film review

FILM REVIEW: ‘THE BOY NEXT DOOR’

‘The Boy Next Door’qSCsbWEIB

Written by: Barbara Curry 

Directed by: Rob Cohen

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Kristin Chenoweth, Ryan Guzman, John Corbett. 

Story: In the midst of a difficult divorce, vulnerable school teacher Claire Peterson gives in to the advances of one of her students with dire consequences. 

Let us preface this by saying that ‘The Boy Next Door’ is a movie by Rob Cohen. Those who do not know him, Rob Cohen is the guy who directed ’The Skulls’, ‘The Fast And The Furious’, and ‘xXx’. A man like Rob Cohen is not without his merits (we would give ‘TFATF’ an 8 out of 10 any day of the week), but we really have to understand what to expect. Cohen is not Clint Eastwood and he doesn’t try to be. He is not trying to change the world. He just wants to make films that people might enjoy.

With that in mind, ‘The Boy Next Door’ is enjoyable. The plot is simple enough to understand, and there’s a trusty fight scene where everyone keeps hitting one another even though they have been shot, stabbed, or whatever else. There is no big twist and nothing that’s really going to make you think, which is kinda what we’re used to from JLO anyway.

Speaking of, her performance is about what you would expect from her too. She is not atrocious, but doesn’t do anything particularly noteworthy either. John Corbett is about as wooden as he has been since Carrie chose Mr. Big. 

The-Boy-Next-Door_612x380The film has some low points: the dialogue is stiff and just doesn’t deliver well despite what really seems like all the actors trying their hardest. Further, the score is put together s if trying to make this film scarier than it is. The movie is not scary at all (except maybe the dialogue) but somehow filmmakers thought it would be appropriate to use a sound akin to a thriller. And don’t even get me started on using a body double who looked nothing like the blonde high school girl she was supposed to be. That was simply poor editing. 

When looking at all of these factors, it is easy to see why so many have disliked this film and critics have absolutely slammed it. It does seem like Rob Cohen has lost a little of his touch. However, we can’t really expect it to be anything more than a popcorn flick. Watch this on a rainy Sunday afternoon when you can take it at face value and not try to search for any hidden meanings or socio-political commentaries. You MIGHT just be entertained!

Rating: 6/10

Advertisements

FILM REVIEW: ‘THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING’

‘The Theory Of Everything’

Written by: Antony McCarten (screenplay), Jane Hawking (book)

Directed by: James Marsh

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Story: The story of famous physicist Stephen Hawking as he struggles with work, marriage, and his deteriorating health.


2014-11-11-movieposter

Every awards season, we come across films that are wonderfully put together, flawlessly executed, and not very fun to watch. It is not an issue with the film because you know that the film is good: the reality is, the subject matter is not really that you would expect for ‘entertainment’. The Theory of Everything is a shining example of this style of film. The story itself is interesting, however watching the decline of a spritely and charming man into a one who cannot take care of himself or function as normal is incredibly difficult to see. When reviewing the film, we do have to take this into account as it can, for many, retract from the entertainment value that they take from watching it. If you are one who watches a film and expects to enjoy the process of watching it, then perhaps this is not the film for you.

Having said this, The Theory Of Everything is absolutely stellar. 

The film is paced well, with a running time of two hours that feels like just about two hours. We must consider here, that we have Hawking’s entire life so far to cover. The only perhaps disappointing facet of the content of the film is the lack of science. Do not be fooled: this is a romance movie. This in itself is a little upsetting since Hawking’s life is one of scientific triumph (not just his works, but his survival). Theory Of Everything tends to brush over with very simplistic explanations of his theories and almost completely ignores this most notable aspect of his ife. Hopefully one day we will get a film that looks more closely at his work than his romantic life. For now we have to make do.

the-theory-of-everything-image-eddie-redmayne

Eddie Redmayne is spectacular and heartbreaking in his portrayal of Hawking. Not only does he look like Hawking, but he embodies the kind of charming curiosity that we would expect from him in person. His performance is certainly Oscar worthy, and he will most likely take the trophy home this year. It would not be leaving in the wrong hands.

Redmayne is supported wonderfully by Felicity Jones as Hawking’s wife Jane. The two have an undeniable on screen chemistry which will appeal to really any audience. The beautiful thing about their relationship and story here is the simplicity of it. They live rather the normal life, despite everything.

The cinematography and score are both wonderfully done, creating environments that we can melt into: from 1960s Cambridge to 2014 London. Scenes of the young Hawking are captivating and visually arresting, and can tend to start to feel like travelling back in time. 

With everything combined we have a film that perhaps falls short of it’s true direction and proves to be less enjoyable than it’s potential, but is still beautifully moving and inherently good.

Rating: 7.5/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘AMERICAN SNIPER’

‘American Sniper’

Written by: Jason Hall, Chris Kyle (novel)

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Story: The true story of Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in US military history.

american-sniper-poster

Let’s be honest here for a second. Every year the Academy likes to nominate a war film. They just love them. It dates back as far as 1927 when ‘Wings’ won Best Picture, all the way up to films like ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ or ‘The Hurt Locker’.  What’s more, the Academy loves a good all round American actor, such as Bradley Cooper. So for all intents and purposes, American Sniper is perfect.

Unfortunately in reality it is not perfect, but that doesn’t mean it is not enjoyable.

Bradley Cooper plays the part of Chris Kyle, a US Navy Seal Sniper who’s quick thinking and precision causes him to become the most deadly sniper in US military history. Funny that they would label him as such, when Kyle’s constant internal war is about whether he was killing people or saving them. Saving them, he decided, was the way to look at it. This would of course keep him sane, but it was also his job, wasn’t it? To save US soldiers? A strange marketing twist then, perhaps, has us glorifying the killing that he did throughout a movie where we witness him struggling with that very thing.

Cooper gives a strong performance but we wouldn’t expect anything less. He is a talented actor with boundless depth which is on show here. He brings us a charming and likeable Chris, and a very real character who we cannot help but empathise with. Will this earn him an Oscar? No, it won’t. But it does make for a good film. It is also worth noting that the fragility of the situation would of made this role difficult to play for anyone and Cooper seems to have taken this part very seriously, and truly done justice to Kyle and his family.

Sienna Miller is fine. There is nothing truly noteworthy about her performance other than she does her job and serves the storyline to create conflict in Kyle’s priorities.

734631_053

American Sniper gives a fine perspective in the American War Hero and what is really going on behind the scenes. The film is more about the internal struggle than what is actually happening out on the battlefields of war.  What happens when you see a war hero in the supermarket? Does he want to talk about it, or would he rather forget? These are questions raised in the 2.5 hour running time, and Clint Eastwood does a lovely job of putting them at the forefront of our minds.

Some people may feel the film drag but there is really no fluff: there is nothing in the film that is not totally essential to the telling of the story, so what we have to appreciate is that portraying the life of Chris Kyle is going to take you at least two hours. The abrupt ending may leave you in shock and dismay for quite some time, too.

There are a few goofs in the film that do quite spoil the viewing experience, notable the use of a plastic baby in one scene is distracting and really cheapens the look of the film: why spend so much money on making a war epic then use a plastic baby? Some things we may never know.

All in all, American Sniper is a decent film. Is it as good as last year’s ‘Lone Survivor’? No, it isn’t. But go and see it anyway.

Rating: 7/10

LONE SURVIVOR REVIEW

FILM REVIEW: ‘BOYHOOD’

‘Boyhood’

Written by: Richard Linklater

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

Story: The journey of a young boy from ages 5 to 18.

th

It is difficult to know where to begin talking about a movie like ‘Boyhood’. It is, in itself, an epic: a three hour journey from childhood to adulthood. It is epic in it’s running time, but it is also epic in the fact that it took Richard Linklater twelve years to make: the effect of this being that we experience this family and their growth in the closest way. We do not see a sudden change as the actor becomes someone we recognise: these are the people who have been on the journey with us all along, and it makes it all the more real.

The story itself is so beautifully simple. Linklater is simply inviting us to watch and observe a family grow up, grow together, and perhaps even grow apart. Somehow you can imagine that this is Linklater’s own coming of age after films like ‘Dazed and Confused’, and ‘School of Rock’.  ‘Boyhood’ follows Mason Jnr (Ellar Coltrane) from age 5 to age 18. We observe his struggles with his family – played out perfectly by Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke – and observe almost perversely the way that Mason deals with every single little thing that we have all had to deal with, including talking to girls for the first time, and getting his heart broken. We see Mason literally grow up in this time capsule piece.

Spending so long making this film has allowed the cast to really melt into their roles, and invites the audience to become a fly on the wall in their lives. We are encouraged to become part of their family and part of their human experience. The film almost feeds the part of us that loves reality television in a stunning and really captivating way. Throughout the entire piece we feel enraged at poor parenting choices but also we feel so sorry and so awful for the fact that Arquette and Hawke seem completely aware of these choices and the impact they are having on their children. It could take some reminding too that Arquette and Hawke are not actually married, and we did not just watch a recap of their lives.

boyhood

Credit must be given to those responsible for putting together the soundtrack. For anyone who grew up in the 90s, you will remember well most of the songs in this piece and you can trace them back to parts of your own childhood. This just makes the experience all the more powerful. It doesn’t feel like a movie. You don’t feel bad going to make yourself a cup of tea, or skipping out to the bathroom halfway though: these people will continue to develop around you: you are merely an observer.

Of course, there are some goofs. While her performance was fantastic, Lorelei Linklater seems a strange fit for Samantha, Mason’s sister. How is it that Arquette and Hawke, both fair skinned and blue eyed, could produce a brown eyed daughter? In fact, when researching more into this matter, you will find that Lorelei was actually born in Mexico. While this is not a total deal breaker for the film, it does remove some of the illusion of reality from the story.

All in all, Richard Linklater has produced a masterpiece of a film. It doesn’t feel like a film, nor does it feel like work to write or think about. It is the opportunity to spend three hours in the life of someone else: in their shoes and in their home. Such creative filmmaking should be rewarded, and turning something so simple into something so beautiful is a skill Linklater possesses that he has gifted to us here.

Rating: 9/10

FILM REVIEW: ‘300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE’

‘300: Rise Of An Empire’

Written by: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad

Directed by: Noam Murro

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green

Story: The story of the ‘battle at sea’ undertaken by Greek general Themistokles as he takes charge against Persian mortal-turned-God Xerxes and their naval commander Artimisia.

 Image

 

‘Why is Themistokles speaking with an Australian accent?’ is one of the first thoughts that comes to mind when watching ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’. Those who have seen the first ‘300’ will remember Gerard Butler slashing his way through a blood bath of guts and glory for an exhilarating two hours. Anyone who expects the same thing when going into the highly anticipated sequel will be extremely disappointed.

Though not the most important part of any film in this franchise, the performances were almost painful to watch. As previously mentioned, Sullivan Stapleton switches in and out of his American and hometown Australian accent and Lena Headey seems to have lost any spark that she had in the first film. The only performance that is somewhat decent comes from Eva Green portraying Artimisia who may been the most viscous female villain we have ever seen on screen.

We may never understand why Zack Snyder decided against directing this sequel, but rest assured his talents are truly misplaced. Aside from missing his individual directorial style, the script is put together poorly: the dialogue is forced and the film is altogether boring. This would be the perfect film for anyone who wants to see 90 minutes of ‘Braveheart’-style speeches which in itself feels like three hours.

The real problem with this movie, though, is the 3D. We get the feeling here that Murro is truly out of his depth here, and not sure whether to stick to Snyder’s rule book of directing, or branch out on his own. He ends up doing neither. More than once you may find yourself thinking that this film would perhaps be just as impressive and perhaps more entertaining if in 2D: there is nothing here that really makes the most of the technology at it’s feet bar a few animated blood splats on the camera.

We perhaps would of appreciated, before watching this film, being told that the most gripping anf exciting action sequences are int he first half hour. With the persistent speak of the ‘battle to end all’, and the ‘death and destruction’ that awaits when they finally meet each other at sea, one is left feeling that this movie is perhaps the most anti-climactic of the last few years. The final battle, if we can call it that, is over in minutes (and yet somehow still wrought with painful quips and interactions between Themistokles and Artimisia).

All in all, ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’ is dull. Aside from a few enjoyable action sequences, all we really have here is forced dialogue, uncomfortable sex, and something that remotely resembles what was formerly known as ‘Sparta’.

 

Rating: 1.5/5

 

FILM REVIEW: “THE MONUMENTS MEN”

“The Monuments Men”

Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Directed by: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett
Story: Based on the true story of a team of soldiers who go behind enemy lines in World War 2 Germany to retrieve and return artwork stolen by Nazi thieves. 

 

Image

Marketing behind ‘The Monuments Men’ has talked a big game and projected it to be one of the most anticipated films of 2014. Unfortunately, and somewhat predictably, it does not live up to the hype. 

The script is based on a true story, but unfortunately leads our star studded cast to pull off what looks like the easiest heist in history. The only real obstacle given against retrieving this art is not knowing where to look: Once a traditionally great Cate Blanchett blows this wide open, we are left to simply watch this band of merry men to get in and get out with barely a scratch. Don’t get me completely wrong: there is occasional gunfire and certain elements of danger that go with being in Nazi Germany, but this has all been seen before.

The performances are mediocre and we struggle to find any real soul to any of these characters. This is a good opportunity to see George Clooney play himself, and for some reason encourage Matt Damon to do the same. The only reprieve is found in the chemistry between Bill Murray and Bob Balaban who behave well together an an unlikely pairing. Goodman is wooden and uncommitted, a far cry from his hilarious performance in recent ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’. 

The cinematography and soundscape are somewhat dull, and nothing that we haven’t seen in war movies before. There is something a little ‘deja vu’ about Monuments Men which makes us feel that this ‘different’ story of war is not that different at all.

We could perhaps give ‘The Monuments Men’ an A for effort, because the film is made enjoyable by the likes of Bill Murray.Those who appreciate his sensitives as both a comedian and dramatic actor will watch as he lifts the performances of his co-stars. There are moments of comedy, and perhaps a few uplifting moments, but it is a consistent struggle to not get bogged down with one long ‘motivational’ speech after the other. 

This is a great film for a rainy Sunday afternoon with nothing much to do, but you won’t find me rushing to replay it over and over.

Rating: 2.5/5

FILM REVIEW: “LABOR DAY” (2013)

“Labor Day”

 

Written by: Jason Reitman, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin

Story: When single mother Adele and her son Henry give a ride to fugitive Frank, they begin to learn more about his story and the truth behind his crime.

 

Image

 

Anyone familiar with Jason Reitman’s work might go into this film expecting a quirky and surprising comedy along the lines of ‘Juno’ or ‘Up In The Air’.  If this is, in fact what you are looking for, then give Labor Day a miss.

Jason Reitman has adapted Joyce Maynard’s novel almost to a tee, bringing to the screen the sentimentality and emotional vulnerability of each and every character. Kate Winslet once again proves she is one of the best actresses of this time, giving us an Adele who is all at once broken and very together. Her maturity is both impenetrable and very hard to ignore. Brolin compliments her nicely, though there is a chemistry between the two which is undoubtedly missing. 

What really lets this story down is the thin narrative, which offers the unnecessary subplot of Henry and his first love Eleanor, who seems to be somewhat of a lighthouse for abandoned and unstable children. The dialogue becomes dull at times, as if inserted to stretch the story. The film plays incredibly slowly: two hours almost feels like three or four when we are stuck with moments of silence, and a film that somehow never really builds but keeps steady momentum for it’s entirety. 

We cannot help but wonder if the whole thing would have been more enjoyable if the story had been somewhat remotely believable. The novel itself was indeed fiction, but it seems to test the realms of imagination when an escaped fugitive takes up home with a single mother and somehow a fierce love affair forms in the space of three days. Even watching this convicted murderer who suddenly turns handyman, sports coach, and master chef is enough to shake your head at. If you have a keen imagination and can let yourself fall into a story which plays very close to reality but with a few major flaws, this might be the right movie for you.

The cinematography is stunning, and is perfectly partnered with a soundtrack by Rolfe Kent (‘Up In The Air’). These two combined could perhaps generate a lump in the throat of those not completely distracted by the far too predictable ending to the story.

Labor Day is a very grown up story and can perhaps grasp a few of us for a second, but it is enjoyable at best and probably one of the least exciting films you will see this year.

 

Rating: 2.5/5

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.

Image

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