Month: January 2014

FILM REVIEW: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)

“Inside Llewyn Davis”

Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Story: A week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk musician living from couch to couch in New York City in the 1960’s. 

 

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The Coen brothers (‘No Country For Old Men Fargo, and The Big Lebowski) are an acquired taste. However, between them they have been nominated for twenty six Academy Awards (13 each). Inside Llewyn Davis is another Academy nominee, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why.

Inside Llewyn Davis is the simplistic and beautiful film that Spike Jonze wanted ‘Her’ to be. Though not as profound, for anyone who appreciates the arts Llewyn Davis is about as relatable and likeable as they come. Anyone who has ever considered sacrificing money for love (and ultimately become somewhat disillusioned) will see a little bit of themselves in this character who is portrayed soulfully by Oscar Issac.

The story is character driven, and is carried by a multitude of people from different walks of life. This keeps the plot interesting and adds a sense of pace. Carey Mulligan plays Jean, a hypocritical and selfish girl: Mulligan plays the part so well you can’t help but smile. John Goodman adds a small amount of comic relief, but not as much as to bill this film as anything but a musical drama. Other characters are minor, and we can possibly be thankful for that. Justin Timberlake was certainly built from different stuff than this movie required of him, but luckily his screen time is minimal. Adam Driver appears and delights in what little face time he has.

The true highlight of this film is the cinematography. Combined with audio variation and timing this makes a true delight. Some of the shots are captivating and leave the audience to relish in what could be their own view of the 60’s. Bruno Delbonnel should be applauded for his experimental style which leaves us somewhat caught in the blur but loving every second.

Admittedly the film plays slowly, and I found myself a few times looking at the clock. While the Coen brothers have crafted a beautiful story, it is a non-story. This is more a study of human failure than anything else. The characters, music and clever shots can only take us so far. After an hour and thirty minutes we are somewhat tired: exhausted perhaps of our internal struggle with this story. For some of us indeed it may hit too close to home. Then, as if by Coen brothers magic, the last fifteen minutes happens.

Having said this, the non-story itself is poetry. This is not a story of triumph against all odds, nor is it a story of a hero’s fall from grace. This is a story of modern man, in the 60’s, before we knew what we would become.

I have never been too much of a fan of Coen Brothers films but I can certainly appreciate Inside Llewyn Davis. 

 

Rating: 3.5/5

FILM REVIEW: “RIDE ALONG” (2014)

“Ride Along”

Written by: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Directed by: Tim Story
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart
Story: Security guard Ben goes on a ride-along with his future brother-in-law, tough guy cop James, in order to prove that he is worthy to be accepted into the family.

 

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It is hard to find the words to fully review a film like ‘Ride Along’. What springs to mind immediately after watching it is a room of Hollywood Executives rubbing their chins thinking: “You know what we haven’t made in a while? ‘Rush Hour’. Let’s make a movie similar to that but not nearly as funny…”

And so ‘Ride Along’ was born.

The most shocking part of this film is the fact that it took four people to write it. The story is simple. Fast talking annoying guy (Clearly Kevin Hart) spends the day with scowling tough guy who only ever utters threats of violence to get people around him to shut up. Hart is our modern day Chris Tucker, or Eddie Murphy in a ‘Shrek and Donkey’ style reluctant duo. What we have as a plot might of been a fairly intriguing crime saga 100 years ago before it had been done so many times before.

The camera darts and dashes to try and create the illusion that this incredibly slow movie is actually moving with any sort of inspired pace and quite frankly would be enough to make you car sick were it not for the fact that these sequences were so few and far between. The only attempt at making this film seem socially relevant and up to date is the relentless reference to video games (a WoW style game) which creates it’s own subplot.

This movie is a shame since Kevin Hart has become so widely acclaimed for his comedy. Paired with Ice Cube there could of been potential for this, had there been any semblance of comedy. The jokes are exhausted and so overdone it almost becomes unbearable. However, this is a great January money grab for the pair: ‘Ride Along’ has dominated the box office now for two weeks. People must be bored AND cold.

If you want to see two guys blow stuff up and have Kevin Hart make quips about it, then give this one a watch, but only if you don’t pay for it and you don’t have anything better to do.

If you have already seen ‘Bad Boys’ or ‘Rush Hour’ (or even ‘Shrek’!) then definitely don’t waste your time.

Rating 0.5/5

FILM REVIEW: “RUSH” (2013)

“Rush” 

Written by: Peter Morgan

Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Story: Based on the true story of rival Formula One drivers Niki Lauda (Bruhl) and James Hunt (Hemsworth) in their 1976 race to be World Champion.

 

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Feedback from friends, family and the grapevine tells you long before you watch ‘Rush’, that F1 finally has a spectacular movie. They have certainly picked the right story to tell, with the 1970’s being widely regarded as the ‘hey-day’ of this thrilling and often death defying sport. ‘Rush’ gives us a retelling of one of the most famous rivalries in sport at it’s most intense. 

Before watching this, we thought that a few things were strange. First off, having Spanish born Daniel Bruhl playing Austrian Niki Lauda; and Australian Chris Hemsworth playing British racer James Hunt seems quite the risk. Secondly, with a Director such as Ron Howard who’s resume includes ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘Cinderella Man’, we are given no real clue as to which way this film could go.

Our doubts were somewhat laid to rest.

Howard did a spectacular job of trusting cinematography to Anthony Dod Mantle (‘127 Hours’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) who creates visually stunning, action packed sequences. The cinematography can oftentimes make you feel slightly unearthed, as if you are in fact in the car with these drivers which pulls us to become more attached to the story. Coupled with Hans Zimmer doing another incredible job in scoring the film, the whole thing seems to be on the right track.

Hemsworth and Bruhl are both commendable in their roles, particularly Hemsworth acting with a maturity that we have not seen from him before. ‘Rush’ makes him less the action hero, and more the human. Bruhl and Hemsworth together prove that this film is about more than just sports, it is about the other aspects of life that make a man a true hero.

So why, we must wonder, has this film been overlooked by the Academy?

There are a few reasons. Firstly, the Academy’s notoriously bad memory ensures that a film released so early in the year will fail to be recognised, much like ‘Lee Daniels: The Butler’. Additionally, ‘Rush’ gives us exactly the same problem as suffered through in ‘American Hustle’: Neither one of the protagonists is in any way likeable.

When we are creating a film about rivalry, sportsmanship and competition then the audience needs someone to cheer for. Not only are we given here nobody to cheer for, but we are given two men who lack the empathy, humility or compassion that would make them worthy of anything but losing. Anyone who was party to this rivalry as it happened in the 70’s may feel a certain patriotism or favour to one of these men, however if you were not then you will most likely find your enjoyment suppressed by these characters. 

Film is all about personal taste. If you are a fan of Formula 1 racing then you will perhaps rate this movie higher than others. Personally, I waited for two hours to find some sort of redeemable quality in either one of our protagonists and was left sorely disappointed.

 

Rating: 2.5/5

FILM REVIEW: “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (2013)

“American Hustle”

Written by: Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell

Directed by: David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

Story: When their fraudulent schemes are uncovered by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Adams) are forced to co-operate with him in a grand plan to expose a mafia ring in Jersey.

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David O. Russell is having a very good time. Just a year after winning countless awards and critical acclaim for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, his Jersey based mafia comedy has been nominated for almost everything you can be nominated.

After seeing American Hustle, I wanted to review it straight away but instead I let it sit for a while in order to mull it over. My hope was that the film would appear more remarkable and have more of an affect on me as time passed. Now coming back to it, I had to sit and watch a few clips and trailers to actually remind myself of what I had seen. See where I’m going with this? There is nothing really too remarkable about American Hustle.

The thing that stuns me the most about this film is that it is billed as a comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few laughs all of which come from Jennifer Lawrence’s devilishly clumsy (but secretly brilliant) Rosalyn. Other than that, I found the excessive out of place dialogue to be boring and disjointed which made the whole pace of the film perhaps three times slower than it should of been for such a plot.

Amy Adams is shockingly forgettable as Sydney Prosser. The character was originally supposed to be irresistible and seductive, but Adams has somehow taken this and turned it into awkward and uncomfortable to watch. Given that the realism of the story revolved around her sex appeal, she perhaps should of taken a few lessons from Margot Robbie’s ‘Naomi’ in The Wolf Of Wall Street. Of course, Adams has been told that it is sexy to not wear a bra (at all, ever…) however her attractiveness in this film begins and ends with her oh-so-visible nipples.

I have heard time and time again that the key to an enjoyable film is a protagonist that you can understand on some level, and with whom you can empathise. In American Hustle, we are given two protagonists: Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale. Though costuming, makeup and lighting have done an excellent job with these two, what we are faced with is two characters who are distinctly impossible to like. Cooper is incessantly annoying: his character comes across as stupid and spoon fed; where Bale’s Rosenfeld is almost worse. Rosenfeld is not only stupid, but he is aggravatingly ignorant. Pitch them against each other fighting for Sydney Prosser’s affections (we still don’t understand why) and you’re left sitting in the cinema checking your watch and wondering when things are going to start happening.

The film turns out to be somewhat enjoyable: it isn’t all bad. Hair, makeup and costuming are particular highlights, and the music is enough to make anyone crack a smile.

Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence are right to be recognised for their acting chops in taking this blithering train wreck of a script and turning it into something watchable, but I would probably rather save my money than try and watch this again. Maybe buy the soundtrack instead…

Rating 3/5

Photo Credit: imdb.com

OSCARS 2014: WHO WAS THE BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS?

The second part of our five part ‘Oscar Predictions’ series sees us analyse the nominees for Best Supporting Actress. If you have opinions then please do post them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

 

Lupita Nyong’o 12 Years A Slave: A newcomer, Nyong’o has received mass amounts of praise for both her acting and her style. She is fast becoming a favourite on the red carpet and has won herself a SAG Award, as well as a Producers Guild Award for her role as Patsy in Steve McQueen’s highly acclaimed tale of slavery. Looking at the lineup it seems Lupita’s closest competition might be Jennifer Lawrence who pipped her at the post for the Golden Globes. Given the Academy’s tendency to favor the newbie, Lupita might just be in with a shot here!

Sally Hawkins Blue Jasmine: This was a surprise nomination for the British actress, but certainly not an undeserved one. Supporting Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, Hawkins offers an excellent portrayal as Jasmine’s somewhat wayward sister who opens her home to accommodate her troubled kin. While the relative unknown created an extremely funny and refreshing character, her part was probably not impactful or consequential enough to warrant taking out this award. 

Jennifer LawrenceAmerican Hustle: It is no secret that the Academy likes Lawrence, giving her the Oscar last year for her role in Silver Lining’s Playbook. She has also recently just won the Golden Globe for her role as the clumsy yet cunning Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle. The film has received mass awards celebrating the cast which puts Lawrence in a good position. It seems that nobody can resist her at the moment!

Julia RobertsAugust: Osage County: If this category wasn’t so crowded we would say that Roberts is a total shoe in for this award. Unfortunately with all the hype surrounding films like American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave has left Roberts rather in the dark. Her performance was fantastic and almost even stronger than her Oscar winning portrayal of Erin Brockovich. Although she might actually be the most deserving for the statue, it seems the timing of this film is all wrong: she can never compete with some of the other nominees.

June SquibbNebraska: June Squibb is the oldest nominee this year and the 84 year old is thrilled. Applauded for playing the ‘too old to give a damn’ wife of Bruce Dern in the highly acclaimed ‘Nebraska’, Squibb provided a healthy dose of comic relief in this film. Squibb has been called ‘glorious’ for her portrayal of this role, but the release date of the film will really damage her chances. Nebraska was released in November of last year and was not highly viewed or recognized at the time – Squibb will likely lose out fo a film which has garnered more acclaim. 

 

It Should Be… Lupita Nyong’o

It Will Be… Lupita Nyong’o

 

NEXT POST: Best Supporting Actor

FILM REVIEW: ‘DALLAS BUYERS CLUB’ (2013

“Dallas Buyers Club”

Written by: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

Story: In 1985, drug, sex and alcohol addict Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with AIDS and sets out to make medication readily available for those in the same position.

 

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This year’s awards season is jammed packed with films looking at socially and culturally sensitive issues. Where there is ’12 Years A Slave’ giving us an extremely graphic and difficult to watch vision of racism and slavery in the pre-civil war United States, Jean-Marc Vallee gives us ‘Dallas Buyers Club’: an almost punishing look at the treatment of AIDS victims during the epidemic of the 1980s and 90s.
 
The film opens the way it means to continue, with graphic use if sex, drugs and alcohol to paint the picture of Ron Woodroof. It becomes evident that we are not supposed to like this man: his enormous disrespect for other people is on show. He is a violent homophobic which becomes the most ironic part of his situation. Looking at McConaughey on screen he is shockingly thin (the actor lost 47 pounds for the role) and his face is gaunt and almost lifeless. It is not uncommon for an actor to change their appearance for a role, we could name multiple examples, however it is rare that this transformation leads to such a fascinatingly good performance. In Dallas Buyers Club we get two of these. Jared Leto is remarkable in his role as Rayon, a transgender AIDS victim. His appearance will startle you more than once as he seems more cheekbones and hips than anything else: but where his body lacks, his acting is of huge substance. Rayon befriends the homophobic Woodroof and in it we begin to see a truly touching friendship form.
 
The film is heavy hitting in it’s deep evaluation of the subject matter. Aside from demonstrations such as ‘Rent’, ‘Philadelphia’ or perhaps even ‘Precious’, we have not really seen a really deep exploration of AIDS and the social and political consequences it can have. The film itself is driven towards the way in which AIDS victims were treated both by peers, hospitals, and the FDA. Woodroof’s battle to make medicine accessible not just for himself is inspiring and within twenty minutes we find ourselves rooting for him even though his character does remain genuinely unlikeable.. We are even exposed to some arguments that are still present in modern America. Against the backdrop of the Obamacare scandal, and the everlasting ‘wealth vs health’ argument presented oh so eloquently in documentaries such as Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ – Dallas Buyers Club not only makes us consider the actions of the past, but also the present. The multi-faceted characters express more than one purpose but somehow all seem relevant here.
 
The standout quality of this film lies in the editing and direction. An eerie whistle fills the audience’s ears to haunt us with the repercussions of Woodroof’s disease and to fill in parts of the story that are rightfully left vague. The film plays slow, but never drops the level of tension presented. Jennifer Garner’s character Eve Saks serves as a barometer for how we should relate emotionally to these characters, but serves no other real purpose in the film but to take up screen time. Yves Belanger (Director of Photography) should be commended on his collaborative work with Director Vallee in using light and shadows to create visually stunning sequences.
 
The screenplay is well put together and the dialogue is oftentimes touching. When watching the film I was under the impression that the story was based on a magazine article (as it claims to be ‘based on true events’) so I was confused to hear that Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack were nominated by the Academy for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ rather than ‘Best Adapted’: I am sure they have their reasons.
 
All in all, one might feel that Dallas Buyers Club overreaches on it’s plea for sympathy, only to be grounded by Jared Leto’s Rayon who is the only really likable character portrayed here. When faced with Garner and McConaughey in endless sequences, it starts to feel a little forced, like too much has gone into making sure the audience is feeling appropriately compassionate. 
 
Dallas Buyers Club is a movie that is certainly worth watching, but one must remain open minded to the real message. This is a movie about respect, forgiveness, and hope. Not survival. 
 

Rating: 4/5

 

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Photo Credit: imdb.com

FILM REVIEW: ‘AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY’ (2014)

“August: Osage County”

Written by: Tracey Letts

Directed by: John Wells

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin…

Story: A dysfunctional family is brought together after a family tragedy, and is forced to deal with family truths about the home they grew up in and the strong willed woman who raised them.

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Tracey Letts is the man behind ‘August: Osage County’. The film was originally a play, which gifted Letts with both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. The film adaptation drew a strong cast, who have been nominated over and over, namely Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, for their portrayals of mother and daughter Violet and Barbara Weston. Given that the film has received such attention for the cast, we have to wonder where the rest of the recognition fell off. Very few nominations for the screenplay, and John Wells has received little recognition for his Directing, we approach this film with curiosity.

The answer to this becomes apparent as soon as you begin watching. The cast itself are spectacular: Meryl Streep is both hilarious and worrying as the drug addled mother trying to cope with the loss of her husband, and Julia Roberts gives her best performance since Erin Brockovich. It seems almost a shame that awards season is so competitive this year. Were it not for Cate Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine, Streep would be a shoe in for any and every trophy. With strong performances from Ewan McGregor and Chris Cooper serving as the voice of reason against these hot headed women, the interactions are an absolute joy to watch.

Unfortunately, the glory of the film begins and ends with the performances.

While the dialogue (which is alive with profanity) is both captivating and at times shockingly good, the story itself is convoluted with multiple subplots that are left underdeveloped and unresolved. From drugs, abuse, incest, and even touching on statutory rape, one starts to feel pulled in different directions and unsure where to invest. While we want to follow the story of the relationship between Roberts and Streep (as this is by far the most interesting) we are consistently distracted by an onslaught of extremely sensitive issues which are brushed past and never fully explored.

Indeed, aside from the dialogue the film itself is dull. Perhaps this dullness is to serve as a metaphor for the lives of those stuck in Osage County, however it does not serve well for viewing. We are offered a few pretty landscapes (which the characters are quick to complain about) but most of the film is shot inside a dark and dreary house. The lighting is dim and the film moves slowly. There is no respite from the misery that August: Osage County has to offer.

There are a few comedic moments but not enough to carry the film to where you want it to go. In the end we are left with minimal resolution: a ‘driving off into the sunset’ moment simply does not justify the reality of the rest of the film.

With such strong performances from every single cast member, you really really want to enjoy August: Osage County, and indeed I would never discourage anybody from watching it: when you can get to grips with the main story of family it does resonate. However, the lack of nominations in any other category aside from acting is plainly evidenced and supported when you watch this in it’s entirety.

If you are one for stark, witty dialogue and a stellar ensemble cast then definitely watch August: Osage County. If not, then perhaps give it a miss.

 

Rating: 3/5

 

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FILM REVIEW: ‘THE WOLF OF WALL STREET’ (2013)

“The Wolf Of Wall Street”

Written by: Terence Winter (Adapted from the book ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ by Jordan Belfort)

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Story: Based on the autobiographical novel by Jordan Belfort, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ profiles his rise to fame and fortune as a stockbroker, and his subsequent downfall involving corruption, fraud, and crime

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There are two words needed when one begins to review ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’:

Scorsese. DiCaprio.

Both are famous from previous works such as ‘The Departed’, there is almost a stigma attached to the works of this pair. When entering the theatre, you know that you are going to see something that could make you laugh, cry, and think for days on end.

Having come across Jordan Belfort a few years ago amongst sales training seminars, I personally was familiar with his story. I read ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ in all it’s glory long before venturing to the cinema, and I can only imagine the look on Terence Winter’s face when Scorsese handed him this novel and said, ‘I want you to make this into a screenplay, and spare no detail’.  And this is exactly what Winter did.

The screenplay itself is phenomenal: it captures the very essence of the book and when put on screen eludes something almost like a drug: the lives of these characters is so attainable, yet so poisonous: an audience is tempted and almost lured into this world that is so convincingly created, yet they know that it cannot lead to any good. The only thing missing from the screenplay has received a huge amount of backlash. Throughout the whole novel we get the distinct impression that Belfort is not proud of himself: he is very remorseful when telling his story. Indeed, Scorsese has come under fire for apparently ‘glorifying’ this life of sex, drugs, and stock fraud. Wiping out this sense of guilt does not do any favours and might be the only thing missing.

Having said this, DiCaprio is nothing short of mesmerising in this role and it appears that this was the part he was born to play. We laugh with him; tense when he tenses; and hang on to every facial spasm as if it is the end of his days. For a film that plays for three hours, this is essential and an integral part of the story. DiCaprio’s diversity is well on show, as he is both happy and distraught at the drop of a hat.

Comic relief comes in the form of Jonah Hill, who plays Belfort’s partner in crime Donnie Azoff. Hill truly does pull out all the stops to create his stupid yet sincerely likeable character: he even creates a sense that was missing from the book: that Donnie really is Belfort’s support system and lifeline through much of their ordeal. Rumour has it Hill was even arguing with film crew to let him actually eat a goldfish to make the scene the most realistic. There is no doubt that this work will put Jonah Hill in a different league of Hollywood actor altogether.

As much as word limits might hold us back, we simply cannot discuss this film without mentioning Margot Robbie. An Australian actress and a relative unknown, Robbie masters everything to do with this part, from the accent to the demeanour, and even the look and feel of Naomi Lapaglia. She is feisty, good hearted, and an intoxicating ‘sex kitten’, which serves exactly the purpose of her in Belfort’s life: she is his anchor, but also his biggest weakness. Robbie’s stellar contributions to the most emotional and consequential scenes in this film could not be replaced.

Scorsese is on fine form and has spared no expense here. When watching a Scorsese film, one gets the feeling that everything that can be controlled has been: the lighting, audio, cinematography… All of these end up completely inessential to the story, however they make watching a three hour film all the more enjoyable.

Scorsese possesses a rare gift in a filmmaker in his ability to create an entirely different universe for his audience to enjoy. When we are watching Belfort and his merry group of men parade around New York City, we do not make that connection to real life. We cannot process that this was actually New York City, and these things actually happened. We are, for that brief time, drawn into Scorsese’s world of free living and we daren’t look back. When we do come to it makes the film all the more enjoyable to try and believe that these things, the people, and the actions were in fact real. Majority of the audience will spare little afterthought for the negative consequences of this story: they will be drawn to love the simplicity of the human characters that we are offered.

‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ is a must see for anyone with burning ambition to be something in life, or anyone who knows someone exactly like that. We are all a little bit of Jordan Belfort.

Rating: 4.5/5

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*Photo Credit: imdb.com

FILM REVIEW: “PHILOMENA” (2013)

“Philomena”

Written by: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (adapted from the book ‘The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee’ by Martin Sixsmith)

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Story: Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) is a journalist pursuing a human interest piece based on Philomena Lee, who was induced into giving her first child up to Irish nuns.

Philomena

Directed by Stephen Frears, who has earned acclaim for films such as ‘The Queen’, ‘Philomena’ is a rich, witty drama which will resonate with anybody who has a social conscience.

When you take a book like ‘The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee’ and attempt to turn it into a movie, it would be very easy to fall into a Nicholas Sparks type trap of creating something soaked in apathy and desperate for tears. This is not the case with Philomena, which draws brilliantly on the comedic talents of both Steve Coogan and Judi Dench to master the fine balance between laughing and crying.

The story is not too simple, but not complex enough to drown out the true emotion of the matter at hand. I have heard people say that this film serves to only bastardise the Catholic Church, however when one actually takes the time to watch this movie from start to finish, something different starts to permeate your mind.

Judi Dench plays the role of Philomena to absolute perfection, and one may indeed find themselves hanging on to every single word she says until the credits begin to roll. Joining on her journey to find her long lost son, who she finds was actually sold for adoption in the United States, Steve Coogan gives us Martin Sixsmith in all his glory. This totally mismatched pair have an incredible mother/son chemistry on screen and their opposing views provoke even more thought in the audience: Where Sixsmith builds increasing resentment towards the Catholic Church, Philomena possesses an impenetrable capacity to forgive and live on. It is impossible to take sides.

Frears is not fussy in his direction, instead choosing to play his part minimally and leave the rest to the script which was masterfully written by Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan. The movie plays out quickly, and doesn’t mess about with unnecessary characters or detail.

All in all, those who watch will find themselves captivated by an unavoidable “PhiloMania”: an attachment to this story which perhaps has different significance for each and every individual.

Rating: 5/5

**Photo Credit: http://www.200movies1woman.com

FILM REVIEW: “HER” (2013)

“Her”

Written and Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson.
Story: Left emotionally vulnerable when his wife leaves him, writer Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) develops an emotional attachment to his operating system, Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

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Famous for films such as Adaptation and Where The Wild Things Are, “Her” is the first completely original offering from Spike Jonze where he has both written and directed. As such, we have to enter the theater with the distinct impression that this film is going to be one thing: different.

The concept of the film is beautifully original, and hopes to serve as a warning to us all about our reliance on technology. With a very basic plot, Jonze is able to take us through a head spin of action and consequence as Theodore falls more and more in love with his computer operating system. Phoenix is predictably enjoyable, and Johansson does well to demonstrate that acting is not purely physical, but can be done extremely well with just a voice, however, there is a lot missing from this film.

For starters, Jonze manages to make his script so simple (perhaps hoping for quirky and easy to watch) it leaves gaping holes in the realism of the whole film. While he tries to portray the story as something that could be easily achievable in the not too distant future, it is far too easy for a viewer to become too distracted trying to figure out the technology and lose track of the plot. Indeed, watching the film I found myself becoming increasingly bored of the story line because it just didn’t make sense. With often choppy and inexplicable dialogue, the film attempts to be profound but falls short due to it’s lack of energy. From around half an hour in, you may start to think that this is simply Spike Jonze show-ponying his pretentiousness and existentialism.

The film should scoop some sort of recognition for Best Original Song: The Moon Song, by Karen O being one of the more enjoyable parts of the film. Noteable too, is the cinematography. Hoyte Van Hoytema of ‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’ fame does an exceptional job of achieving what the script couldn’t: true beauty. I would perhaps go so far as to say that this film is worth seeing for the visual beauty of it. The shots are intriguing, quirky, and sometimes even breathtaking.

Between the cinematography and the performances by Phoenix and Johansson, the film is enjoyable, but anyone with a keen mind for a story will be left underwhelmed.

Rating: 3/5

 

 

*Photo Credit: pghcitypaper.com