Observe and Report directed by Jody Hill; released in 2009

The guy who directed this was that guy, you know, that guy who went and got his mate in ‘Superbad’ when Seth got period blood on his trousers. That was probably the best intro to a review I have written so far. Okay, this film, is in the same sort of vain as an Apatow produced film but with a slightly darker feel to it. Think ‘Knocked Up’ meets ‘Die Hard’. That may sound ridiculous but with a cast that includes the star of Knocked Up, Seth Rogen and the portrayer of many famous criminals, Ray Liotta, it’s not hard to comprehend. The story is as follows, Rogen plays Ronnie, a mentally unstable mall cop, who sets himself the task of single handedly taking down a serial flasher. This may seem like it is going to be a happy-go-lucky story, where a young deranged cop wannabe, turns his life around and happily brings the penis shower down but to think this would show the film great offence. Like I said, he is deranged, lives at home with his alcoholic mum and is obsessed on becoming a cop. This causes him to go to such extremes as camping out in the mall, going undercover and trying to get the rest of his staff actual guns to police scared customers.  What I enjoyed most about this film was the performance from Seth Rogen, unlike his portrayal of Ben Stone in ‘Knocked Up’ and Zack in ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’, he is able to fully embody the personality of a lunatic, reminiscent of Jason Lee’s portrayal of Azrael in Kevin Smith’s ‘Dogma’ and Michael Cera’s psychopathic other half Francois Dillinger in ‘Youth in Revolt’. This makes for some extremely graphic scenes, including heavy gun use, substance abuse and the severe taking down of a local gang, which really highlights the destructive mind of Ronnie. It’s tough to become a policeman and with it comes the jealousy of many security workers throughout the world, which I really think this film is trying to point out. The lengths people will go to achieve the honour of becoming that person on the street who others turn to when in need is so strong, that when it is taking away from them, can really cause a complete life meltdown. This is captured well, not only by Rogen but also the surrounding cast, most notably Ray Liotta, who looks on as the man who Ronnie wants to be and who also I hope, subconsciously wants him to become the cop he deserves to be. At points this film is insanely laugh-out-loud hilarious, one scene in particular involving Rogen and Michael Pena – in a career best performance – when they choose to do what they want, abuse their bodies, destroy lives and teach others a lesson who have spat in their face. This film is billed as a comedy but I believe it is an extremely dark tale with comedy cleverly employed through great performances all round. I would happily recommend this film to fans of Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta and Apatow Productions.

8/10

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The Ghost Writer directed by Roman Polanski; released in 2010

Written basically in conjunction with the book ‘The Ghost’ by author Robert Harris, who adapted his own book into a screenplay for directorial friend Roman Polanski, ‘The Ghost Writer’, could be seen more as an imagining than an adaptation, which most films are called when they are based on famous novels. What happens with other films that are ‘adapted’ from famous written works is that sometimes they sadly become action blockbusters aimed at a paying audience, who aren’t there to see a book – they are there to see something fun. Examples of this include Danny Boyle’s post Titanic DiCaprio attempt ‘The Beach’ and Steven Spielberg’s second collaboration with Tom Cruise – ‘War of the Worlds’. Unfortunately these were unable to match the thrilling nature and appeal of their source material, which is a shame, as they could have outdone their original’s, most notably ‘The Beach’, as it included DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Paterson Joseph and Robert Carlyle. Okay, time to talk about the actual film I actually watched. Firstly, I enjoyed it. A story that takes you on the journey of an unnamed writer played by Ewan McGregor, who is thrust into the job of ghost writing shamed politician and former Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. Unable to fully understand Lang’s past due to not being a great fan of the politics; this enables the writer to really ask the questions that a political advisor/journalist would ask and to his surprise they bring out the greatest insights into the life of an alleged war criminal. The hatred towards Lang is weirdly close to what Tony Blair faced during his later years in office. The writer/director team of Harris and Polanski insist that the book and film have no relation to the life and times of Tony but you find it hard not to see similarities, they both have two children and an overpowering lawyer wife, played in this by Olivia Williams. The film flows well and you are fully able to grasp the shocking revelations that spill continuously from the past of Lang, which also make to film an eye-opener to people without an interest in the past 15 years of government. Played out like an on stage production, with only 4 main people, you don’t have to remember characters names or personalities and this makes the complex and detailed dialogue all that easier to comprehend and in the final scene of the film, sit there and gasp at. I would compare this film to films of the past that leave you completely baffled at the end, such as ‘The Machinist’ (2004) and ‘Memento’ (2000); these are memorable, always talked about and completely twist your thoughts for each scene you have witnessed at first viewing. This is so evident in ‘The Ghost Writer’ and mainly why I enjoyed it from beginning to end, with the only let down being Ewan McGregor’s weird English accent, if he had been American (Moulin Rouge) or Scottish (Trainspotting) I would have enjoyed the film that little bit more. With a great cast and great direction I would recommend this film to fans of thrillers and the original book.

8/10

The Amazing Spiderman directed by Mark Webb; released in 2012

Is it too easy to say that director Mark was able to cast his ‘Webb’ over the previously successful Spider-Man franchise? No. It isn’t too easy, as after being given the task of trying to out-do his predecessors, there was always going to be criticism; this film however, even though it does have the same plot as the original ‘Spider-Man’ (2002), is able to put a fresh spin on the historic character. With Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire and the screenwriters deciding to take Spidey back to high school, you are thrust into the world of a teenage boy, who after visiting his dad’s workplace, is unknowingly bitten and given the chance to live the life of a human-insect hybrid. Breathing fresh life into a film series that maybe didn’t need it, Andrew Garfield has successfully been able to portray the infamous Peter Parker in a tough loveable rogue sort of way, unlike the burden that Maguire believed it was. From the bite, he enjoys the power, loves chasing down bad guys and still has the time to create an arch-nemesis. What I enjoyed more about this film than the previous instalments was the coming-of-age spin on it. You see him grow into the Spider-Man character parallel to growing up and taking school exams unlike the past films which saw Maguire, already in a successful career, thrust into it. As he grows up, his powers become stronger and to the audiences enjoyment; he isn’t modest, he enjoys beating up criminals and borrowing from his portrayal of Eduardo Severin in the Facebook biopic ‘The Social Network’, is cruel and has the attitude that makes the enemy’s skin crawl. What I also loved about this film was the romance he has with Gwen Stacy, played by up and comer Emma Stone. Much like Webb’s previous directorial effort ‘500 Days of Summer’, he enables you to more than warm to the budding affection between the two and when the film reaches its explosive climax, understand the decisions made by both of them. Another great highlight of the film was the battle between Garfield and Rhys Ifans, who plays Dr. Kurt Connors, the man who decided to transform himself into a giant Lizard! The battles didn’t look like CGI, with choreography that could have been seen in other recent Marvel Films, such as ‘Captain America: First Avenger’ and ‘Thor’, as these included man on man, not Spider vs Lizard. The CGI though is used to great effect, leaping from building to building reminded me of Neo’s first leap in ‘The Matrix’; I would compare this films CGI to the ground-breaking effects seen in The Matrix Trilogy. A film that may not have been needed, with the previous trilogy of films still having undeveloped plotlines, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! Andrew Garfield, a Spider-Man fan as a young boy, really has thrown his entire life into the character, which completely shines through during the entire 136 minute duration. I loved this film and even though it doesn’t go as dark as the recent Batman re-boot, it still has a darker feel to the previous instalments, which will hopefully be developed in the sequel, planned for 2014! I would recommend it to fans of the comic, the director and Andrew Garfield.

8/10

Minority Report directed by Steven Spielberg; released in 2002

 

Philip K. Dick’s work is adapted from book to screen every few years. From ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Paycheck’, ‘Total Recall’ to ‘A Scanner Darkly’. It’s amazing to think that ‘Minority Report’s’ source material is older than the main star of the film, Tom Cruise. A story that was so far ahead of it’s time, even today, really shows how much of an influence Dick’s work has had on not only works of fiction but real life technology. The Precogs within the story have recently been echoed in technology to predict crimes based on personalities within the population and is nearly on the verge of being trialled in Washington D.C., the setting for the film. A complex film, which tells the story of John Anderton (Cruise), the main man within the Pre-Crime Division in the year 2054, who with a sad past is on a race against time to prove his name after being cruelly set-up by a close friend. I am a great fan of Science Fiction films and thankfully, without going to over the top, Steven Spielberg has delivered a film which questions reality and suggests a deeper meaning to the life and times of the people who police our streets. What sets this apart from other films within the genre is the emotions you feel towards Anderton, from beginning to end you are on the side of him and only him, never the people wanting to track him down, which I sometimes feel when watching action movies – this is due to the lack of character development and no real grasp on what the film is going out to achieve. Happily, for the entire 139 minute duration you find it hard to take your eyes from the screen, as you witness his life fall apart piece by piece and the team sent to track him down, which includes Colin Farrell, who is a cleverly hidden red herring, go from strength to strength; this makes the task of finding his ‘Minority Report’ seemingly impossible. What I also love about this film is the way it looks like a modern day piece, even though it is set in the future. Much like other science fiction films of recent times, ‘Moon’ and ‘Sunshine’, it isn’t so ridiculous in nature that it makes the premise seem unbelievable. Another great aspect of the film which helps it achieve a non-ridiculous nature is the special effects, from the futuristic weaponry to the hyper cars of a not to distant world, they all combine to present what is a great visual experience. The dark nature of the film, reminded me a lot of ‘Blade Runner’, each scene looks like a page torn from a comic book, this allowing you to experience it in a way that feels like you are the first. This film though does have to thank the source material, as without it, it would never have come into existence. It couldn’t have been written by a group of screenwriters, it could only have come from the brain of Philip K. Dick. Tom Cruise delivers a great portrayal of the broken Anderton and nearly delivers the performance of his career, second in my opinion to his portrayal as Vincent in ‘Collateral’. You fully believe his past, the loss of his son, the belief he has in the pre-crime initiative and the sense of betrayal when he discovers the ugly truth in the penultimate scene of the film. A great cast that includes Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell and Max Von Sydow, ‘Minority Report’ is one of my favourite films and therefore I would recommend it to anyone.

9/10

Waiting… directed by Rob McKittrick; released in 2005

A film that explains the true nature of small independently owned restaurants that normally fail to deliver on food and customer service. Happily the film delivers in comedy and also deeper, life defining truths. The title not only refers to the job but the situations that all the characters are in and what they need to do escape from a life that do not really want. ‘Waiting…’ shows one working day at Shenaniganz , a poorly run, loser-filled restaurant that continually implies that it doesn’t meet the required health and safety standards of a dining experience. Like I said before, the staff there are all battling their own demons and you assume that this is the reason they are working there, whether it is a lack of self-belief, continually trying to sleep with under age girls or that they insist on showing their penis to a co-worker. Saying that, it’s not completely disgusting, there is emotion, linked with the demons suffered by the majority of workers, most notably though, Dean (Justin Long). Having to hear from your own parents that a childhood classmate has graduated from college into a high paying job, which yourself could have achieved wouldn’t be easy for anyone, especially one who decides to fill their time with working at the hell hole that is Shenaniganz. You are taken through his day, dealing with co-workers who have no ambition, which subconsciously he may wish he mirrored but with the feelings of his parents in the back of his mind, he has the drive to, in the penultimate scene of the film, make the correct choice which will see him have an improved life.  This film is one that is filled with great individual performances, Ryan Reynolds, who following this has become a big action-star, is deep down a funny man. With a past that includes ‘Two Guys and a Girl’ and ‘Van Wilder: Party Liaison’, you can see why he was cast in this. You should really hate his character ‘Monty’, mainly because he is a horrid man but also due to his lack of care for the world and having no ambition unlike his best friend Dean, is able to continuously berate and mock his co-workers and shockingly his own mother. All of his scenes are great to watch, as they contain sickly humour and facial expressions that remind you of that person at school who you knew would be working in a restaurant. David Koechner, famous for playing Champ Kind in the legendary ‘Achorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy’, is the only person who actually enjoys working at the pitiful restaurant. Driven by power and the ability to insult the majority of people he works with, has stupidly convinced himself that he is the best man for the job. This comes into fruition when he learns of Dean’s decision on his offer of Assistant Manager, as truly, he is a little man with no friends and the worst life imaginable. A great highlight of this film is the ‘Penis Showing Game’. It is what it is. You have to unwittingly present your penis to a co-worker and then go on to call them a ‘Faggot’. Amusing to watch and in most scenes of the film, this must have hopefully had some sort of real-life historical significance to the writer! Hilarious from beginning to end, ‘Waiting…’ is a great bit of independent cinema that deserves heaps of praise. I would recommend it to fans of American Pie, Justin Long and Ryan Reynolds.

7/10

Lord of War directed by Andrew Niccol; released in 2005

July 7, 2012 1 comment

The career of Nicolas Cage baffles me. Brilliant in Adaptation. Terrible in Ghost Rider. Exciting in Kick-Ass. Shit in Knowing. You never know what you are going to get when deciding to watch a film with one of the most unpredictable actors of recent times. ‘Lord of War’ tells the ‘based on true events’ tale of Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian-American, who after witnessing a violent gun crime realises that this is what he wants to focus all his will on and make a career out of. Even though Orlov is a composite character, made up from many gun traffickers of the last 30-40 years, Cage is able to make you love him and hate him at the same time. You love him because he loves his job and that is something an audience wants to see but you hate him because, well you know, he sells guns and guns kill thousands of people. A historically accurate film that depicts the growth of worldwide and domestic arms trade, doesn’t allow you to sit back and take it all in, as from start to finish you are given scene after scene of different points of views; reasons to hate Yuri, reasons why he has treated his family like a business and his obvious love yet annoyance towards his drug fuelled brother, Vitaly (Jared Leto). The film contains numerous scenes of just dialogue over pictures, narrated by Yuri, allowing you to witness the rise and fall of a Warlord through the voice of a career criminal, unable to understand that he is breaking the law and ruining lives. What I most enjoyed about this film was the 20 year battle between Yuri and his nemesis, Interpol Agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke). You are able to fully grasp the hatred that Interpol agents have towards criminals who make your everyday rule breaker look like a little girl. Remember, what Yuri is doing is worth millions or even billions of pounds and killing probably as many people as some of the vilest men in history did, during their times. Each interaction has a real grit and culminates in an ending that neither of them really want; throughout the film you are undecided on who you want to come out on top, the ending I believe is the only way in which you are able to understand the real power of war. The performances of the entire cast are all thoroughly enjoyable, the only let down being the pace at which the film moves from unknown one-gun seller to million pound deals with corrupt Liberian Generals intent on securing the gun of Rambo! Cage is able to pull off the persona of a man who would decide to do this, believing that it is a suitable job and that it wont go on to ruin any sort of real life he planned to have with childhood crush Ava (Bridget Moynahan), you forget, this is reason he did it, to impress her. Jared Leto is surprisingly good as Vitaly, scenes involving his drug addiction are believable and really show the lack of care Yuri had for him, again this needs to thank Cage’s performance. I really enjoy ‘Lord of War’ every time I watch it and believe it is a great medium to show the gun trade in a bad light. I would recommend it to fans of Nicolas Cage and director Andrew Niccol.

7/10

Attack the Block directed by Joe Cornish; released in 2011

In a year which saw the release of the final Harry Potter instalment and the new Mission:Impossible, it may be a film packed full of unknown future stars which steals all the attention. ‘Attack the Block’ tells the story of a gang of youths from a council estate in South London, who, after carrying out a mugging are attacked by what seems to be an extraterrestrial. The comedic background of director Joe Cornish shines through, as he is able to make a film that could be the distant love-child of Shaun of the Dead and Alien vs Predator. What sets this film apart from other science fiction films is the opposition to the scary creatures who have decided to invade South London – a gang of immature teenagers with criminal tendencies. The banter is spot on and is pretty much what you would hear on the streets therefore I recommend any elderly women do not watch this film, as it may bring back memories of abuse suffered in supermarkets from local kids! The banter flows throughout the film and you grow to love the characters, even if they are the sort of people you would choose to avoid when out in your daily routine. Action scenes that play on the youthful nature of the film also set it apart from big action blockbusters of the past; Die Hard saw John McClane fight numerous terrorists AND Alan Rickman while in this two children hide in a bin! This allows you to grasp the rural nature of the goings on and fully believe the task that the locals have been given, in not only escaping from the scary alien but also having a go at trying to defeat it. The film’s similarities with Edgar Wright’s ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Shaun of the Dead’ are visible, the interactions between the characters have a truth, which thanks to a great script allow friendships to have believable backgrounds. This is not taking away from Joe Cornish though, who with his own comedic background guides you on a whirlwind 88 minute real-time adventure, which again adds to the realism and emotive nature of the scenes. Individual performances are great aswell, the cast of unknown teenage actors all have their own unique skills; John Boyega is courageous and maybe a tad bit to big for his boots as Moses, Jodie Whittaker is scared yet accepting as Sam the muggee, Luke Treadaway is funny and out of his comfort zone as the stoner Luke and Nick Frost in a cameo as weed dealer Ron is his funny old self, reminiscent of his portrayals as Ed in ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and Danny in ‘Hot Fuzz’. The main draw though for this film is the performances of the young cast, which overall is a great advocate for British cinema. I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to fans of Joe Cornish’ comedy duo ‘Adam and Joe’, the films of Edgar Wright, British Cinema and the science fiction genre.

8/10