Monthly Archives: November 2013

Gravity

Everything I seem to read about this suggests it will be one of the films of the year and a shoo in for Oscar glory. Safe to say my expectations were rather high when I went to see this.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as astronauts caught out when a space walk is interrupted by debris from a Russian satellite (don’t you just hate it when that happens?). With Oxygen running low and a second wave of debris on the way they have to find a way to survive.

As the first film I’ve seen in Imax 3D  I have to say it was well worth it! The opening scene of watching Earth from space is breathtaking, Clooney’s Matt is right when he says it’s a beautiful sight. The visuals throughout this film is amazing, no doubt this film will win big in the special effect awards.

It’s not just the visuals that were impressive, the film is brilliantly directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Whether its a wide shot of space or pov shots from the astronauts you are completely captured by the film. The camera often follows the astronauts as they move through space, often losing control-so prepared to feel very dizzy by Sandra Bullock floating around and around in circles. The film is so tense I often found myself short of breath as I was so concerned for the characters lack of oxygen I was forgetting to breathe.

George Clooney is strong as veteran astronaut Matt, going from his usual Clooney cheeky, funny self, to being calm and direct when instructing Bullock’s nervy rookie Ryan. Bullock handles the challenges of the film well, intense close-ups for long periods showing Ryan’s distress, giving potentially cheesy monologues to herself which she deals with aplomb.

Sometimes the film felt more like an endurance than something I could sit down and enjoy. But there’s no denying there’s something special about Gravity and it fully deserves all the praise I’ve been reading about it.

Rating 4/5-spectacular visuals and great acting brings this space drama to life

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The Way Way Back

Coming of age stories are nothing new, and few can do it better than my favourite movie ever Stand By Me. Can this new film win me over?

14 year old Duncan (Liam James) is on an uncomfortable holiday with his mum Pam(Toni Collette), her obnoxious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Awkward and shy Duncan expects the holiday from hell, but he finds unexpected friendship from a local waterpark manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). Slowly Duncan grows in confidence, but that doesn’t mean all his problems go away.

Written and directed by Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community) and Nat Fraxon-who also won the Oscar for their screenplay The Desendants, The Way Way Back is a fun, often bittersweet movie full of a lot of heart. Newcomer Liam James is great as Duncan, the quiet teenager who learns to have fun and stand up for himself. Sam Rockwell is even better as Owen, the one adult who notices Liam and tries to help him without being patronsing or insulting him. What could have been a bit of a creepy friendship is actually quite sweet, and their goodbye at the end of summer really pulls at the heart stings and made me quite emotional.

It was good to see Steve Carell playing against type as a character whose a complete jackass. I kept expecting us to see a nicer, softer side to Trent, but no,  you realise he’s just a tool. It made me really angry the way he spoke to Duncan and how he treated Pam. Toni Collette also deserves praise as her role is tricky. Its frustrating at times how she seems to let Trent get away with his behaviour, but then she also manages to show her vunerable, lonely side and you can see why she stays with Trent despite how he acts.

The scenes at the water park are great fun, with great small roles for Maya Ruldolph and Jim Rash among others. Its at this place Duncan starts becoming the man he wants to be, and his intereaction with the people there enable his confidence to talk to girl-next-door Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), a  subplot that manages to be sweet and cringeworth at the same time.

Rating 4/5-funny, and bittersweet at times The Way Way Back is a comedy with heart

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Don Jon

The multi talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in this comedy about a man who is addicted to porn.  I’m a big fan of Gordon-Levitt but can he cut it as a director and writer?

Godon-Levitt plays Jon, who despite being successful with women prefer the girls who appear in online porn. On a night out he meets Barbara(Scarlett Johansson) and pursues a relationship with her, however things soon turn sour when she discovers his internet activities.

It is a relief to report that Don Jon is an intelligent, funny and thoughtful take on sex and relationships.  Instead of judging Don for watching such films, the movie is more concerned about his relationship with women. He constantly refers to Barbra as “The most beautiful thing I have seen”. He fails to see Barbara as a person, he mostly talks about how great she looks. He says he loves her but it seems he’s more in love with her looks.

Despite Jon’s issues, Barbara is not made out to be the victim of the piece, as she has her own faults such as being a bit of a snob, and trying to mould Jon into her perfect man. She too falls into the same traps that Jon does, although her addiction is romantic movies that spin the tale of happy ever after and men that will sacrifice everything for the women they love. Just as Jon fails to realise that the women in his movies are just acting, Barbara fails to realise that the men in her movies are not real. Both are failing to connect to real people, preferring their films over real life.

Jon’s family is great, especially like the running joke of Jon’s sister being mute and texting all through the family scenes-and even in church. However you better listen when she does have something to say. Also good is Julianne Moore as Jon’s fellow student who tries to get him to see further than just his porn films.

Rating 4/5-Aside from being a smart comedy this film brings back Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch 90’s hit Good Vibration.

 

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The Internship

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn team up again eight years after their hit comedy Wedding Crashes entered our screens. Can the magic be repeated?

Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) have been made redunant from their work as salesmen. Desperate for work they apply as Interns for Google, depsite not knowing anything about technology. Split into groups where only one team will win, can Billy and Nick prove they’ve got what it takes to work for Google?

I was not expecting this film to be very good. All the films I read seemed to suggest this film was rubbish and not at all funny. So I was quite surprised to find myself laughing at lot during the film. Its nothing original but Vaughn and Wilson have the same great chemistry they had in Wedding Crashes and put their all into a so-so script.

There are plenty of failings in this film. All the other interns and Google workers are sterotypes.  Poor Rose Byrne was stuck in another underwritten female role (she needs to sack her manager, she can do much better than these roles as anyone whose seen her in Damages knows she can be great given the chance).  Vaughn and Wilson are by no means stretching themselves in this film, it would be nice to see them do something difference.

Ok so it’s not a classic film by any means but considering I was expecting a huge disaster on my hands  I was pleasently surprised.

Rating 3/5-its no Wedding Crashes but it had enough laughs to keep me enternained

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Thor: The Dark World

Marvel’s second film of the year, is the much anticipated sequal to 2011’s Thor. That film made Hollywood stars out of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. Can this film hold the same magic?

A year on from the events of The Avengers and events conspire to bring Asgardian Thor and human scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) together again. When the new villians the dark elves have a plan to destroy the world Thor is forced to team up with Asgard’s latest prisoner, his brother Loki (Hiddleston).

At first the signs seemed troubling. It’s such a slow start you wonder if the magic of Thor left with its previous director Kenneth Brannagh. The dark Elves are sleep inducingly dull and it looks like most of the film will be set in Asgard-it doesn’t look promising. However such fears are pushed aside after the story kicks up a gear, bringing Jane into Thor’s world is a fanatstic idea, and it’s interesting that that she adapts to Asgard quicker than Thor did to Earth.

Although the title has ‘dark’ in the title and indeed there is more at stake in this follow up than the last one, the filmakers haven’t forgotten to bring the fun back for the sequel.

As you’d expect Hiddleston is brilliant as Loki, the sarcastic, conniving brother of Thor, always one step ahead with always a Plan B in place. He is a great foil to Thor, his deviousness and trickery clashing with Thor’s physical strength and compassion. It’s also great that the -well deserved- popularity of Loki (and Hiddleston) doesn’t overwhelmed the film. This is still Thor’s movie. Hemsworth is more confident everytime he steps into Thor’s amour and it’s great to see the character development continue from the first film. Consider Thor’s actions from the beginning of the first film to the end of this movie, it’s a nice little journey to watch the character go on. I was also glad to see the return of Jane’s team with Darcy (Kat Dennings)and Erik (Stellan Skarsgard) providing a lot of the laughs, and also, along with Jane, proving their worth in the field when needed.

Unlike Man of Steel which clearly ran out of steam before the last battle scenes, the climactic fight in Thor is fantsastic. Director Alan Taylor is confident enough to seemlessly flow from dramatic action to high comedic moments, indeed some of the film’s funniest jokes are placed right in the middle of the fights, not many films are brave enough to do that-or do it so well.

Rating: 4/5- don’t be put off by the slow start, Thor is back to show why he’s the number one ‘god’ in the Marvel Universe

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Girl Most Likely

Kristen Wiig is great actress and comedian as seen is her leading role in Bridesmaids and supporting turns in Whip It and Friends with Kids (which coincidentally was the first thing I reviewed on this site!). Now Wiig attempts a slightly more intense role in her latest film Girl Most Likely.

Imogene (Wiig) was once a promising playwriter but having failed to live up to her early promise she puts everything into her job and boyfriend in New York. When they both fall apart on the same day she fakes a suicide attempt to win back said boyfriend. The plan backfires spectacularly as the boyfriend pays no interest in her and she is put into the care of her eccentric mother (Annette Benning), and returns to the home she hasn’t been back to in years.

Ok let’s get this out the way, although it features Wiig this isn’t Bridesmaids, nor does it pretend to be.  The story is more darker, dealing with loneliness, failed ambitions and abandonment issues. The protagonist isn’t always sympathetic or likeable (she did fake a suicide attempt after all) but the film doesn’t shy away from the fact that Imogene has problems and her view of the world and the people in her life isn’t always correct.

The film isn’t devoid of laughs though, the supporting characters are fun such as Matt Dillon’s underused George, the younger boyfriend of Imogene’s mother and a possible nutcase. Christopher Fitzgerald is also great as Ralph-Imogene’s socially awkward brother who manages to be funny and sweet.

However this film does seem to be in the middle of an identity crisis. Is it an indie drama about a woman’s life falling apart with some humour thrown in or a comedy about a woman returning home to her family with a bit of drama involved. The tone is uneven throughout and I suspect others may not like it as much as I did. Although fellow Glee fans may enjoy seeing Darren Criss in more grown up fare (and singing Backstreet Boys too).

Rating-3/5-while not for everyone, fans looking to see Wiig in a more serious role should give this a shot.

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Confine

There are a overwhelming number of hostage movies in the film world at the moment so can Brit film Confine offers a fresh spin on the genre?

After an accident which has left her phsyically and emotionally scarred former model Pippa (Daisy Lowe) has spent years staying inside her home. Agrophobic and OCD she keeps herself safe from the outside world. However she finds she can’t control anything when Kayleigh (Eliza Bennet) breaks into her flat and holds her hostage.

Set in one location and featuring a very small cast Confine has to try to keep its audience entertained for the duration of it’s (admittedly low) running time. A cat and mouse game begins between Pippa and Kayleigh as both want control of the situation but things keep happening to cause dissruption such as the arrival of Kayleigh’s partner-in-crime Henry (Alfie Allen).

As the action mostly features around the two girls the actresses carry the film well. Model Lowe is good as Pippa but Bennet is the stand out as crazy Kayleigh. Sometimes she is almost symapthetic to Pippa (or as much as she is able to) while other times she threatens to kill her if she doesn’t cooperate with her plan.

The film is filled with tension for most part and you’re unsure how the action is going to play out on screen. However even with its short running time the film runs out of steam towards the end and a plot twist that comes up in the last third doesn’t really make any sense. Still the idea is good and mostly executed well, with good performances from the two lead actresses.

Rating-3/5-although it doesn’t quite live up to its potential this is an intense thriller with good performances

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