wars series, he has a much more emotional, dark and loving side to him, this is used well in scenes with Kelly McGillis, who is also very good in the film. This film’s influence is clear to see in Weir’s other films, most notably ‘The Truman Show’; the emotion and nerves build up towards the film’s great climax. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of emotional thrillers and Peter Weir.

8/10