Monthly Archives: August 2014

Lucy

Originally conceived with Angelina Jolie in mind, the latest science fiction action movie from Luc Besson comes with big expectations from the man who made Leon and The Fifth Element. But is Lucy a classic movie in the making?

After being tricked by her boyfriend into delivering a suitcase of drugs to a drug lord Mr Jang in Taiwan, American student Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced into being a drug mule. When she is kicked in the stomach by her captors the drugs sewn into her stomach start to leak into her system. But this isn’t regular recreational drugs Lucy is carrying but a new synthetic drug that enables Lucy to unlock previously untapped areas of her brian. As she starts to reach her brain’s 100% potential she has to struggle to stay alive while fighting the vengeful Mr Jang.

There is a lot of things going on in Lucy. It’s ambition and scope is admirable. Besson clearly wants this to be above the average action/ thriller throwing in long narration from Morgan Freeman on science and  philosophy with clips of the first woman among others. The problem is I got the feeling that if it Besson had taken away the science babble and focussed on making a more straight-forward kick-ass thriller then he would have produced a film that was more satisfying. It’s not that I want all my movies to be dumbed down but it felt like the film was trying to say something profound and fell rather short. It was actually distracting from the main story of Lucy developing these amazing powers as her mind expands. At times it reminded me a lot like Limitless, except a lot less fun.

Not that there isn’t good things to enjoy in Lucy. Scarlett Johansson is strong as Lucy and makes a believable action heroine just like we’ve seen her as Black Widow. She manages to show Lucy’s vulnerable side at the start of the film and make her a sympathetic character that the audience engages with. It’s a shame that as a side effect of unleashing her brian’s potential Lucy becomes less human, less emotional and more a robotic, god-like humanoid. The scenes where she is calling her mother on the phone and crying about how she remembers being a baby in her arms is quite affecting. However this is soon replaced with a blank faced expression that stays for most of the film. It’s a shame the film couldn’t have focused more on the emotional toll these new abilities were affecting Lucy rather than shutting off her emotional side completely.

We are also treated to some great action sequences such as car chase across Paris with Lucy controlling the other cars, and numerous fight scenes where Lucy gets to use all her powers against her enemies. The film also looks stunning with Besson showing he still has an eye for a great looking movie.

All in all Lucy is a good enough movie and definitely an interesting watch. But perhaps Besson’a ambition got in the way of a what could have been a great action/thriller. The ending in particular goes off into a weird direction. However a film as divisive as this will probably find a devoted fan base.

Rating 3/5 – bold, different but unfortunately not completely satisfying

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Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

There’s probably not many films that claim to be based on a magazine ad but that is indeed what inspired this quirky indie movie. Safety Not Guaranteed won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2012 Sundance Film festival. But will I be as easily impressed?

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a dissatisfied college graduate interning at Seattle Magazine. That changes when one of the writer’s at the magazine Jeff (Jake Johnson) finds a classified ad that reads: “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” As Darius joins the team to investigate the mysterious writer she gets a lot more than she bargains for.

Part comedy, part odd romance, Safety Not Guaranteed is certainly different and in a good way. As we follow Darius and her team as they investigate the writer of the ad Kenneth (Mark Duplass), we too are interested in learning more about this man. Is he crazy? Is he lying? Or can he really time travel?  To find out more by working undercover as a potential time travel companion Darius and Kenneth bond and talk about pass loss and disappointments. Their growing connection is touching and you really start to care for these characters even though there’s a suspicion that Kenneth may have darker motives at play. As the movie continues on you end up caring more about whether they get together than if Kenneth can really time travel, although luckily we do get answers at the end of this film as if it would have been really annoying to leave things open-ended.

A lot of the comedy comes from the tasks and escapades that Kenneth puts Darius through to see if she is worthy of travelling back in time. Her colleagues Jeff and Arnau (Karan Sori) also provide plenty of laughs and also nice character moments as they also learn a few things about themselves during the trip.

It may not be right for everyone, it’s more focused on characters and smart dialogue then with lots of action and actual time travel, but I thought it was a great movie and I hope more people get round to watching it.

Rating 4/5 – if you’re looking for a smart and heartfelt comedy with a difference this could be the right movie for you

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The Inbetweeners 2

It was a risk to take a popular and critically acclaimed British comedy series and turn it into one movie, never mind two. But following the success of The Inbetweeners Movie comes this sequel which is meant to be the final outing for our less than fantastic four. But should the creators turned directors Damon Beesley and Iain Morris have quit while they were ahead?

Since the last film the boys have gone their different ways. Will (Simon Bird) is as unpopular as ever at Uni, Simon (Joe Thomas) changed Uni to be closer to his girlfriend Lucy (Tamla Kari) but now wants to dump her, hapless Neil (Blake Harrison) is working in a bank and Jay (James Buckley) is living in Australia with his uncle. After hearing Jay’s endless boasts about his time in Australia the friends decide to visit him down under. Except maybe Jay hasn’t been too honest about his extravagant lifestyle.

I don’t know how much of the humour translates outside of the UK. A US version of the tv show tanked in the US which isn’t surprising because The Inbetweeners always felt like a throughly British show. Rather than giving us the glitzy, glamorous feel of American teen shows , The Inbetweeners perfectly captured the awkward and pathetically dull parts of teenage life.

And while it has to be said that this sequel  isn’t as consistently funny as the first movie,it still manages to provide plenty of laughs. When the guys end up stranded in the outback it ends up being one of the funniest set-pieces The Inbetweeners have ever done. The other stand out moment is Will’s cringe-worthy rendition of The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face to his old school friend Katie (Emily Berrington). I’ll never be able to hear this song in the same way again.

The actors are all excellent in their roles, having played them for so long and still look believable as teenagers even though some of them are nearing 30 in real life. It’s hard to pick a favourite out of the guys although I do have a soft spot for the foul-mouthed Jay.

While the Inbetweeners are the same loveable -if slightly disgusting-characters as they were in the tv series and the first film its a shame that their love interests have taken a bit of a downward turn. The love interests from the first movie have either been eradicated (Alison and Lisa), marginalised (Jane) or made bat-shit crazy like poor Lucy-although Kari is funny as a possessive jealous girlfriend. The main female for the second movie Katie is just portrayed as a hippy, tease which is a bit disapointing.

There was also a sequence at a water park which made me want to vomit rather than laugh, although it must be said everyone else in the cinema was amused. Perhaps it was just too much toilet humour for me.

The reality is if you’re a fan of The Inbetweeners and you loved the previous outings you will probably find this hilarious. It may not provide anything earth-shatteringly new but it’s reliably funny and ends the series while still on a high.

Rating 3.5/5 – it may be the last of the Inbetweeners but they definately won’t go out with a whimper

 

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Captain Phillips

The director who gave us the superior sequels to the Bourne films Paul Greengrass teams up with Tom Hanks for his latest thriller. Based on a true story of a container ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates Greengrass’ film was nominated for several awards, but can it impress me?

Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is in command of the MV Maersk Alabama making its way to Mombasa when Somali pirates try to board his ship. Initially the pirates fail in their task but when they returned undeterred Captain Phillips will have to use all his wits to stop them taking his ship.

From his previous work we know Greengrass can make a good thriller, and Captain Phillips is no exception. The film starts off with a slow game of cat and mouse seeing both the crew of the Alabama ship and the Somali pirates start their journey and relay the mission to their crews. Despite the Somali pirates being in small skiffs they are still a threat to the much larger container ship as they prove as they approach the Alabama. Showing both sides of this story is key to why this film works. Captain Phillips and his crew are technically our protagonist but the Somalis are not the boo-hiss villains that they would normally be. We see Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) put together his crew of three and prepare for their journey. If they don’t their village will be in trouble with the local warlords. They are not just faceless criminals and seeing their efforts to get to the container ship is impressive. At times I felt torn between the two crews as I didn’t want the Alabama to get hijacked but at the same time it was exciting to see the smaller Skiff beat the odds to get to their goal.

A big part to bringing gravitas to the Somali pirates stories is newcomer Abdi. He brings depth and layers as the captain of his small crew. His desperation to succeed in his task matches Phillips’ determination to make sure he doesn’t. The problem is that only one of these men will win in the end and neither of them can afford to make a wrong move. It’s tough to put a newcomer against Hanks and feel as though he owns the scene as much as Hanks does but Abdi manages it. I’m not surprised Abdi won a Bafta for this intense role.

If there are faults to this movie it’s that while the movie is tense and exciting while watching the pirates trying to catch and board the ship, then hunting for the crew when they do get on board, some of the tension is lost when it Phillips is taken hostage on a lifeboat. Although there is a claustrophobic thrill to the scenes of the lifeboat, switching back and forth between the lifeboat and the scenes with the Navy attempting a rescue loses the momentum somewhat. It also a bit too long for me.

Still for a grown up and exhilarating thriller Captain Phillips is hard to beat.

Rating 4/5 – this is a smart and powerful movie for those with summer blockbuster fatigue

 

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Goodbye Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall

What a week it’s been. First on August 11 2014 the talented comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide aged 63. Then on August 12, screen legend Lauren Bacall died from a stoke at the age of 89.

Williams fetaured in so many memorbale films it would be difficult to mention them all. His role in Dead Poet’s Society brought me to tears, The Birdcage and Mrs Doubtfire made me laugh out loud and Insomnia brought out a new side to the actor in an unsual villian role. Then there’s all his roles in family friendly films such as Aladdin, Jumanji and Hook. Perhaps one of his most memorable movies for me is Good Will Hunting. As the therapist to Matt Damon’s character, he was given a great dramatic role that won him an Oscar (and on a personal note this was also the first film I saw in the cinema that was rated 15 and I was only 13 at the time-what a rebel!).

Bacall was one of the last living icons from Hollywood’s golden age. I was actually named after her (if it wasn’t for Lauren Bacall I would have been named Clementine). With fantastic roles in How To Marry a Millionaire and The Big Sleep she proved herself to be a Hollywood legend. Perhaps Bacall’s most iconic role was her debut in To Have and Have Not opposite her future husband Humphrey Bogart. Effortlessly cool and filled with more class in her little finger than most modern starlets have in their entire bodies, they don’t make actresses like Bacall anymore.

Whatever the circumstances of their deaths, the screen will be a sadder place without them and both will be greatly missed.

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Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: The Lady Vanishes (1938) – My Kind of Movie

I took part in Zoe and Rob’s Alfred Hitchock Blogathon. Check out my review on The Lady Vanishes and have a look at the other entries in the Blogathon.

The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

hitchcock

Lauren from My Kind of Movie joins us today, thank you so much Lauren!the lady vanishes

Suspense! Intrigue! Espionage! Sounds like most of Alfred Hitchcock films, except the action takes place on a train!

Starting at a hotel set in the country of Bandrika, “one of Europe’s few undiscovered corners” (in other words completely made up), we are introduced to the main characters of the films, including main protagonist Iris (Margaret Lockwood), a snobby privilege girl. At the hotel she meets among others, Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), a former governess. Later after hitting her head at the train station, she is looked after again by Miss Froy and they strike up a friendship. However when Miss Froy later disappears, Iris desperately tries to find her, only to have the rest of the train tell her that Miss Froy never existed!

This comedy thriller based on the novel The Wheel Spins by…

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Delivery Man (2013)

Vince Vaughn hasn’t had a huge smash hit for a while. Can a remake of a Canadian comedy Starbucks, which in turn was inspired by a true story provide him with a huge hit?

David’s (Vince Vaughn) life is a mess. He’s an unreliable delivery man for his father’s butcher shop, his girlfriend reveals she’s pregnant and she doesn’t know if he will be there for her and he’s in debt to some men who want to break his legs if he doesn’t pay the money back. He then find outs from a sperm bank he donated to in his youth that he is the father of 533 children and that 142 of them are filing a lawsuit to find out the identity of their father. Although he wants to remain anonymous he can’t help but be interested about the children he fathered and slowly begins to seek them out without revealing his identity to them.

Delivery Man is by no means a perfect comedy. The failings of which I will go into later. But there are some moments in Delivery Man which are surprisingly sweet and yes, even funny.

The funniest bits in Delivery Man is Chris Pratt as David’s lawyer Brett. Uncensored in his opinions of fatherhood and David’s ability to be a father he has most of best lines and has a great comedic touch. This really is no surprise now considering he’s been a big part of the success of The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, both of which has Pratt using his humour in a leading role. In the supporting role he manages to stand out against leading man Vaughn. The young actors playing some of David’s children are also good, you empathise with their journey to know their father and see David be a better man through his interaction with them (although they don’t know who he is).

Delivery Man is easy watching and will provide some laughs but it doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a laugh out loud comedy about a man with 533 children, or drama about a man who has fathered 533 children? It tries to be both but it feels like it tries to hard to balance the two parts. One of his children (Britt Robertson) has an overdose which seems like it will be a major plot later on but then is dropped without much follow-up or consequences of David’s actions. Although Vaughn is capable enough in the role it’s not really stretching him. The film follows the adult-child-learning-to-be-a-man-and-a-father cliché and doesn’t really offer anything new. Still at least Vaughn gets to show more sides of his character than poor Cobie Smulders as David’s put upon girlfriend Emma. She seems to be there just to look disappointed in David, annoyed at David and slightly less annoyed at David. Smulders looks like she’s counting down the days til she can back to the next Avengers movie. The ending also has everything wrapped up way too quickly whereas you would expect more of a backlash against David, and his money problems are so easily resolved you wonder why he didn’t do that in the first place.

Rating  3/5 – by no means perfect, but amusing enough and has a great supporting role from Chris Pratt

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