Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bad Neighbours (2014)

Everybody needs good neighbours hey? Except we often don’t get a choice about who moves in next door to us and in the new comedy Bad Neighbours (released as Neighbours in the US) we see what happens when a normal couple get lumbered with the neighbours from hell.

Married couple Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) have a newborn baby and are struggling to adjust to being responsible adults while their friends are still out enjoying their wild social lives. When a frat house move in next door with all night parties and endless noise, a bitter war between the neighbours soon start to escalate.

Maybe it’s because I have experienced noisy neighbours in the past that I completely sympathised with the main couple’s plight as their new neighbours keep them up all night with their loud antics. It also helps that Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne are a likeable if also flawed couple who are capable of being just as immature as the frat boys. The film isn’t afraid to show their main characters being less than perfect and both sides are shown to take things too far in the battle for the street.

I was glad to see that for once the main female protagonist wasn’t stuck playing the nagging wife role. Instead Kelly is a co-conspirator in the couple’s quest to get the Frat House evicted from their street and gives Byrne a chance to show off her comedic talents. In fact the whole cast put their all into this comedy. The frat boys which include Zac Efron and Dave Franco manage to be crude, rude and in some places strangely likeable. Meanwhile Seth Rogan takes on a lot of the physical comedy that the characters find themselves in and is rewarded for his efforts with plenty of laugh out loud moments.

It’s a shame that like so many films these days the  best jokes are spoiled in the trailers. Some audiences may also find some of the humour can be juvenile at times. While it may not be a classic comedy, it does provide plenty of laughs and leads that you can really root for.

Rating 3.5/5 – a funny,rude and enjoyable comedy

Advertisements

14 Comments

Filed under Reviews

To Rome With Love (2012)

Woody Allen continues to look outside New York for his latest movies. This offering from 2012 sees Allen in Rome with an ensambled cast in a mixture of comedy, romance and a bit of magical realism.

The film focuses on four different stories. One about an American theatre director (Woody Allen) whose finds his future son in law’s father (Fabio Armiliato) is a talented opera singer, but who could only sing in one particular circumstance. The second focuses on a young newley-wed Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) who wants his wife Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) to make a good impression on his relatives. The third is about a clerk Leopoldo (Robert Benigni) who is amazed to find himself an instant clebrity overnight. While the fourth sees an architect John (Alec Baldwin) wonder around his old neighbourhood and meets Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who is possibly a younger version of himself, and appears to Jack at odd moments offering insights and warnings about his love life.

This is an uneven movie that suffers from having four stories that differ in quality. So while some are funny and engaging others a bit dull or go on way too long. The best story focuses on Baldwin’s John, who inexplicitly appears in Jack’s life and speaks to Jack and sometimes his girlfriends with observations on whats going on. Jack is torn between two women, devoted girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and her seductive best friend Monica (Ellen Page). Even though it’s obvious to the audience and John that Monica is a pretentious fraud, Jack gets drawn further and further into her web. Baldwin has fun as he makes snide comments at Monica and tries, in vain, to save Jack from his enevitable fate. Page also has fun playing a character thats is so self-obsessed while trying to appear intellegent and knowledgeable.

The next best is the story with Woody Allen. Yes Allen plays again a nurotic American, but he’s got this rotuine down well by now so it’s fun so see. It starts off with a culture clash of two future in-laws meeting each other and then changes into Allen trying trying to make a star out of his future in-law. There are some sterotypes in both sets of family but the jokes are funny enough to move past these failings.

Things start to get less funny with the newley-weds story. There are some amusing moments as bride Milly gets lost in Rome and Antonio is forced to take a prostitute (it makes sense in context) to meet his aunts and uncles. Penelope Cruz as the prostitue is very funny but the storyline soon looses momentum as it progresses.

The worst of the four is the clerk who finds himself a celebrity overnight. This is obviously meant to be a comment on people who are famous for doing nothing, but it is a one joke section, and the joke wears very thin very easily. It also bludgeons you over the head with it’s moral outrage that stops you from caring about the clerk’s plight.It also does not help that he is isn’t a very likeable character. In fact most of the characters in all the stories are not sympathetic and a lot of them, especially the women are heavily stereotyped.

Perhaps if Allen had focused on just one story than four this film would have had more fleshed out characters and been a funnier movie. As it stands it’s an uneven film which doesn’t leave with much of a lasting impression. Although it does serve as a great advertisement for the city of Rome, as it looks stunning.

Rating 2/5 – a mixed bag of stories which although it has it’s moments, leaves you with a rather average movie

6 Comments

Filed under Reviews

We Are What We Are (2013)

The family that eats together stays together, or so the saying goes. Although if said family is the Parker clan a lot can be said for eating take away up in your room.

After the matriarch of the Parker clan dies suddenly, daughters Rose (Julia Garner) and Iris (Ambyr Childers) struggle to step up to their new responsibilities. Especially as the duty of preparing their annual traditional meal falls on eldest daughter Iris. You see the family have a particularly strange diet, one which the local police would be very interested in.

I haven’t seen the original  2010 Mexican movie that this film is based on, but this remake seems to stand up pretty well on its own. From the dreary, rain-soaked opening where Mrs Parker meets her end to the creepy, lifeless house that the family live in the setting is creepy and full of dread. We are given hints as to what the family’s secret rituals are but even though it’s clear early on what the special ingredient in their yearly meal is, it’s still nerve-wracking to watch the moment where Iris has to face up to her new responsibilities.

Poor put upon daughters Rose and Iris are sympathetic characters and you feel the plight as they struggle with their moral repulsion of their new duties versus the wrath of their religious father if they don’t do as instructed. Bill Sage is great as the violent and controlling father who also knows how to kill the mood when his daughter Iris gets a bit too close to a cop.

While the film is appropriately creepy and there is plenty of gory moments involved it is a bit predictable.  The final denouement also goes a bit over the top and some set-pieces end up a bit silly which sort of undermines the tension set out before it. It also includes one of my least favourite horror cliché where someone has overpowered the villain and leaves him but don’t check to make sure he’s dead!

Still there’s good acting and enough creepiness to make this a worthwhile horror to check out.

Rating 3/5 – a creepy little horror movie that’s best not to watch whilst eating your dinner.

8 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Godzilla (2014)

When I first heard that another Godzilla movie was being made my initial interest was zero. My interest piqued a little when I heard Gareth Edwards was going to directed it. I was impressed with Edwards first feature M0nsters and I was hopeful about what he could do with a huge budget to spend. Then when I saw the first trailer  for Godzilla I was properly excited. Would this be the film to finally cast aside all thoughts of the 1998 Godzilla movie?

Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a soldier finally back home on leave to see his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son. However his leave is disrupted by his father Joe (Bryan Cranston). Joe is convinced that the Japanese authorities are hiding the real reason for a catastrophe at the Janjira nuclear plant which killed his wife 15 years ago. Joe and Ford’s investigation leads towards something much bigger than they ever could have expected.

I have so many mixed feelings about this movie. I don’t know if I was being particularly thick during this movie but there were large periods I was getting very confused about what was going on. I also got really annoyed at the terrible dumb-ass decisions the army makes to solve their problems. Considering I didn’t understand half the time what was going on even if I knew they were making a bad move.

The film starts off exciting with the incident at the Janjira nuclear plant in 1999, and whenever the creature would come and cause destruction the movie was really enthralling. But there were plenty of scenes in between when I was just bored and wanted to get back to the action. There was also a point where a major character died and instead of feeling shocked it was more a case of “oh are they dead?”

The human characters also fell flat. Aaron Taylor-Johnson makes for likeable hero (even if he is saddled with a boring distant father-son back story with Cranston). But the rest make for dull characters. It’s a shame to have got such a great supporting cast and for them to be wasted like this. Elizabeth Olsen plays the devoted wife and mother and looks scared at lot. And that’s about it. Oh and she’s a nurse. Ken Watanabe is left sprouting lots of exposition and looking serious. Sally Hawkins bares even worse given hardly anything worthwhile to do.

Where this film excels in is its realisation of Godzilla. There’s so much build up, so much hype and when you see him it doesn’t disappoint. The team behind creating such a creature really must be applauded. He is breathtaking and seeing him fighting, and destroying cities is just brilliant to watch. However we didn’t see him nearly enough, the movie is called Godzilla yet sometimes he felt like a side character in his own movie.

Edwards seems to fare better when it comes to the creatures he has created for the screen but the human side and the story needs more work. However he’s showed us he can work well with the Hollywood big boys, on his next movie he needs to do like his title character and smash it.

Rating 3/5 -dull characters and story, however Godzilla is a perfectly realised creation

16 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Paris is a wonderful, cultured city and in Woody Allen’s 2011 film it’s literally magical.

Screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) are on holiday in Paris with Inez’s family. When Gil goes for a walk around Paris at midnight he finds himself back in 1920’s Paris  meeting novelists and other creative figures from the era. Soon Gill is taking nightly walks back into the 1920’s while Inez’s family grow infuriated with Gil’s secrecy.

The film is about nostalgia and living in the past. Wilson’s Gill enjoys the 1920’s so much he might miss out on what is happening in his present, and right under his nose. Yet it’s easy to see why he’s so enamoured by the past where he’s viewing the creativity and passion of those around him. Compared to his successful but dreary life as a Hollywood screenwriter he feels inspired by their presence of such figures from the past with such creative freedom. The premise also gives plenty of opportunities for cameos for such figures as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston)  and Gertrude Sten (Kathy Bates). There’s also another great supporting turn from Michael Sheen as the condescending friend of Inez.

On the downside this film is probably best enjoyed if you know your 1920’s writers and artists. Some of the figures I recognised but some of the in-jokes flew right over my head. It may find itself alienating some viewers. Also I know Inez and Gil are meant to be a couple that are obviously unsuitable for each other but they have such different opinions on everything that it’s hard to believe they would have been a couple in the first place. Inez’s parents also come across as caricatures rather than real characters.

What holds this film together is Owen Wilson, he makes a likable lead that is perhaps a bit too obsessed with the past. He makes it easy for us to believe in the set-up and to enjoy the film in general. It’s a gentle and pleasing movie that isn’t too demanding on your time or your mind.

Rating 3/5 – Charming and easy watching but not necessarily essential viewing.

11 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Daniel Radcliffe is still on his mission to shake off his Harry Potter persona. Playing Beat poet Allen Ginsberg is his biggest challenge yet but will he succeed?

In 1940’s New York, Columbia  freshman Allen Ginsberg meets rebellious student Lucian Carr (Dane DeHaan). Carr in turn introduces Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac (Jack Houston) and William S Burroughs (Ben Foster), who would go on with Ginsberg to be part of the “Beat Generation”. However between drinking, drug-taking and writing poetry the group end up involved in a murder.

There’s a good story in the origins of the “Beat Generation” unfortunately this isn’t it. The groundwork is there and it all feels like it’s building up to a dramatic climax and yet it all falls rather flat.

It almost feels like Kill Your Darlings is falling victim to the very thing the Beat Poets were trying to avoid. Ginsberg and co talk about being creative and letting go of tradition yet the film seems afraid to take any risks. So what we are left with as a well-told but ultimately emotionless film. Yes it’s well made and the acting isn’t bad but we are seeing the creation of the beat movement, so why does most of the film feel so uninspired?

If the film has one redeeming feature it’s Dane DeHann as Lucian Carr. Amid a so-so film he stands out as the charismatic but manipulative student, showing again why DeHann is currently getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately he also puts Radcliffe in the shade. Radcliffe isn’t bad but I’ve yet to be completely convinced by him in another role outside Harry Potter. Hopefully he’ll find a grown-up role that suits him but Kill Your Darlings isn’t it.

Rating 2.5/5 – DeHann is excellent, the rest of the film is average

6 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Should There Be More Women in Star Wars?

I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on Star Wars. I like The Empire Strikes Back, and of course I think Han Solo is cool. But I’ve never been hugely interested in the Star Wars franchise. However you would have to be stuck in a cave not to hear all the latest rumblings about the new Star Wars trilogy.

I have to say that I was happily surprised when I  heard the new cast announcement. I always like seeing Brits do well in Hollywood so was pleased to hear that Donhall Gleeson (About Time) and John Boyega (Attack The Block) had been cast alongside Indie stars Adam Driver (Girls, Frances Ha) and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) . Then I heard there were one controversial member of the cast-Daisy Ridley. She’s not controversial in herself but her casting has lead some critics to cry out-why is there only one new female cast member added to the franchise?

As I mentioned I’m not any kind of expert on Star Wars so I can’t say whether their representation of women is great or not, but I remember liking the character of Leila (although I’ve never watched Return of The Jedi where she’s reportedly reduced to a bikini wearing slave). Does it matter if there is only one woman cast in the film as long as the characters is a good addition? After all people remember and love Leila.  Then I saw an article which asked people to state Leila’s full name. I racked my brain for the answer. After all everyone knows Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kanobi, Darth Vader etc, but I could not think of what Leila’s was (and I’m guessing “Princess Leila” doesn’t count).

Apparently it’s  Organa. Catchy.

Does it really matter if no one can remember her last name? Maybe not, but it’s interesting that everyone always calls her Princess Leila as though that is the only title of interest. Is that because we are obsessed with Princesses?

I think Leila is a strong enough character even without a memorable surname but it does leave you thinking about women in the Star Wars world. The only really notable woman in the last trilogy was Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala. Now I think Portman is great but Padme was so dull. It didn’t help that she seemed to have no chemistry with Anakin Skywalker.

So the world will be looking at Daisy Ridley to see where her character will stand in this debate. There are also rumours that another substantial female role is yet to be announced so maybe the critics are being a bit hasty with their criticism?

So what do you think? Is the lack of females in Star Wars a big deal? Is JJ Abrams the right man to bring us another Leila rather than a Padma? Is it significant that no one can remember Leila’s last name? Or are you just fed up of people talking about women in Star Wars? Leave your comments below.

4 Comments

Filed under Opinion