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Our first video – a hello from us!

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– TRJ

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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.


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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.

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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

OSCARS 2015: THE NOMINEES…

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And the nominees are…

Best Picture:

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

Whiplash

The Theory of Everything

Best Director:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller

Best Actor In A Leading Role:

Steve Carell

Bradley Cooper

Benedict Cumberbatch

Michael Keaton

Eddie Redmayne

Best Actor In A Supporting Role:

Robert Duvall

Ethan Hawke

Edward Norton

Mark Ruffalo

JK Simmons

Best Actress In A Lead Role:

Felicity Jones

Julianne Moore

Rosamund Pike

Reese Witherspoon

Marion Cotillard

Best Actress In A Supporting Role:

Patricia Arquette

Keira Knightley

Emma Stone

Meryl Streep

Laura Dern

Best Animated Feature:

– Big Hero 6

– The Box Trolls

– How To Train Your Dragon 2

– Songs Of The Sea

– Tales Of Princess Kaguya

Best Animated Short Film:

The Bigger Picture

The Dam Keeper

Feast

Me and My Moulton

A Single Life

Best Cinematography:

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ida

Mr Turner

Unbroken

Best Costume Design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

Best Documentary Feature:

Citizen Four

Finding Vivian Maier

Last Days In Vietnam

Salt Of The Earth

Virgunga

Best Documentary Short Subject:

Crisis Hotline 1: Veterans Press

Joanna

Our Curse

The Reaper

White Earth

Best Film Editing:

American Sniper

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

Best Foreign Language Film:

Ida – Poland

Leviathan – Russia

Tangerines – Estonia

Timbuktu – Mauritania

Wild Tales – Argentina

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Original Score:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Mr. Turner

The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song:

Everything Is Awesome – The Lego Movie

Glory – Selma

Grateful – Beyond The Lights

I’m Not Gonna Miss You – Glenn Campbell, I’ll Be Me

Lost Stars – Begin Again

Best Production Design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Into the Woods

Mr. Turner

Best Sound Editing:

American Sniper

Birdman

The Hobbit: Battle Of Five Armies

Interstellar

Unbroken

Best Sound Mixing:

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Best Visual Effects:

Interstellar

Captain America Winter Soldier

X Men Days Of Future Past

Interstellar

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Inherent Vice

Imitation Game

Whiplash

Theory Of Everything

American Sniper

Best Original Screenplay:

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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NOTEABLE SNUBS: Unbroken (Best Director), Interstellar (Best Director), Gone Girl (Best Adapted Screenplay), Nightcrawler (Best Actor), Cake (Best Actress)

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.

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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.

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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: ‘LONE SURVIVOR’

‘Lone Survivor’

Written by: Peter Berg (Screenplay), Marcus Luttrell (Book)
Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch
The Story: Marcus Luttrell and his team of highly trained Navy SEALs go behind enemy lines to capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shah and find themselves engaged in a dangerous battle.

 

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If there is one thing that sticks in your mind after watching Lone Survivor, it is the haunting feeling that this was a true story. After watching a brutal take down of so many US Soldiers we are left with a certain distinct thought that we are indeed lucky to be alive.

First kudos in this review has to go to Colby Parker Jr, who edited the film in such a ruthless manner we flinch in even the less gruesome scenes. Combined with exquisite sound editing it is one of the standout elements. The pair do, however, make the film difficult to watch for anyone who is squeamish so we must warn that the realism presented here is not for the faint hearted.

Wahlberg gives a solid performance as Marcus Luttrell, and I am sure that it is something that Luttrell himself will be proud of. He is supported with mature offerings from both Kitsch and Hirsch as well as Ben Foster, who make an extremely patriotic foursome. Even though the men make decisions that seem timelessly frustrating it is impossible not to root for them, luckily we can root for them and still end the movie thinking “well, they shouldn’t of done that in the first place”. Despite this we feel the heart in these characters and can develop a real connection particularly to the character of Luttrell. Wahlberg did well in expelling a human element to his performance which continually reminds us that all of this was real.

The only real issue with this film is that it is what it is: a bang-bang, shoot em up, all American war movie. For the two hour running time we can almost taste the fact that Berg is trying to create something different here, but he falls down. What we are left with, at the core of all of this, is one continued gun battle with little to no time to process. As soon as we feel like we are getting time to breathe, the onslaught begins again. Maybe this is Berg trying to put us in the shoes of the soldiers. Maybe it’s just an action movie.

All in all, this is a fantastic movie for action lovers and patriots. If you are squeamish or easy bored by extended battle scenes then skip it.

Rating: 4/5

 

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. 

 

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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.

 

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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: ‘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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OSCARS 2014: WHAT IS THE BEST PICTURE?

Oscar nominations were released today and the internet is in a frenzy. Some are excited and relieved that their favourite stars or films were nominated for their performances this year. Others were shocked and upset that their chosen performer did not receive the Academy stamp of approval.

So let us take a look at what we have in store this year. I decided to do a breakdown of the top five categories in the ceremony. Each post will have a breakdown of every nominee in each of these categories. These opinions are mine, and I encourage everyone to add their own.

Remember, the 86th Annual Academy Awards airs on March 2nd, and we will be in good hands with Ellen DeGeneres once again at the helm.Individual film reviews will also be posted through the blog in the next six weeks.

BEST PICTURE

American Hustle: David O Russell’s second offering in as many years stampeded through the Golden Globes, scooping up three awards, including Best Motion Picture: Musical Or Comedy. While the performances by the ensemble cast have been praised by most, the film was at times referred to as all pizzaz and no substance. The costumes, music and pouting seem to be enough to carry this movie into the nominations, but can a few good performances push it to the top?

The Wolf Of Wall Street: Martin Scorcese’s fun and flirtatious adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s true to life book received huge criticism for ‘glamourising’  and ‘glorifying’ the world of investment fraud. Indeed, the film did lack the distinct feeling of remorse presented in the novel. However, this three hour parade demonstrates not just humour and drama (a powerhouse combination), but it startles the audience into enjoying the reality of the entire story. Having said that, and given DiCaprio’s strained history with the Academy, this film will either kill or be killed this year.

Captain Phillips: Here we have another film based on a true story, therefore we can assume that the reality of it resonated with it’s viewers. Famously snubbed by the Oscars for this year, Tom Hanks offered a notable performance which takes us back to his ‘Cast Away’ days. He is overshadowed however by newcomers, most specifically Barkhad Abdi as the deranged Somalian pirate Muse. Abdi received a nod from the academy. However, with a lack of nomination in the Best Director category, it seems unlikely that this will take the prize.

Dallas Buyers Club: Well, didn’t this gem just get a nod all around? Nominated in acting categories, as well as Best Director, Film Editing, Screenplay, and Hairstyling. A pretty incredible scoop. The film itself plays upon an incredibly serious topic, and one which should have a pretty solid social impact. In watching it, we can almost feel that the subject matter, AIDS, is a metaphor for the diseases that are eating us all: drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, cancer.. you name it. Ticking all the boxes, this could truly be a dark horse.

Gravity: Alfonso Cuaron’s latest offering is less science fiction (as the plot would suggest) and more a story of pure survival. Cuaron took out Best Director at the Golden Globes and deservedly so: everything from the cinematography, to the music, and even the performance given by Sandra Bullock (who carried the entire film as almost a lone actor, not an easy task) was primed to perfection. Gravity will certainly sweep contenders under the rug in the technical categories, but could the Academy have a science fiction drama take out Best Film?

Her: While this film has a good message, and serves as perhaps a warning to us all of our reliance on technology, it’s quirky nature really does some damage in terms of the Academy and their voting structure. This is a film that you either love or hate. It should win for Best Original Song, but was unfortunately passed up in the cinematography category which is one of the film’s main strengths.

Nebraska: ‘The Artist’ famously took out the Oscar for Best Picture when it delighted audiences with the very fact that they could, in this day and age, still enjoy a black and white film. The film certainly has enough nominations in the acting category to justify a win, and Director Alexander Payne even got the nod, but the true let down here is the lack of technical celebration. There is no back end to the film, and without broad support it does lag behind.

Philomena: This is the token film with heart in this year’s nominations. Poignant, witty, and exceptionally British, Philomena has received rave reviews and Judi Dench has been recognised as one of the most stellar performances of the year. Again adapted from a novel (the adaptation has received a nomination for screenwriting) the story is one that will tug on the heart and mind of anyone who watches it. The sole representative for British films, though, it perhaps lacks the glamour or relationship to the Academy to go all the way.

12 Years A Slave: This film resonates in it’s dark social significance. While the film is difficult to watch, it tests the audience’s emotion and leaves many feeling truly disturbed. Let’s not forget that it’s sweep of nominations in multiple categories places it as a worthy contender. Many did not watch this film due to it’s graphic and at times almost unwatchable content, however with the absence of similar films like ‘Mandela’ and ‘The Butler’, this could leave room for 12 Years A Slave to snatch the top prize.

It Should Be… ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’

It Will Be… ‘12 Years A Slave’

NEXT POST: Best Supporting Actress

**AN: This was originally posted on my personal blog: www.rachel-helena.blogspot.com – please do check it out.