Monthly Archives: June 2013

Before Midnight

I love Richard Linklater’s Before films. The films indulge my sometimes neglected romantic side and I care so much about the fates of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy).

So we meet up with Jesse and Celine nine years after the events of Before Sunset. They are together with twin daughters and are at the end of their summer holiday in Greece. Jesse’s son Hank has just returned home to his mother (Jesse’s ex-wife) in America. After spending some time with their daughters and friends they spend an evening finally alone where old issues resurface.

Ok first off I admit this film won’t appeal to everyone. Two characters talking about themselves for 109 minutes may not sound all that enticing. But that is the skill and the power of the Before films is that it isn’t boring at all. I adore watching these characters talk about their lives, dreams and regrets. Hawke and Deply have amazing chemistry that continues in this film even though they argue a lot more in this installment.

There is also a slight change in the format of Before Midnight, there’s a whole dinner scene where other people talk as well! Shocking! Luckily this helps push the story forward and brings up the issues between Jesse and Celine in a way that doesn’t seem forced.

While the other films were romantic love and whether Jesse and Celine will get together, Before Midnight is about what kind of love a long-term couple have and whether Jesse and Celine will stay together. As well as the usual sweet moments we expect from Jesse and Celine we all also have long scenes of arguments between the two, throwing up bitterness, resentment and other problems couples go through. It does feel like you are intruding on a couple’s fight and I’m sure some people in the audience will find the scenes uncomfortably familiar.

I would give the film’s previous installments Before Sunrise and Before Sunset five stars each as they are some of my favourite all time films. For some reason Before Midnight is not quite a five-star film, maybe because I prefer the more romantic feel of the first two films but it is still an amazing film with an excellent script and five-star performances from Hawke and Deply.

Rating 4/5

I’d happily catch up with Jesse and Celine every nine years to see where one of my favourite cinematic couples end up.

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Man of Steel

So here is the latest Superman film since 2006’s Superman Returns. I found the  last film was disappointing. Although I liked Brandon Routh in the title role the story felt flat to me, Kate Bosworth was miscast as Lois Lane and the less said about her son the better. Now Zack Synder is taking the reigns-can he do better?

This time we get a reboot of the Superman Origins. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is trying to figure out what to do with his life. Should he continue to keep his powers a secret or announce himself to the world? It might be taken out of his hands if journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tracks him down. Then  an old enemy from Krypton General Zod (Michael Shannon) appears and Clark has some tough choices to make.

I’ve always found films by Zack Synder to be more visually impacting than the story or characters, but at last he seems to have got all the elements right.  The film has a fine balance keeping us mostly in the present but with a good amount of flashbacks, meaning we’re not too bogged down by Superman-the early years. We get a sense of why Superman has been hiding for so long and  explores his reasons for deciding to stand up and fight now despite the risks.

As Superman Henry Cavill looks and acts the part well. He has a strong screen presence and treats the material seriously. Amy Adams is great as Lois Lane and has great chemistry with Cavill which makes you believe in their willingness to protect each other despite not knowing each other for very long. Although she could have done with some more character development, as most of the time she’s either vulnerable girl in peril or feisty reporter, would be good to know more about her. Luckily Adams is a great actress so she makes Lois a more 3d character. The rest of the supporting case is great, especially Russell Crowe who does a lot with what he’s given as Superman’s dad Jor-el.

There are also some fantastic fight scenes in this film, with Superman’s fight against two of General Zod’s soldiers being the best fight scene I’ve seen so far this year.

However the film is not without its flaws-mostly being that it’s too long. This isn’t always a problems with blockbusters but if a film is going to be 143 minutes long you don’t want the audience to feel it. I thought it could have ended half an hour earlier.

Rating 4/5

Unlike Bryan Singer’s effort, this Man of Steel looks set to soar

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The Impossible (2012)

I was not sure I would ever see this movie. My gut reaction when I initially saw the trailer for this was “it’s too soon!”. I wasn’t sure if Hollywood could take this real life situation of the 2004 tsunami and not turn it into a crass disaster movie. However even I had to admit that the special effects of the tsunami were  impressive and the reviews I read were mostly positive so I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did.

The Bennet family are spending Christmas in Thailand when the tsunami hits their beach hotel and they are separated from each other. They must try to survive the tsunami and find each other amid the devastation left in its wake. The film is based on the true story of the Belon family.

I was crying practically during the whole film. I think this was mostly to do with the fact it’s  based on true events and ones that only happened nine years ago. The scenes that probably made me cry the most were the small moments in the film. A little boy stroking Maria Bennet’s (Naomi Watts) hair, a group of local Thai women giving Maria a top after her clothes are torn, a man  allowing Henry (Ewan McGregor) to use his phone even though he’s saving the power to find his own missing family.

Director J.A Bayona has done a fantastic job with this film, more sensitively handled than I expected  The scenes of the tsunami are breathtakingly horrific and the injuries sustained by the characters are not glossed over. Maria hasn’t been given a Hollywood gloss-she looks appropriately terrible with her cuts and injuries shown in gruesome detail. However the film doesn’t come across as sensationalism or exploiting what has happened. It was also good that the film made a point of showing the local Thai people who went in to help families and individuals after the tsunami hit.

It still bothers me that the family, who are Spanish, have been changed to a British one. But at least the film has gathered actors who handle the roles sensitively and the acting is top class, as you would expect from Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts (fully deserving her best actress nomination). Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast are exceptionally good as the Bennet’s three young sons. Special praise has to go to Tom Holland who plays their eldest son Lucas, and was breaking my heart throughout the entire film. I have a feeling he’ll be someone to look out for in the future.

Rating 4/5- A harrowing but breathtaking film filled with wonderful performances.

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The Hangover Part 3

The Wolfpack return for part three of the world’s longest hangover. Strangely enough the film doesn’t revolve around an actual hangover. Probably to avoid the same criticisms as the second film did, which repeated several plot points of the original.

The third outing starts with the Wolfpack trying to help Alan (Zach Galifianakis) cope with the death of his father. He’s off his meds and acting more strange than usual. Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) conduct an intervention and concince Alan to go to a centre to recover. Along the way Doug is kidnapped by man named Marshall (John Goodman) so that the remaining Wolfpack can track down Chow (who it seems only Alan can reach) to track down the gold Chow stole from Marshall. If they fail, Doug dies.

The film starts off slow with Alan’s antics becoming more irratating than amusing. However the film picks up once the gang meets up with Chow. Ken Jeong (Senor Chang from the excellent  US TV series Community) is hilarious and steals many of the scenes he’s in.

Besides our heroes there are some familiar faces from the first film back again and a few memorable new ones. Goodman is great as the villian Marshall but it’s Melisa McCarthy’s cameo that’ll have most people talking. Her interactions with Alan are side splitting and also allows us to see a new, suave side to Alan (well sauve for Alan).

The film is given an extra boost when the the characters return to Las Vegas. It seems to help regenerate the characters giving them a new lease of life that was missing earlier in the film. Vegas looks awesome and the film uses it’s setting to their advantage, with a nailbiting scene featuring Alan and Phil on the roof of Caeser’s Palace.

The third part of the trilogy may not be quite as funny as the first film, and probably won’t make as much money as the second, but it drives the franchise to a natural conclusion and gives us a fond- hopefully final- farewell to the Wolfpack.

Rating 3/5

Stay in your seats for for the end credits for a scene which is both hysterical and wrong in so many ways.

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Populaire

Forget Sprinting, swimming or even curling, for in Populaire the biggest sport is typing!

Populaire is a french romantic comedy set in the 1950’s. Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) is a naive village girl hired as a secretary for an insurance agency run by Louis Echard (Romain Duris). Although she is a rubbish secretary it transpires she is a fast typist. So to keep her job Louis tells her to compete in a typing competition. With Louis as her trainer she’s on course to becoming a typing champion.

In the world of Populaire  typing is treated as a serious sport. Cue hilarious training montages, and slow motion ‘action’ sequences. It’s a world easy to get drawn into and you find yourself cheering Rose on in her quest as much as you’re cheering for her and Louis to get together.

The two leads have lovely chemistry together, and both have their own individual struggles. Rose wants to prove to her father that she can make a career for herself and also be seen as an equal to Louis rather than just a student and employee. Louis struggles to be open about his emotions. His closed off behaviour can be quite cold at times and if it wasn’t for the charms of Duris you’d be wondering if Rose is better off without him.

The film also has great supporting players in Louis’ friends Marie (Berenice Bejo-The Artist) and her American husband Bob (Shawn Benson). With them we can see a different side to Louis-his scenes with childhood friend Marie is laced with sadness, while there are plenty of laughs over Louis and Bob’s bets over Rose’s competition.

While the film is funny and cute during it’s run for some reason it doesn’t leave a huge lasting impression after the credits roll. I enjoyed the film but am in no big rush to watch it again anytime soon. Although it did remind me how much I enjoyed Duris in the French comedy Heartbreaker.

Rating 3/5

Fun and frothy-an enjoyable way to spend a free afternoon

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The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann is back with his fifth film, this time with an adaptatation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, but does the adaptation live up to expectations?

Its summer 1922 and a young man named Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moves next door to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby is known for his lavish parties and rumours ciculate about his past.  Gatsby requests Nick to arrange a meeting with Nick’s cousin Daisy( Carey Mulligan), a lost love of Gatsby’s who is married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). However Gatsby’s attempt to recapture the past leads to tragedy.

Luhrmann has often been accused of style over substance, which I don’t agree with. However The Great Gatsby does at time seem more interested in the parties, the music and customes than the characters on screen. The soundtrack by Jay-Z is good but doesn’t blow me away like the ones for Moulin Rouge or Romeo and Juilet. And although the film looks pretty it’s not as mesmarising or memorable as it should be.

There is a good cast gathered together but they mostly come across as one note characters. Nick is such a passive character he might as well not be there half the time. However at least his bond with Gatsby is convincing, helped by the real life friendship between Maguire and DiCaprio. Tom is a good villian but does stray into a pantomime baddie. Carrey Mulligan is a great actress, and shined in An Education, Drive and in the classic Doctor Who episode Blink. Here she looks the part with her gorgeous gowns and hair, but the character is so frustrating (the same problem I have with the book). It’s hard to know what she really feels. Did she love Gatsby or is she just a coward? It’s hard to know why Gatsby’s been obsessed with her all these years.

Luckily the film has one ace up its sleeves, Gatsby himself. Leonardo DiCaprio lights up the screen whenever he appears (literally- in his first appearance fireworks go off behind him as he’s introduced to Nick and the audience-a great first appearance). DiCaprio is mesmorising whether he’s playing aloof and mysterious, a bumbling romantic or even wearing Gatsby’s iconic pink suit. Considering he plays a man whose been obsessing over a woman for five years (and brought a house to be near to her-potential stalker alert!) it’s a testimant to DiCaprio’s acting and the script that he is a sympathetic and engaging character. He is a man who tragically cannot let go of the past-leading to his downfall.

It’s one of the many themes of the film, which follows on from the book. Can you repeate the past? Is Gatsby a victim of Daisy’s cowardness? Is Gatsby right to expect so much from Daisy? Although the film itself is not a complete success it does prompt intresting discussions on love, class, money and the American dream.

Rating 3/5

Not up to the standard of Lurhmann’s red curtain trilogy but its worth seeing for DiCaprio’s outstanding performance.

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