Monthly Archives: February 2016

How to be Single

How to be Single Poster

Based on the best-selling book by Liz Tuccillo (the co-author of the self-help book turn movie) He’s Just Not That Into You) How To Be Single feature a post Fifty Shades Dakota Johnson and post Pitch Perfect Revel Wilson. But can they bring the box office success if their previous films to this rom-com?

College graduate Alice (Johnson) is taking a break from her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) to move to New York City. There she meets Robin (Wilson) who teaches her the ways of being single. Meanwhile Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann) contemplates having a baby and dating a younger man Ken (Jake Lacy). Then there’s also determined singleton Lucy (Alison Brie) who’s scouring various internet dating sites for Mr. Right.

It’s not going to break the mold of rom com’s or even box office records but How To Be Single does have enough charm and humor to find an audience. Johnson makes a likeable enough lead although she doesn’t sparkle as much as she did in edgier fare such as A Bigger Slash. My interest in her romantic storylines did sag in the middle. More successful is Alice’s interactions with best buds Robin. Wilson’s Robin is essentially an even rudder Fat Amy. But even though it’s basically the same role as the one that made her famous Wilson still nails it.

I probably found Meg’s storyline the most satisfying as it had the right amount screen time to develop her character with her quest to become a mother and her cute fledging romance with Ken. I felt Brie was underused as Lucy, who was not a greatly developed character. But Brie still manages to make her scenes amusing especially with hot barman Tom (Anders Holms) on the scene. At times it even seems Tom is more of a main character than Lucy.

Sometimes the film can’t decide if it wants to subvert the rom com clichés or embrace them leaving a mixed end result all round. But it’s still a fun, girlie movie and a perfect antidote to all the macho movies of late.
Rating 3.5/5 – an amusing movie with a likeable cast



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A Bigger Splash


I’ve been complaining recently in some of my posts that I’m sick of movies featuring winter and snow. So thank the lord for A Bigger Splash which is set in summertime Italy. But will the warmer setting be the only bright spot?

Rock star Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) are enjoying a holiday in Italy as Marianne recovers from surgery on her throat. However their quiet holiday is thrown into chaos when an old friend (and ex lover of Marianne) Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) arrive unexpectedly.

I was worried that this movie would be a pretentious story about rich people on holiday moaning, however this feeling was largely subsided as the film started. I found the dynamics of the four characters really interesting as the various relationship develops while resentment and conflicts deepens.

Throughout the movie your eyes are completely drawn to Finnes, no matter what else is going on in the scenes. His Harry is a whirwind of energy and is a mixture of the best holiday companion and the worst. Finnes physicality is great, the scenes of Harry dancing about to music is one of the best scenes of the film-even though it’s simple, it just sets up his character so much. His love for music and how he’s a whirlwind of desire and passion. Swinton is also mesmarising, able to convey her emotions even though her character can barely speak above a whispher. Johnson is also impressive as the sensual Penelope. I found her to be the most intreaging character as I was never quite sure what she was thinking or what her motives were. Schoenaerts’ Paul is the weakest of the four and the least interetsing. But the four work well together in their different dynamics.

The film works best when the story is simple and the scenes are just of the characters conversing with underlying tension. As the movie tries to force the plot and add a dramatic moment the film becomes less engaging in it’s final act.

Rating 3.5/5 – a finely crafted drama-thriller that loses it’s way in the last third of the movie


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The film that no studio wanted to make  turns out to be the film that everyone wanted to see as Deadpool exploded into cinema over the Valentine Day weekend. It’s now broken some box office records, which considering it was made on a comparitively smaller budget than most superhero movies is even more impressive. So the ultra violent, meta-joking anti-hero is winning fans all over, but can it break the fourth wall and into my heart?

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary in New York who suddenly finds out he has terminal cancer. Hoping an experiement can cure him he is instead subjected to torture and, eventually new super powers. However he is horribly scarred all over and his mental wellbeing is slightly off. So Wade decides to suit up and hunt down the man who did this to him for revenge.

What’s striking about Deadpool is that it’s obviously made by people who love and respect the source material. Leading man Reynolds has spent over a decade trying to get this movie made and that determination pays off here. Deadpool is as violent, funny and outrageous as I hoped it would be. I can’t say I’ve read a Deadpool comic but my friend who is a devoted fan has said the movie is pretty faithful to the spirit of Deadpool. Director Tim Miller has not bowed to any pressure to make it a more traditional superhero film and the result is a fun filled, extreamly bloody movie filled with plenty of nudity and swearing. Maybe not one to take your Avengers’ loving small children to.

In the amusing opening credit the cast is listed under such names as ‘Some Hot Chick’ and ‘A CGI character’ rather than their real names. While they may be listed under their cliches all the cast are in on the game. Reynolds is pefect in the role and looks like he is having a riot playing Wade/Deadpool. He’s perfectly matched by Morena Baccarin a his love interest Vanessa whose almost as foul mouthed and outragous as he is. I also enjoed the two X-Men we get to see Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and especially, Negosonic Teenage Warhead(Brianna Hilderbrand). Meanwhile the writers are credited as the true heroes. It would be hard to argue with that assessment as they bring so many fresh ideas and jokes while making the characters, especially Deadpool, ones to root for and root against.

The only negative I can think of is that the plot is rather formualic, but when it’s told in such an original way who cares right?

Rating 4/5 – a hilarious and violent alternative to your usual Marvel movies


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It’s that time again, more Award-baiting films in the run up to the Oscars. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is one of the favourites for the win, but will it light up my life?

In 2001 Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is hired as the new editor of The Boston Globe. One of his first moves is to have the investigation team Spotlight (Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James) look into child abuse cases carried out by a priest which the church did nothing to prevent. As the Spotlight team look further into it they realise that the abuse is much more widespread and serious than they ever imagine.

Given the heavy subject matter it would have been easy for this film to have been sentimental and cliched. However Spotlight is noticable for it’s restraint. Thats not to say there isn’t the occassional impassioned speech but Spotlight is a grown up movie, more intent on telling the story and trusting it’s audience doesn’t have to have any heavy handedness or clichéd baddies to be told THIS IS BAD.

As the investigation becomes bigger the film doesn’t shy away from the fact it’s not just the church that been covering things up. Many others were either actively involved in the cover up or dismissed earlier claims for different reasons, and the Boston Globe itself is also put under scrutiny for not investigating earlier. As Stanley Tucci’s lawyer Mitchell states “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.” That it took an outsider to push them into investigating is also a sobering thought for the protagonists.

It would also have been easy for it’s cast to give overwrought and over the top performances, Ruffalo’s journalist Michael most particularly given the character’s quirks, but they trust in the script and the story. It is so strong they don’t have to live in heightened emotions. The film also largely stays away from the characters’ personal lives and concentrating on the meat of the story.

It may not be as epic in scale as The Revenant however I think Spotlight will stay with me longer and wish it well on Oscar night.

Rating 4/5 – a thought provoking and sobering look into investigative journalism at it’s best



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Still Alice (2014)


A movie about Alzheimers doesn’t seem like it would set Hollywood alight. But last year Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in drama Still Alice. But is the film itself a memorable piece of work?

Alice (Julianne Moore) a linguistics professor at Columbia Univeristy is dianosied with a rare Alzhimers disease at the age of 50. As she struggles to deal with the changes in her life, her husband John (Alec Baldwin) and her three children (Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish and Kristen Stewart) also have to adapt.

This is one of those films where it’s all about the performance. The film lives or dies by the central performance of Alice. In lesser hands the role could be overly-sentimental or melodramatic. However Moore makes Alice a believeable, sympathetic and three dimensional character. She brings to life Alice’s struggle, that not only is she losing her words and her memory, she is losing her identity, her intellect and her independance. Seeing Alice’s decline to the disease is heartbreaking, even more so when you remember that this is not a rare occurance and is something people suffer from everyday, though rarely as early as Alice.

The film’s co directors and writers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland keep a potentially overwhelmingly sad story and keep it simple and restrianed. There’s emotions here, but no hysterics. With Glatzer having suffered from ALS during the making of the movie (and sadly died of complictaions of ALS in March 2015), it’s more than likely the directors were consious of making a more honest movie and tried to avoid more obvious cliches.

While the rest of the supporting cast are fine they struggle to be as rounded characters as Alice, only Kristen Stewart as the youngest daughter Lydia manages to bring weight and depth to her role. However this movie is really all about Moore, proving why after four Academy Award Nominations it was fifth time lucky for the talented Julianne Moore.

Rating 4/5 – sad, emotional and a great performance from Julianne Moore




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The Revenant


It’s only a couple of weeks until the Oscars now, and I finally get round to seeing one of the frontrunners-The Revenant. But after Alejandro G. Inarritu’s last film Birdman won Best Director and Best Picture can Inarritu possibly strike gold again a year later?

In 1823 a group of trappers are left stranded after an ambush by a Native American party. As they try to head back to safety hunter Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is badly mauled by a bear. While the majority of the group go onhead for help, John Fitzgerald -one of the men left to look after him- manipulates events to leave Glass half burried in a man made grave. Barely alive and heavily injured Glass must survive on his wits and his will for revenge to make it back.

This is a movie based on real events, and it’s an impressive story of one man’s struggle to survive against the odds. Battling aginst nature, animals and other men, Inarritu immerses you into Glass’ journey. You feel the brutal coldness of the wildlife and the harshness of the elements. Sometimes the movie feels like an endurance, which is probably exactly how Inarritu intended The Revenant to be.

There are impressive set peieces such as the attack on the trappers by the Native Americans at the beginning of the movie and the bear attack attack on Glass. The make up on display here is amazing, all of Glass’ injruies are shown in glory, bloody detail, if it wasn’t based on a true story you would think Hollywood was getting too ridiculous in it’s fight for survival stories. DiCaprio makes a strong bid for his long awaited Oscar for Best Actor, although I think his turn in The Wolf of Wall Street is still his most impressive performance. In supporting roles Tom Hardy is good but I was more impressed by Will Poulter as the conflicted, naive Jim Bridger.

However much I like The Revenant, I left feeling as though it was more a film to admire rather than love. Inarritu is a great director but as one of the front runners for Best Picture at the Oscars I feel The Big Short and Room are more deserving of the big win out of all the films I’ve seen so far. The beginning is great and so is the bear attack and the majority of Glass’ journey, but the film is 156 mins long and you really start to feel this in the second half of the movie. I was really intreaged by the subplot of the Arikara Native American party who is on their own search for revenge, but it ends up being a disapointment. And while I could suspend my disbeleief over Glass’ bear attack and recovering from being half buried alive (as these are based on real events), I was struggling more when Glass manages to survive gallaping off a cliff on a horse (the horse more realistically does not survive). There were also moments which I suspect were meant to be heartfelt and tear-jerking such as when Glass sees visions of his dead wife, but it ends up being more distracting and unintentionally funny.

Maybe this is what happens as a result of being the most hyped up movie of the Oscar season, by the time I got round to see The Revenant it was bound to be an uphill battle. Also after having seen The Hateful Eight, Everest and The Revenant in a space of a few weeks I’m getting a bit sick of movies set in the cold and the snow. Hopefully the next trend will be movies set in the Bahamas.

Rating 3.5/5 – stunning cinematography, direction and acting but way too long


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Rapid Review: Everest


Based on the real 1996 Mount Everest disaster, Everest tells the story of two rival expedition groups Adventure consultants, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Mountain Madness led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). As the two groups prepare to climb Everest they soon find that the climb will turn into a battle for survival.

There’s no doubt that Everest is a visually impressive movie and the cinematography is amazing. You can feel the cold coming through your screen and each frostbite looks realistic as hell. The performances by the cast is great. There is nothing outstandingly wrong with the movie.

Yet despite being a well made movie something is missing. The emotional punch of the lives lost don’t hit as heavily as they should. And as impressive as the film looks no doubt it’s impact is lessened by being reduced to the small screen. I also can’t help feel the story would have been served better as a documentary.

Rating 3/5 – a well made movie but struggles to be a truly great one


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The Big Short


The Oscar race is getting close and a new frontrunner has been found in Adam McKay’s comedy drama The Big Short. But can a movie about the 2008 recession possibly win best picture?

In 2005 Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager realises that the housing market is unstable and bets against it. His clients are irrate but a few groups of oddballs and outsiders hear about Burry’s theory and place their own bets. However over the next couple of years they realise the financial situation is much worse than they even imagined.

I admit I can get very confused when people try to explain how the housing crisis started. As much as I would like to understand it better I didn’t think a big Hollywood movie would give me the answers or if it did it wouldn’t be an entertaining film to watch. However The Big Shot not only manages to do this, it gives us quite possibly the film of the year (or technically the film of last year when it was released in the States).

If someone had said last year that the director of Anchorman would give us an intelligent, well made and funny film about the recession I would think you were as crazy as the bankers who were behind the housing crisis. But McKay gives us a film that breaks down to the average filmgoer how this all came to be. To achieve this characters like Ryan Gosling’s slippery trader break the fourth role to describe the situation in more detail or we get random celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie, who appear to explain words like sub prime to us (basically if you hear that word it’s not good). I admit some of it still went over my head but it was much clearer than any other explanation I’ve heard.

As well as being a very smart film it’s also very funny at times, although the laughs soon turned into a terrified, incredulous laugh by the end as the reality hits home. These events did actually happen. Bankers were that stupid and the banks engaged in illegal activity that they still haven’t been held accountable for. And it could all happen again so easily. That’s scarier than any horror movie.

There is a stunning ensemble cast here and no one is slouching on the job. It seems unfair to pick a favourite as everyone is so good but my stand out would probably be Steve Farrell as the foul mouth, grumpy Baum. Shame he didn’t get the Oscar nod although Christian Bale is a worthy best supporting actor nominee. At the beginning it’s thrilling watching these small groups of oddballs bet against the system and you almost want them to win. Until the realisation hits that by them winning we all lose. They may not be the villains but as likeable or as funny as they are they’re not heroes either. I’m glad the film didn’t shy away from showing that.

I found little wrong with The Big Short although it’s a bit light on substantial female roles, especially disappointing as there were women involved in the story as shown in book of the same name. Minor quibbles aside this is probably the best film I’ve seen in a long time and I have liked a lot of movies recently. I couldn’t recommend this enough.

Rating 5/5 – I wouldn’t want to bet against The Big Short come Oscar night


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