Tag Archives: Julianne Moore

Still Alice (2014)

Still_Alice_-_Movie_Poster

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 Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

After three books and four movies we are finally coming to the end of The Hunger Games series. But does Katniss and co get a fitting end?

Struggling after seeing a tortured and brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) decides to take the fight to President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and kill him herself. However she is not prepared for the dangers in the Capitol or the scheming behind the scenes of District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore).

Full disclosure-this is probably my least favourite out of all The Hunger Games movies. Unlike the other movies I actually felt the running time dragged, some of the deaths didn’t have the emotional impact I was expecting and it has more false endings then Return of the King.

Having said all that it’s still a terrific movie. Lawrence’s perfromance has been a highlight across all the series and as expected she’s excellent in her final outing as Katniss. Katniss has been a fantastic character, flawed, three-dimensional, inspirational and The Hunger Games success has shown Hollywood that female-led films and franchises can bring in the audience. It’s also nice to see the wonderful supporting cast once more, even if for some of them it’s very fleeting. It’s also bittersweet to see Phillip Seymore Hoffman in his last performance.

The film also delivers on something that Mockingjay Part One lacked which is action. While it takes it’s time building up, when Katniss and her ‘Star Squad’ bring the fight to Snow the pace quickens dramatically as Snow uses the Captiol as his own personal Hunger Games with various traps being used against the heroes. Whether out in the open or traveling underground Katniss and co are being hunted and dispatched before they can complete their mission and it’s exciting stuff.

The Hunger Games series has always had a dark edge and Mockingjay Part 2 is no different. The stakes are high and much loved charcaters get killed. The film doesn’t hesistate to comment on how war changes people and encourages criticism of leaders and the tatcis used to win said wars. It’s great that a popular and commerical movie deals with these major themes and doesn’t alienate fans.

It’s sad to see The Hunger Games come to an end, but it ends on a good note that stays faithful to themes and characters of the books.

Rating 4/5 – a final and fitting farewell to the Mockingjay and Panem

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The end is near for The Hunger Games movies. But like all franchises these days the concluding book has to be split across two films. But is there enough material to spread over two movies?

Katniss is now in District 13 but she is still suffering from her experiences in the Hunger Games and her guilt over Peeta being left behind and under the Capitol’s control. But with District 12 having been destroyed and the other Districts looking to riot against the Capitol, Katniss is needed to become the symbol of the rebellion so they can win the war against President Snow. But is Katniss up to the task?

Splitting the final Hunger Games books could be seen as a purely cynical move, and while the obvious motivation is clearly all about the money, that doesn’t mean its a terrible idea. When I heard that Mockingjay was to become two movies I actually liked that idea (and I’m normally not a fan of such thing – I’m looking at you The Hobbit movies). This way I get to see more of the characters I like and it allows all the subplots to get fully developed.

So the main themes around Part 1 is about propaganda and perception. To win a war you don’t just need to fight in battles but you need to win the hearts of the people, or in the case of the villainous Snow frighten them into submission. I liked that the film showed how both sides use the media to get the public’s support and both are not afraid of using teenagers to their own ends. Katniss and Peeta are both being used  as puppets of the two Presidents, although they both aren’t as easy to control as they’d hope.

It’s almost redundant at this point to go on about how great Jennifer Lawrence is as Katniss but I’m going to anyway. Everyone’s favourite moody teenager is back (not that she doesn’t have reason to be sullen), and while she may not be in the arena anymore, the games are still being played, even if they are more political in nature they are still as dangerous. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Katniss is only about 17 and yet so much expectation is on her shoulder. Lawrence perfectly captures the trauma that Katniss has been through due to her experiences and how that is affecting her behaviour and decisions. She is trying to do right by everyone-Peeta, Penam, President Coil- however she doesn’t know what the consequences of her actions will be or how others will retaliate.

So there’s a lot of heavy scenes and political manipulation. Thank god for Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) to bring some much-needed light relief. But they are not just there for comedy as they provide Katniss with support and reassurance that she so desperately needs, and they actually do care about her wellbeing too. Out of the new characters Natalie Dormer is striking as Cressida the director of Katniss’ propaganda films, and  Julianne Moore’s gives District 13’s President Coin makes the cold and calculating more interesting than she could have been. With so much going on that does mean some characters are neglected a bit such as Finnick but at least  Sam Clafin makes the most of the few scenes he’s in and he has much better chemistry with Katniss than she does with either of her supposed live interests Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

Being the first of two movies does of course have its drawbacks, including a lack of a proper ending to the movie. Also without the tension of the arena there’s not as much action in this movie compared to the previous instalments. At least after the build up during this movie, Mockingjay part 2 should give us the more than enough action when the Capitol is finally stormed by Katniss and co.

Rating 4.5/5 -while it’s not as action-packed as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire it’s still as gripping and smart as ever with Jennifer Lawrence once again on spectacular form

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Non-Stop

I have to say I’m loving Liam Neeson’s re-invention as an action hero. Starting of course with Taken he is now the go-to guy when some bad guys need an ass-kicking (and Jason Statham isn’t available). Is Non-Stop another box office hit for action man Neeson?

Neeson plays an US Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks travelling on a flight from New York to London. Bill has already got a few problems in his life following his divorce and drinking problems. His life is about to get a whole lot worse when he’s receives text messages on his secure phone  from an unknown source demanding money or a passenger will die every 20 minutes.

A word of warning, the plot for Non-Stop is very, very silly. My sister even went as far as to say it’s preposterous! Nothing makes sense, a lot of coincidences seem to have to take place in order for the hijacker’s plan to work and said hijacker’s reason for the hijacking is underwhelming. It doesn’t help that Bill is an Air Marshal who hates flying! Talk about being in the wrong profession. It is also amusing watching the ways Bill manage to accidentally incriminate himself further, taking extreme measures instead of handling things in a more professional manner. It’s no wonder people start to suspect him of being unstable.

Despite all this,  I have to say I enjoyed this film. It is stupid, but fun. If you disengage your brain and not worry about things such as plausibility then at times it’s a tense, exciting film. Theres some fun to be had trying to work out who the hijacker is and who the next victim will be. It’s never boring, and  is a thoroughly entertaining ride

Apart from Neeson the only person who gets any meat to their role is Julianne Moore as a passenger Jen who sits next to Bill and gets herself involved in the complicated plot. Michelle Dockery tries to add more weight to her role as a stewardess but hasn’t got much to work with, while the recent winner of Best Supporting Actress Oscar Lupita N’yongo is thoroughly wasted in this film.

No doubt many people will hate this film and won’t be able to get pass the plot holes-of which there are many. However if you allow yourself to put any distractions such as believability aside, Non-Stop can be plenty of fun.

Rating 3/5-silly, implausible and makes no sense what so ever, but god damn it I was entertained

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Carrie (2013)

Another month, another horror remake that no one was asking for. This time it’s  Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce  whose has done her own take on Carrie, based on the book by Stephen King. Can Peirce beat the trend and make Carrie worthy of a modern update?

Teenager Carrie (Chloe Moretz) is an outcast in her school due to her shy nature and her strict religiously mother (Julianne Moore).  After she gets her first period she starts developing phycic powers, namely telekinesis. Meanwhile some of her classmates are planning a nasty prank on her in revenge for being punished for bullying her. Fair to say this is a really bad idea.

I wasn’t looking forward to this film. To me Brian De Palma’s 1976  version is a classic and Sissy Specek is Carrie White. I can’t imagine anyone else in that role. However the film is not a complete disaster such as the recent remake/prequel of The Thing (shudder).  There are a few things this movie has in its favour.

The acting in this is better than most horror remakes I’ve seen. I wasn’t completely convinced by Moretz in the title role, after seeing her in such films as Kick Ass I kept feeling that this Carrie would just punch those girls if they even so much as looked at her the wrong way. But it was good to see in her in a different type of role than she’s normally in, she also was a likeable Carrie and I felt for her in the scenes against her mum and in the shower scene at school. Julianne Moore is fine as Carrie’s mum and the mother-daughter scenes are some of the strongest in the film. But she didn’t terrify me like Piper Laurie  did in the original film. I think Moore was trying to ground the role more,make her more human rather than make her a terrifying monster but I  felt like she needed to go further in showing the unstable side of the character.

Of the rest of the cast Judy Greer stood out as sympathetic teacher Ms Desjardin and Ansel Elgot made for a likeable Tommy, one of the few nice kids at Carrie’s school.

So the acting, for once, was not the problem in this film. So what is? The film just isn’t scary. Some parts are creepy such as the scenes between Moore and Mortez but there isn’t any jump out your seat screaming moments or anything that will have you lying in bed afraid to go to sleep. The film especially falters at what should be the big climatic event at the prom. I presume everyone knows what happens to Carrie at the prom, with it being such an iconic scene. But if you don’t and think you may still want to see this film look away and watch the 1976 original instead or read the book for heaven sake’s!

Still here?

Good.

So the prom scenes end up being a big anticlimax. First of all the pig’s blood pouring over Carrie is overdone, showing us the same moment from three different angles. This wasn’t needed. Secondly  the pig’s blood look like it was CGI, which took away from the horror of the situation. In fact the prom was overflowing with too much CGI it was hard to take the film seriously. Mortez also looked a bit too gleeful as she strikes down her fellow student. Yes the audiendce is sympathetic to Carrie and we hate her fellow students for what they’ve done but she’s still a murderer. Carrie looks a bit too in control of her actions as she murders the other students, rather than someone who has finally snapped after years of bullying and humiliation.

Rating-2.5/5 -All in all its not a terrible remake, just an unnecessary one.

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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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