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Archive for the ‘Drama Films’ Category

Ted directed by Seth Macfarlane; released in 2012

Seth Macfarlane is sick. Sick in the sense that he uses twisted, disturbing and no thrills dialogue and on more than one occasion mocks 9/11 and sick in the street slang sense; that he is ultimately one of the comedy genius’ of his generation. ‘Ted’ uses the same monikers that you expect from Macfarlane, the continual ‘close to the edge’ comedy – which  makes you question whether or not you are fully aware that you are laughing at something that mocks probably the whole world and his clever knack of presuming you have the stomach for it. Unsurprisingly this film is highly enjoyable. It tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a lonely young boy who one night wishes for his new Christmas present – a large teddy bear, to come to life. Amazingly, it comes true and from then on, Ted’s (voiced disgustingly by Macfarlane) life is transformed into one of a globally known celebrity. As the years pass however, you are thrown back into the 35-year-old life of John, who is in a 4 year relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis) and still hangs out with his best bud Ted. They love weed, still think Flash Gordon is badass and unbeknownst to them have a stalker. Packed with horrid humour that rips 9/11 (not too soon), it keeps you laughing and then thinking about what you actually just heard, which makes it a very easy watch. I loved the connection between John and Ted. However old you get, you always have your best friend and what Seth Macfarlane does well, is to not make it corny and ridiculous. Ted is a real character and not just a comedic element, which he could well have turned out to be, even though the film is called ‘Ted’. Mark Wahlberg out does his performance in ‘The Other Guys’ and really shows how he has grown as a person, since his days as a wannabe rapper and then his transition into acting and finally his acting success with ‘The Fighter’ and now this. He begrudgingly has to give up his best friend, which at times is a tough watch and unlike Macfarlane’s cartoon background, hold’s back on the humour and allows for some very emotional moments. This is what made the film great, the way in which it balanced the stupidity and outrageousness with the sadness and the anger. I also loved the supporting cast, which includes, Matt Walsh (Veep), Joel McHale (Community), Giovanni Ribisi (Contraband) and Patrick Warburton (Family Guy). They all add their dramatic and comedic skill, which enhances the film’s, already laugh-out-loud comedy. The relationship between John and Lori is a great success and enables Seth Macfarlane to really throw some curveballs, some excitement and some heartbreak and it still is able to hold its truthfulness. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of the Seth Macfarlane world, Joel McHale and the main stars.

9/10

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Somewhere directed by Sofia Coppola; released in 2010

I always wondered what it would be like to be a really successful actor. Not like, starred in a few films and therefore have just started climbing the ladder to legendary status but actually being someone like George Clooney or Matt Damon. This is how I believe Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) wishes his life had turned out or what it could be in years to come. You are unsure of at what point in his career he has reached when he realises that it’s okay to squander any sort of meaning and fully become the sell-out that he is. Prescription drugs are the norm, unprotected sex with neighbours is okay and treating people like shit is what drives you to make more money than you can think of. I completely understand the pressures that celebrities are under, always in the public eye, bombarded with mail – whether it be positive or negative and finally, maybe forgetting you have an 11 year old daughter who is more talented and beautiful than you will ever be. Much like ‘Lost in Translation’, this film shows you someone’s life, with nothing else added. It is, uncensored, clean-cut daily routine and you have the task of trying to put together what you believe is the truth. Is Johnny an arsehole? Is he just somebody who got caught up in being an A-List celebrity? Or (and most importantly) is he unhappy, unfulfilled and in need of some excitement in his life. Hopefully, you agree with the third option. This is my opinion. This film is a tough watch, tougher than ‘Lost in Translation’, the first 10-15 minutes is really an introduction and even though, understandably, this is important when introducing characters and plot lines, it could have been a tad shorter. That is my only quibble with the entire movie. Containing periods of silence over pictures of Johnny contemplating what to do with his life, breaking down on the phone to someone who probably isn’t really his friend and ultimately discovering that his daughter and his own happiness is the most important thing in the world, ‘Somewhere’ was really enjoyable to watch. As the film progresses you are introduced to many people, who Johnny really doesn’t have much time for. Not because he is rude but because they really just want his autograph or to take his picture or to offer him some free food or to clean his room. This is what being a celebrity is. Having no freedom to do what you want, continually being told what to do and having everything laid out on a plate for you. Sofia Coppola really has put together something that demonstrates ‘Money isn’t everything’. Stephen Dorff may have taken inspiration from his own life for this role but I hope not completely. Elle Fanning is great and pulls off the role of the girl who Johnny really loves and cares about; his daughter. There is a surprisingly good performance from TV’s Jackass star Chris Pontius, who throughout is there as Johnny’s oldest friend and who also deeply cares about Cleo (Elle Fanning). I really enjoyed this film and believe it is a great metaphor for the highs and lows of stardom and what it really means to be a celebrity.

9/10

Jeff, Who Lives at Home directed by Jay and Mark Duplass; released in 2012

It’s always hard to judge what you are going to get when you sit down and watch something fronted by Jason Segel. He’s far better than ‘How I Met your Mother’ in ‘Knocked Up’, funnier than ‘Knocked Up’ in ‘I Love You, Man’ and now delivers his most touching performance in the Duplass Brothers latest ‘dramedy’, ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’. The character, ‘Jeff’, is a great fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Signs’, and decides to live his life following the same sort of journey in his home town. On the day the film takes place, he receives a phone call from an unknown man (who has dialled the wrong number!) asking for somebody named Kevin and from then on proceeds to take any path that is led by that name. This results in a mugging, being there to help his brother on more than one occasion and finally, in the totally heart wrenching and uplifting end, discovering what he believes the reason why he has been put on this earth. What struck me most about this film is the sadness. You feel for Jeff’s mum, a woman searching for a new man, who, on the day Jeff goes on a sort of treasure hunt, believes she may have found the person of her dreams. Susan Sarandon does well to encapsulate the life of a tired mother, intent on improving both her sons normal but broken lives. You fully understand the heartache and troubles she has suffered over the years, with the loss of her husband, the lack of self belief from Jeff and the stubbornness of Pat (Ed Helms). All these factors come together to solve the family’s drawn out and unwanted lack of communication. They are able to bridge the gap and connect, with Jeff being the person who has spearheaded the reunion with his overly positive outlook on the world. He had been seen as the one who lacked ambition, who didn’t care but as the years past, he was, really, the one who at no point stopped believing. This is what makes this film a complete tear-jerker. I went into it believing it was going to be a laugh-out-loud comedy but after Jeff’s first knock back, witnessing Pat’s marriage fall apart and Sharon’s continual disappointment, you really want them to succeed and need to them have a better life.  Ed Helms is great as Jeff’s older brother Pat; buying a Porsche has finally put a cherry on the top of his mid-life crisis cake and after the discovery that his wife of a few years, Linda (Judy Greer) may be cheating on him, sends him into a complete meltdown. The only person there to help is the one person he has resented for many years, Jeff. Their brotherly relationship is touching to watch, from the moment Jeff utters anything to do with relationships, Pat points out that he has no leg to stand on in terms of what Pat has been through but when he is the only person who is actually offering any sort of advice, he agrees and when he tracks down Linda, is able to reconnect. I loved this film and was completely moved and surprised by the level of despair and complete heartbreak throughout. Much like the Duplass Brother’s previous work, ‘Cyrus’, you are taken aback by the writing and the total realism of all the performances. I would recommend this film to fans of the directors and the main stars.

9/10

The American directed by Anton Corbijn; released in 2010

This is a very unique story. A man whose forte is guns, passion is women and on top of this, is wanted dead by more than one person. Put this together with the director of the dark Ian Curtis biopic, ‘Control’ and you have something that is a very interesting watch. Set in the idyllic Castelvecchio, a rural Italian town; which in hindsight isn’t the normal place to set a sort-of spy thriller in the mould of old spaghetti westerns,  Jack (George Clooney) is in hiding after recently disposing of a lover and two contract killers in Sweden. From the outset, you are presented a character who is confident but at the same time, confused with life. He is unsure that he has chosen the correct career, even though he is many years into it, which isn’t the best one that allows him to build relationships, which seems to be his favourite pastime. The film’s main theme though, which is not necessarily a theme, is the prolonged silences where the only thing you hear is the construction of a gun, footsteps of someone being followed or the firing of a gun. This, paired with the plot, makes for 95 minutes of total suspense. George Clooney’s career really has gone from strength to strength since playing Doug Ross in ‘E.R.’ over 15 years ago and his performance in this, is one that really makes him one of my favourite actors. He draws from his performance as the titular character in ‘Michael Clayton’, allowing for some very blunt, explosive dialogue which makes his character, an efficient arms expert, all that more believable. Throughout the film you are unable to decide on what you want the outcome to be, which when coupled with shots of the beautiful Italian landscape make the shocking ending that more despairing. The area shouldn’t be subjected to the arrival of violence, which makes the film that more exciting and brutal. His friendship with a local priest makes the subject matter even more controversial, resulting in each scene between Jack and Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) very cryptic. Constant questioning from the priest about Jack or Edward’s (alias’s play a big role in the life of a hit-man) life, make for some weird responses and seriously hamper the killer’s entire outlook on life. The blossoming romance between him and a local prostitute is again, due to the story, very tough but exciting to watch. You know from the beginning that any form of love interest for Jack will be, in the end, questioned, when whoever he falls for discovers or notices something to do with his line of work. The chemistry between him and Clara (Violante Placido) is thrilling and when Jack finally makes his choice about his chosen career, you know that something is going to go wrong. The film’s supporting cast is also good, most notably Thekla Reuten and Johan Leysen as Mathilde and Pavel, who both pull of the ‘so called friend’ role very well. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of Clooney, the director and westerns/thrillers. P.S. Don’t go into this film thinking you are going to be seeing a ‘Bourne’ paced thriller. You aren’t.

9/10

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel directed by John Madden; released in 2012

I always think about growing up and becoming that person who get’s a free bus pass and a state pension. I think about how my life is going to change, what I’m going to be able to do and what will be hard. Therefore, I am so very glad that I decided to watch this film. Filled with sadness, over-the-moon excitement and a donning of the cap to the elder generation of British actors, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is one of the most heart warming tales I’ve seen in recent years. It’s hard to watch this film and not take your eyes off the screen, from the opening monologues, as an audience, you are completely engrossed in each character’s woes and prospects. Contrasting agenda’s such as, boosting your self belief, wanting some affection, rebuilding relationships and finding long-lost one’s, results in each scene being either tinged with close to tears sadness or hand clapping jubilation. You are taken on journey’s that are lifetimes in the making, which when witnessed, taking this into account, make some scenes nearly unbearable to watch, most notably Tom Wilkinson’s character tracking down the man he has loved since he first met him over 30 years earlier. What was great about this film was the on-screen time balance between all the central characters, you are given just enough time to enjoy their individual stories and in the penultimate scene, see them all come together. I also thoroughly enjoyed Dev Patel’s performance as Sonny, the over enthusiastic, young, impressionable owner of the hotel, which in reality is a shell of its former self. He really has come along way since ‘Skins’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and now looks like he will go on to be a great leading man; he is currently appearing in ‘The Newsroom’ which I would highly recommend. As relationship’s blossom, the hotel gains admirers, which was pretty predictable but still highly enjoyable viewing. He pulls off a typical on-screen Indian accent, which sounded pretty generic but still believable. Some films border on racist when having a British Indian actor portray an Indian but in this I’m glad to say this wasn’t the case. Another great part of the film is the setting, the vibrant, loud and colourful Jaipur. It really would be a great escape for anyone wanting to get away from a past life and as the characters realise what they want to do with their lives, they really seem to warm to it, even though from the look of it, this really shouldn’t be difficult. You convince yourself you can feel, smell and taste the environment when you watch it, which enables a great backdrop to any scene, especially those involving happiness. Young actors should watch this film with great appreciation to the people they grew up watching and the people they will become when they have been on our screens for 20-30 years. This film shines a great light for British Cinema and with the recent news that funding may be reduced, I really hope it could be the catalyst for future investments and funding into films based and shot in the United Kingdom, even though this film is shot in India! I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of the actors, director John Madden and Comedy Drama’s.

8/10

Animal Kingdom directed by David Michôd; released in 2010

I’d been wanting to see this film for a while, not only due to the praise and hype surrounding it but also as I am a huge fan of both up and comer Joel Edgerton (Warrior) and legendary Australian actor Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential). Surprisingly it was neither of these actors who took my breath away but young James Frecheville in his début appearance on the big screen. Playing 17-year-old Joshua ‘J’ Cody, he is unfairly pushed into the life of a child growing up in a world motivated by crime and the constant feeling of someone looking over your shoulder; in this case, the police, fronted by Leckie (Pearce). What struck and at the same time astounded me most about James Frecheville was the confidence and on-screen presence of somebody who was just 18 years old at the time of filming. Playing a character who is repeatedly betrayed by his so-called ‘loving family’ until one day he finally decides to exact some needed revenge and set it straight, you get the feeling that the actors surrounding him looked on in awe as he stole the show. Mentally stable and at points brutally truthful you are completely able to grasp the troubles that have overshadowed the recent death of his young mother. Having to deal with a family constantly involved in drugs, bank robbery’s and keeping Pope; ‘J’s’ evil uncle, who goes to the extreme to ensure that he keeps himself out of prison, takes its toll on ‘J’ and his ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ girlfriend, Nicky. What I loved about this film was the way in which each member of the crime family were introduced and showed to be as evil as the next, most notably the discovery that ‘J’s’ grandmother is more than just his grandmother but a vital cog in the ‘Melbourne Crime Family’. A film that is violent, believable and at times very tough to watch, ‘Animal Kingdom’ really shows that to stay alive, you have to be able to think on your feet, cut all alliances and focus on keeping yourself safe. I was a little disappointed about not being able to see more of Edgerton but sometimes, it is what it is and his role in the film is needed and without his performance could have been far less believable. The real-time look of the picture also added to the dark atmospheric feel that surrounded anything that went on; this was parallel to the echoing music that seemed to shake the entire soul of ‘J’ throughout. Guy Pearce is clinical, demanding and heroic as the only man who seems to want this vile family brought to justice. Having to put up with corrupt police and at times an undecided ‘J’, it seemed as though he was starting to lose his mind, which needs to thank his overall performance, as it was a great highlight. A completely expected but at the same time shocking ending really helped to round off the dismantling of a family that broke it’s promises and threatened to ruin the life of a young boy. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Animal Kingdom’ and would recommend it to fans of crime dramas and Australian Cinema.

9/10

The Woman in the Fifth directed by Paweł Pawlikowski; released in 2011

What is there to say about this film? Is it a romance, is it a drama, is it a violent thriller? If you were to combine all three of those genres, you would still probably be wrong. The film starts out as an innocent story of a broken man, with an unexplained past wanting to get closer to his six-year-old daughter in a small unpopulated unnamed French town. From then on, the levels of intrigue, suspense and confusion mount and you are pulled quickly and cleanly through a timeless period in the life of an American writer who may or may not be completely sane. He is used differently by three women, his wife hates him and sees him as the reason why they broke up, which may be wrong, as you are again, much like his past, not given any sort of basis to understand their relationship. Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) is his escape, the one he uses to pour out all his feelings and needs without any censorship; the scenes with Margit, once the film is finished add to the confusion of the entire movie but at the same time help you understand what is going on with the other women in the film. The final woman, Ania, played kindly by Joanna Kulig is the one who truly loves him but the one he shows most negativity towards, which completely explains the frame of mind he is in. Much like the classic David Fincher film ‘Fight Club’, this film doesn’t fully explain itself to the very end, which makes for, at points, some tedious viewing but at the same time the intrigue is so much that you can’t help but watch it till the very end. This may have been the point of the film and if it was, the film maker has more than achieved what they set out to do. If Pawlikowski set out to confuse you on a level that is hard to explain but when viewed, easy to understand, in a world so close to reality that you could be there, then this could be one of the best films I have seen in recent years. Ethan Hawke’s French is great and acting along side a legend of 80’s French Cinema, Kristin Scott Thomas, it’s not hard to see why this film has been highly praised and with the use of American English speech throughout, this film could easily make the move into the more commercial market. I also enjoyed the performance of the French supporting cast, mainly the inhabitants of the hotel, who were as close to reality as you could get, which is in great contrast to the rest of the film, as it seemed like one long dream sequence, reminiscent of Cameron Crowe’s ‘Vanilla Sky’. I enjoyed this film and believe it will see Ethan Hawke go on to achieve even better things in the future and also underline the presence of Kristin Scott Thomas as one of the best actors of the last 30 years. I would recommend this to fans of French Cinema and the two main stars.

8/10