Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Long Way Down

I think most people would agree that suicide is probably not the best subject for a comedy film. However will this dark comedy based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel of the same name be a hit?

On New Years Eve four strangers meet at the top of a building in London with the intention of killing themselves. This chance meeting stops them from going through with it and they decide to temporarily hold off their intentions. Soon the media hears of their situation and the unlikely friends are front page news.

I remember reading this book when it first came out and I liked it a lot. But as you would expect the film adaptation has problems trying to condense its themes about suicide, depression and friendship into an hour and a half. A lot of the subtlety of the book is missing therefore some the characters can come across as caricatures. Toni Collette’s Maureen suffers the most as her chapters in the book really went into her situation with her disabled son Matty and there was more time to go in-depth about the reasons behind her suicidal feelings.  Pierce Brosnan’s Martin Sharp was quite a one note character in the book compared to the other characters and is exactly the same here. He’s mostly there for cheap laughs at his situation and is not that sympathetic a character.

The younger actors impress the most here. Imogen Potts is great as Jess, an eighteen year old impulsive politician daughter’s who holds a sad family tragedy behind her wild behaviour. I remember finding her character very annoying in the book at times, but in the film she was my favourite of the four. Aaron Paul also impresses as struggling musician JJ and he and Potts have nice chemistry together in their scenes.

It’s not always as laugh out loud funny as it should be and sometimes the bigger problems the four of them face are simplified or resolved too easily. But its an easy watch with some amusing moments and characters, so it’s not the all out disaster that I feared it would be.

Rating 3/5 Harmless enough although a lot is lost in the translation from the book

 

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Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s third directorial  feature is setting to be more controversal and divisive than his last offering Birth. But will I be able to stand to watch the whole film?

The plot-what there is of it-follows Scarlett Johansson as an alien in Glasgow who stalks men in a white van, assesses if they are what she is looking for, than lures these unsuspecting men to their fate.

I can see why this film has caused so many divided opinions since it’s release, some thinking its a masterpiece others that it’s an incomprehensible nonsense. I can see both sides of the argument and at times the film displays both these qualities. Some scenes are creepy, hypnotic and full of startling imagery and sound. Other times it’s not artistic-just boring.

First half of the film is enthralling even though there is not much in a sense of plot. The second half of the film, after Johansson leaves her van in the road and goes off into the fog is where the film starts to drag. At times it feels like a short film that has been stretched out too long.

Johansson gives a confident performance as the alien with an unclear mission-to us at least. She has to strip not only her clothes but her celebrity status, she wonders around the town of Glasgow incognito and wonders aimlessly around confused by the reactions of those around her. Her alien can be charming and friendly to those she meets but as soon as they do not meet her requirements her steely glare returns and reverts to her dispassionate expressions.

Some will love going over this film and coming up with theories about what is going on (I have my own but I’ve no idea if they are anywhere close to what the director had in mind). Others will find it incomprehensible rubbish.

Sometimes it does feel as though the film is being too mysterious for its own good and perhaps a little more transparency (or plot) would have been good. But then it might have ruined what the director has achieved.

Some scenes and images will stay in the mind, the hypnotic opening, the fate of the men who enter the house, a trip to the beach. What stood out to me most was the score by Mica Levi, how it would build up as Johansson stalks her prey and brings them back to her lair. It’s as ominous and unsettling as the film itself.

Overall this is a film I’m glad I experienced although I can’t say it’s one I will necessarily want to watch again, although if I was interesting in studying or directing films then I imagine it would be an interesting one to deconstruct the film at length to see if it’s secrets can be revealed underneath its egnomatic skin.

Rating 3/5 – it won’t appeal to everyone but you’ll definitely have an opinion on it

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Yves Saint Laurent

Biopics can be difficult to bring to the silver screen. All too often they can fail to capture the essence of the real life person they are depicting on screen or simplify their lives too much just to fit a 2 hour narrative. This latest biopic is of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Starting in 1958 we see the shy Yves Saint Laurent working on his first collection as head designer of Dior. We then follow his rise through the fashion ranks, his complicated relationship with Pierre Berge as well as his issues with mental health, love affairs and drugs.

Firstly this film looks lovely, I enjoyed seeing Yves Saint Laurent at work, working to create his deisgns which would go on to become so influential in the fashion world. But as lovely as it looks, the film fails to sparkle like I feel it should.

Maybe I’ve just bored of biopics of famous people detailing thier lives of drugs and sex but I  was more interested in his work, I enjoyed the fashion shows, his obssession with his work  and seeing him creating his iconic outfits. This seems to be the only aspect of his life he can cope with and the only place he can make good decisions in his life is within his work, everything else seems to just falls apart.

The actors are fine in their roles. Pierre Niney captures the fashion designer well, with his shy nervous nature as opposed to his blunt, confident approach to his work. Guillaume Gallienne as Pierre Berge is also strong as  the designer’s buisness partner and lover. Everything in this film is fine, but I kept waiting for the film to be more than just fine. Yves Saint Laurent aspired so much devotion, from his workers and his fans but the film didn’t really capture why he was adored so much. The bits we see of him creating his designs are really interesting but I wished to see more of that. We get hints of his inspirations for his work and told about some of his daring clothes but I would have liked to have gone into more detail of this area rather than always going back to his personal life and drug addled love affairs.

Other biopics such as Coco Chanel have woven the personal and professional lives of it’s designer in a way that feels fresh and involving. However this film fails to elvate it’s material and be a bipoic that connects with its audience. There’s another film about the designer coming out this year, perhaps Saint Laurent will give me what I missed from this movie.

Rating 2.5/5 -a missed opportunity that fails to rise to the challenge of giving the ultimate biopic of Yves Saint Laurent

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

When I first saw the trailer for this film a couple of weeks ago I came to the realisation that I have never seen a Wes Anderson movie. I was sure I had but as I looked at his list of films I realised that for some reason I have missed his collection of work. So to amend this I decided to give The Grand Budapest Hotel a try.

Set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka in 1932, Gustave (Ralph Finnes) is the conierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and when he’s not attending to the hosts guests he is seducing wealthy elderly ladies. When one of these ladies Madam D (Tilda Swinton) dies Gustave finds himself framed for her murder. With the help of his lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori), Gustave wants to prove his innocence and keep Madam D’s prized possession, a painting called Boy with Apple, away from her greedy family.

I had heard about this film previously but I wasn’t interested in watching it until I saw the trailer which was hilarious. Although I was concerned that all the funny moments may have  been compiled into the trailer and the rest of the film could be a dud. Thankfully this is not the case. The Grand Budapest Hotel is continuously laugh out loud funny, from the funny script to the comedic timing of its actors.

This movie also looked amazing, with brilliantly detailed sets and scenery. It was easy to get lost into the background with such intimate detail given to the locations, however the story was enthralling enough to bring me back to the action. The Grand Budapest Hotel itself looks spectacular and is almost like another character in the film.

Anderson has put together a brilliant cast. There is also a number of great cameos-too many to mention. As the concierge Gustave Ralph Fiennes took me by surprised by how funny he was. I guess I’m so used to seeing him in serious roles as Nazi villains, Shakespearean anti-heroes and Voldermort that I didn’t really know how great at comedy he was, whether it’s the physical aspects of his role or the delivery of his lines, he nails it all. Zero the lobby boy  is also an adorable character with his drawn on mustache. He is the heart of the film and the film lovingly shows his  loyalty for Gustave and his sweet romance with Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

Although this film is essentially a comedy I was surprised by the serious tone the film would have at times. There was a lot of sadness beneath the farce,  especally towards the end. There was plenty of nostalgia for people, places and the last remains of humanity in people. This change in tone may not be to everyone’s taste but I think it helped give depth to the film.

I don’t know how this compares to other Wes Anderson movies but if they are as enjoyable as this one I look forward to watching more.

Rating 4/5 – a fine place to start my introduction to Wes Anderson

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Veronica Mars

Yeah! The Veronica Mars movie is finally here! The name Veronica Mars probably won’t mean much to some of you, but Veronica Mars was a great US tv show about a teen detective back in 2004 (It’s a lot better than that sounds). While it wasn’t a huge hit the show had a devoted following (who call themselves marshmallows). So when the show’s creator Rob Thomas and it’s star Kristen Bell set up a fundraising campagne through Kickstarter they urged fans to help raise the 2 million dollars needed to bring the show to the big screen. It’s fans donated the money-and this is the resulting film! But was this a good idea, or should some shows remain in the past?

Nine years after the events of the third season, Veronica Mars left her hometown of Neptune, California and came to New York. There she left her life of investigating behind, is in a stable relationship and is about to be offered a huge job at a law firm. However when her ex boyfriend Logan Echolls is accussed of murder Veronica finds herself drawn back to Neptune.

Taking a tv show to the big screen can have mixed results, some can produce wonderful results (such as Firefly‘s big screen version Serenity), while other can be a massive mistake (I’m looking at you Sex and the City). Luckily Veronica Mars is in the former category, making a film that the fans will appreciate and devour. There is an intense mystery at the centre of this film which-of course- has plenty of twists and turns, still it is the script (funny and thrilling)and characters that really hold this film together.

Bell is a wonderful lead in the role that first got her noticed. She slips back into the role so easily and her character is so loveable and witty. However she is also flawed and plagued with her own uncertainties about whether she should return to Neptune-the place which holds many ghosts from her past and is still as corrupt as ever.

I’m glad that so many of the supporting cast came back for the film. Enrico Colantoni as Veroncia’s Private Detective father Keith Mars is fab and thankfully the film has maintained the great father-daughter dynamic that worked so well in the show. I’m also glad that Logan, Veronica’s bad boy ex, has got his act together and is more grounded than we’ve seen previously, yet he’s still full of sarcasm and an inate ability to find himself at the centre of any drama. Dohring and Bell still have their sizzling on-screen chemistry which no doubt many fans (including this one) will be happy about. I was also happy to see Veronica’s friends Wallace ( Percy Daggs  III) and Mac (Tina Majorino) back on screen.

Even if you haven’t watched the tv series I would stay say the Veronica Mars movie is a great way to introduce yourself to the inhabitants of Neptune (with a quick voiceover from Ms Mars herself at the beginning to ease viewers into the complex world of Mars and co). However this is a film first and foremost for the fans, so knowing all the little side-jokes and seeing recurring characters pop up is great to see. So if you like funny, smart shows with added mystery and likeable, complex characters then grab the movie and the tv series and indulge yourself in the murky world of Neptune.

Rating 4/5 -fans will be delighted and hopefully Veronica will gain some new ones too

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The Lego Movie

When I first heard that there was going to be a movie based on the popular toy Lego, this did not sound appealing to me at all. However the trailers for the movie actually looked quite good, funny even. So did The Lego Movie live up to the trailers or were my first impressions correct?

Emmett (Chris Pratt) is just an ordinary construction worker, living his life following the instructions set out by Lord Business (Will Farrell). That is until he accidentally finds the Piece of Resistance which becomes attached to his back. Suddenly Emmett finds himself in the centre of an adventure he never could imagine, and only he can fulfil the prophecy and stop Lord Business from his evil plan.

This film is a lot more fun than it has any right to be. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller seem to have a habit of making good movies out of unpromising material having manage to make 21 Jump Street a surprise critical and commercial success. Here, they’ve put a lot of effort into making a worthy story filled to the brim with jokes that children and adults will like. They obviously care about making this movie good rather than just calling-it-in like other directors may have done.

The voice actors are all great, everyone has been well casted in their roles. Will Arnett is fab as Batman (can he just be the new Batman instead of Ben Affleck?), and Liam Neeson is so much fun as Bad Cop/Good Cop. Special mention should also go to Chris Pratt who plays a good everyman as Emmett, and is also really funny.

The ending may be a bit divisive for some audience. Personally I liked it as it added an extra element to the film, but it also takes you out of the action for a bit which may annoy many people. Kids might also want to get a bit bored and want to get back to the adventure at hand.

Overall a good comedy that makes you nostalgic for the Lego sets you use to play with as a kid. Maybe I should take my Lego haunted castle back from my nephew…

Rating 3.5/5 – who knew a movie about Lego could be so much fun.

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The Vow (2012)

When The Vow was released in 2012 it was the seventh highest grossing romantic drama of all time, but it takes more than that to impress me. So does The Vow have what it takes to draw me in?

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are the perfect married couple, happily in love. Then they are in a car accident and Paige loses her memories for the past five years, including her whole relationship and marriage to Leo. Now Leo has to try to convince Paige that they were deeply in love and hopefully regain her memory.

First off I have to say if I woke up from an accident and the last five years of my life had been erased BUT on the other hand I was married to Channing Tatum, I wouldn’t be that upset. Or at least I could console myself in his lovely arms.

Anyway back to the film at hand. The beginning is very, very slushy, with flashbacks of Paige and Leo meeting, falling in love, and get married and blah, blah, blah. I was getting a bit bored. However the film picks up when Paige wakes up from her coma and thinks Leo is her doctor and not her husband (awkward!).

The film does well at showing Leo’s side of the story, how much he loves his wife and how heartbreaking it is that she doesn’t remember any of the moments they shared together. Perhaps too well as sometimes you feel like Paige is a massive bitch for rejecting poor Leo, even though realistically you couldn’t expect her to just fall straight back into a life she can’t recall.

The lead actors play their roles well. Tatum is sympathetic as the poor husband trying to get his wife to love him again, while McAdams handles the complex emotions her character goes through with aplomb. The rest of the cast is more underwritten. Sam Neill and Jessica Lange feel particularly underused as Paige’s rich parents who are – of course – not so keen on Leo. Although Lange does get a good emotionally charged scene with McAdams later in the film. It was also good to see Orphan Black‘s Tatina Maslany in a small role as Leo’s put upon employee and friend.

Slushy, romantic and although I did try to resist I fell for it’s charm in the end.

Rating 3.5/5 – A film for hardcore romantics only

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