Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Avengers Assemble (2012)

Rating: 12A
Director: Joss Whedon
Screenplay:  Joss Whedon
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner.

With the extortionate hype surrounding the release of The Avengers Assemble, there is lots of room for disappointment. The high box-office estimates, the anticipation of whether Mark Ruffalo would deliver us the most perfect Bruce Banner/Hulk yet, the desperation to know if any of the comic-book movies are ever going to be as great as expected… It seems very likely that there will be some let-downs after these greedy prospects are constantly being thrown around in the media in the lead up to The Avengers Assemble open day - and so, people are preparing for the worst.
Well, much like Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his opinions on the Avengers “time-bomb” Team, society was very, very wrong – not about the supposed brilliance of the film, but about the let-downs, because there are absolutely zero disappointments to follow the reveal of The Avengers Assemble.
The film is sequel to all previous Marvel comic movie adaptations, taking off with Loki – the creepily evil brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – as he finds his way back to Earth and steals the ultimate alien source of all energy, the Tesseract, threatening to subjugate the entire Human race with it and his own extra-terrestrial army from homeland, Asgard.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D sees no other option than to bring together all unique and powerful forces - including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – to defeat Loki and his plans, assembling a team called The Avengers.
For Joss Whedon (creator of TV sensation, Buffy The Vampire Slayer), this film may be the ultimate highlight of his long career - and this guy has already gained himself an impressive resume with screenplay credits for both Toy Story and Buffy. It’s Whedon’s dry humour and ability to remind the audience that the heroes are still human despite their specialities that prevents The Avengers Assemble from quickly transforming into another shallow and fast-forgotten action/adventure movie. Well delivered Shakespearian one-liners from Thor, feisty words from Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, slapstick comedy moments from Hulk and the usual quips and sarcasm from Tony Stark/Iron Man add laugh-out-loud moments and slapping-of-the-knee humour to relieve us of the tension that is created in the run up to attack. One of the greatest gems of the film lies within the family-like relationship that Whedon creates between Stark and Banner. Downey Jr. and Ruffalo are endearing with their on-screen “bromance”, establishing a real sense of unity within the team. The audience have full belief that the heroes will avenge – and with success.
Whedon is effective and smart, creating a perfect balance of action and heart just enough to allow the audience to actually care about what happens to the team and feel genuine pride whenever there is a victory. The special effects are realistic and powerful - a definite must for a movie of such size and budget - and the costumes and weapons are appropriate; not too flouncy as to distract us from the true heroism that comes from within the hero and not from their armour (disregarding Iron Man, of course, but who cares when he is so god-damn awesome without the suit?).
Full of twists, turns, gasps, laughs and triumph, The Avengers Assemble is the kind of film that makes you want to jump up from your seat, throw a fist in the air and scream “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!”. Your hands automatically gravitate towards each other as you applaud mid-movie, and there is a permanent grin plastered across your face, alight with childlike excitement, watching in awe as your favourite super-heroes join together with power and gusto, giving The Avengers Assemble the worthy title of “the best comic-book movie Marvel has ever made”.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Adventureland (2009)

Rating: 15
Director: Greg Mottola
Screenplay:  Greg Mottola
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader.

Set in 80’s Pittsburgh – a time of The Velvet Underground and pot cookies – Adventureland is the unique indie coming-of-age feature that makes us laugh, cry and cringe all in one. Endearingly funny, awkward and smart – Greg Mottola’s compelling vision of a typical teenage Summer is what makes this film unlike any other comedy out there. With its quirky cast and epic script, Adventureland is for anybody who’s ever had their heart stepped on, ever been caught stuck in a dead-end job, ever been young and reckless, and anybody who has ever fallen in love.
Jesse Eisenberg is genius as insecure and poetic student, James Brennan, whose Summer plans to travel are crushed ,as his family runs out of money and are forced to venture to Pittsburgh, where James reluctantly begins his job as a theme-park attendant at the run-down Adventureland. Eisenberg’s effective portrayal as the somewhat innocent virgin James is exceptional and the audience is on his side as soon as he cycles his bike through the park entrance.
The amusement park depicts a disarray of kooky rules, enforced by its equally kooky - if not slightly insane – owners, Bobby (Bill Hader) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig), such as – “nobody wins a Giant Ass Panda” and “no freebies, no free turns for your friends, no free upgrades”. Hilarious performances from both Hader and Wiig effectively present the madness of the 80s with their odd relationship and strange personalities – the epitome of 80s America. Mottola isn’t too heavy with the 80s theme. Subtle references to the era are made with wardrobe and the preppy punk soundtrack that could make Adventureland succeed alone. The movie is gracious and sleek, leaving the characters to establish the mood without frilly sets and overload of props.
Kristen Stewart is grungy and endearing as the troubled Em Lewin, a wry and compassionate teenager who has a taste for liquor and Husker Du. It is Em’s funny and enthralling nature that captures James’ attention - despite temptations from the park Goddess Lisa P (Margarita Levieva) – and the two characters form a bond that couldn’t be pulled off without Stewart and Eisenberg. The profound relationship is well demonstrated between the actors, delivering chemistry that is just the right balance of awkward and earnest.  The two face the struggles of moving from youth to adulthood together, enjoying the ride and ignoring the responsibilities life throws at them on the way.
A brilliant and sharp cast help to create the Adventureland team we see on screen and so desperately wish to be part of. Martin Starr is dry and side-splitting as the miserable youth, Joel – pissed off with life, unable to bag himself a girl. Matt Bush is juvenile and novel as the giggly Frigo, and Ryan Reynolds is slick yet seedy as the cheating maintenance guy Connell – who missed his chance at rock-fame after jamming with Lou Reed. Supposedly.
Full of quips, quirks, kookiness and truth, Adventureland is a winner when it comes to a casual, light-hearted flick. It’s a movie for every teenager with its thoughtful analysis and a fun-loving charm that can teach a kid more about life than life itself. Mottola understands youth and teaches the audience to be brave when it comes to life, whether life be working a dead-end job or graduating Harvard Law. Adventureland speaks volumes, and for an easy-breezy comedy, it inspires no end.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Drive (2011)

Rating: 18
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Screenplay: Hossein Amini
Genre: Crime/Action/Thriller/Drama
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston.

Nicholas Winding Refn is slick and scandalous, delivering us a faithfully brutal adaptation of the tenacious novel Drive, by James Sallis. Like the book, the movie follows Gosling as the quiet hero and unnamed Driver as he works multiple jobs as a car mechanic, a Hollywood stuntman and a driver for criminal getaways, attempting to forget his supposedly shameful past. From the word go, there is a dragged out tension and silent ticking-of-clock as Driver waits in a car for what feels like six hundred and forty years. Gosling effectively demonstrates Driver’s cool-as-cucumber nature as he waits for what turn out to be masked robbers to return, but we, the audience, are rigid with anxiety. The silence is ground-breaking, and never really ceases throughout the whole movie, offering us relentless mind games and the occasional need to pee (which is a strong recommendation given the length of the film).
Luckily for this picture, one of its strengths is Cliff Martinez’s eerie, electronic soundtrack that almost makes up for the lack of dialogue - especially between neighbour and future love interest, Carey Mulligan’s compelling Irene, which can only be described as somewhat awkward. You find yourself hissing and growing frustrated. “SAY SOMETHING!” you scream, and speak they do, but it’s nothing too memorable or important. The significance is when Driver in his sleek bomber jacket and suave nibbling-of-tooth-pick eats in a diner, and snaps at a past client after the Father of Irene’s child, Standard, (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison. Suddenly the mood shifts. The irritating silence can only be described as a tired hiker climbing Everest, and this moment is the peak. The tender and fascinating hero we were all rooting for a few minutes ago isn’t as platonic as we all expected, and at last, the movie has gripped us.
The only humour here is from the ridiculously unrealistic blood splats and shrieks of horror (given by the sadly under-cast Christina Hendricks) as Driver sets out to help Standard in order to save Irene (we all knew they weren’t just neighbourly) and her little boy, smart and cute Benicio (Kaden Leos). Driver is still our hero, only this time, he’s less Nicholas Cage and more Al Pacino. That scorpion-printed bomber jacket wasn’t for nothing.
Bryan Cranston is funny and endearing as the sidekick all action movies need, so his death adds the sentimentality that the movie attempts to achieve but fails in areas. Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks are more of a comedy act than a gangster villain duo, but Drive can afford minor mistakes. It is a masterpiece with frayed edges, and yet, the picture still stands.  Nicholas Winding Refn is sleek and subtle with a camera lens. With Gosling, the two of them provide us with a successful crime thriller that is slick, brutal and intense. Drive takes us on a road that has never been ventured down. The ride is tiresome and impatient yet once the pivotal point has been reached , we are thoroughly enthralled.  

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Rating: 12A
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Screenplay: Dan Fogelman
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Drama
Starring: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone.

Despite the lame title, Crazy, Stupid, Love is not a typical romantic comedy. It is cheesy, un-cliched and nothing less than relatable as it unfolds the most typical of family struggles with quirks, surprises, hilarious dialogue from Dan Fogelman and fizzy performances from its leads.
Ficarra and Requa are minimalistic and clever, leaving dynamics ready to be explored by its quick-witted, sharp and honest cast ensemble. A trusty one at that, with the ever-comical Steve Carell who somehow always manages to have us in tears of laughter – and in this film, even some tears of awe when he delivers the heart-warming speech at his smart yet awkward teenage son’s (Jonah Bobo) mini-graduation. A speech, which you will see, manages to tie the whole family back together again.
Julianne Moore is brilliantly spicy as Emily, the wife/ex-wife of Carell’s middle-aged character, Cal. The movie jumps straight in at the deep end with an awkward public announcement in a restaurant, when Cal asks Emily what she would like to order from the menu and she loudly declares; “I want a divorce” and later admits she has slept with another man, “David Lindhagen” (Kevin Bacon).
Three seconds into the movie and you’re already rooting for dreary yet earnest Cal, who
heads off to a bar. Here, smooth-talking, swagger-oozing Ryan Gosling’s Jacob is like an angel sent from above, ready to slap Cal into the ladies-man he needs to be to get back at his bomb-dropping wife, striking up an odd yet genuine friendship.
Meanwhile, Jonah Bobo’s young Robbie perseveres with his infatuation on family friend and babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), whilst she crushes on bore-turned-Casanova, Cal, and even goes to the extremes of sending inappropriate pictures to him. It’s awkward to see the innocently played Jessica strut around naked, pouting for the camera, yet the obstinate moment adds significance and grittiness to the film, if not gains a few laughs from the audience. The consequences of teenage love so well played by Tipton begs the question most adult viewers will be reluctant to utter; “We’ve all been there, right?” It’s all very stupid yet we find ourselves nodding and laughing bitterly at the screen.
The new Cal is strutting around in swanky suits, taking home every woman that will have him. A sexual encounter with a teacher soon backfires once he realises she is in fact, the teacher of his son. That’s a parents evening you are going to remember for all the wrong reasons. Moore is believable and endearing as she breaks down in tears – wondering what the rest of us had been thinking; “What went wrong?” Cal rethinks his womanising ways and contemplates his friendship with Jacob.
Jacob is a changed man too. He is in love for the first time in his life, unknowingly with Cal’s perky, oldest daughter, Hannah (Emma Stone). A barbeque that we’d been hoping would turn everything around soon turns sour at this revelation and we’re back to square one.
It is usually a cliché to see ups and downs in a rom-com, but this cast remind us that the reason these clichés stand is because they happen in our lives, every day. Affairs. Young love. Old love. Mid-life crises. One-night-stands. You name it, this movie has got it, and yet it still remains tasteful and witty despite its lengthy and jam-packed plot.
Full of wisdom, heart-felt moments and gasp-worthy exposures, it is not crazy or stupid to love this movie. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Somewhere (2010)

Rating: 15
Director: Sofia Coppola
Screenplay: Sofia Coppola
Genre: Drama

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius.

Sofia Coppola
perfectly captures the appropriate blend of heart and honesty in this eye-opening American drama exploring the harsh reality of a Hollywood star and his struggle to re-connect with his family.
In this day and age it is almost necessary that we know the ins and outs of our favourite actors life, but Somewhere effectively visits the hidden cons that celebrity life can offer, bringing a simple, if not fundamental story to life.
Stephen Dorff is earnest and gritty as privileged Hollywood actor Johnny Marco who has gotten used to the Hollywood lifestyle and lost sight of himself along the way. Step aside Dakota, because Elle Fanning is here and she is cute - without being sickening - and relatable as the spoilt yet appreciative eleven year old daughter, Cleo.
Coppola is a fan of visual metaphors, and if you’re not, it is a suggestion that you skip the opening and ending scene of Dorff’s character driving around in his Ferrari – (which I am sure means something profound) - then skip the full cut of Cleo’s unnecessarily long ice-skating routine (which was beautiful, yet tiresome) and then leave it there, because other than that, nothing about Somewhere fails to grab.
It is possible to be fully immersed in the truthful and lovable relationship between Johnny Marco and his daughter as you recognise the struggles when Cleo is dropped on Marco’s doorstep amidst his hard-living party animal antics. Dorff and Fanning deliver a connection which is quirky and understandable and viewers find themselves rooting for Dorff’s character to turn away from his pill-popping, sleazy, drunken ways and give Fanning’s Cleo the Father she deserves.
The film is beautifully shot, whether it be the eccentric camera angles or Harry Savides’ clean-cut cinematography that gives the movie a 90’s indie-flick feel. A cameo from Jackass’ Chris Pontius adds a much-needed humour and kiddy-feel to the responsibilities that Dorff’s Marco has been lumbered with among Cleo’s arrival. Suddenly shopping for summer camp and grabbing dinner are a priority and Dorff effectively shows the out-of-touch-with-reality persona that most celebrities are destined to carry in this world of competitive media and trash-talking press. One of the first scenes between Marco and Cleo involve Marco asking his daughter if they are “being followed”.
This concern is quickly brushed aside when Marco realises there is a lot more to life than his failing career - so cleverly demonstrated when Marco attends a press photo-call and is all-smiles for the cameras before proving to have an off-hand, hate-filled relationship with his apparent “best friend” of a co-star. Coppola again proves she is not just handy with a camera but also with a pen as she cunningly depicts the truth behind the glamorous, perfect sugar-coat that the film industry is given.
Luckily for today’s Hollywood starlets, Somewhere proves that despite all of this, actors are human too. They have families and they have struggles. Dorff’s character breaks down in tears when his daughter is packed off to Summer camp – proving that he does have a heart and he can now realise what kind of Father he hasn’t been.
It’s gripping, it’s truthful and it’s quietly compelling – Somewhere opens our eyes and yet again is a sturdy success for Coppola with her tender words and her ability to grip an audience with the simplest of stories - in this case; family.

Monday, 23 April 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)


Rating: 15
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Screenplay: Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear.

Genre: Thriller/Drama
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller.

Ezra Miller isn’t a household name yet, but his performance as the psychopathic teenager Kevin Khatchadourian warns the film industry that his movie-making journey is only just beginning.
Lynne Ramsay cleverly directs this chilling psychological thriller, adapted from the ground-breaking novel (Lionel Shriver) telling the tale of gutsy Eva Khatchadourian  - a flawless performance from Tilda Swinton - and her struggles to love her strange child as he grows to become a young man capable of terrible things.

I’m glad to see that this isn’t one of those corny movies when the character has to say the name of the title during the film to get it to work. This is quite the opposite. The main character in this film doesn’t have to say practically anything to get this movie to work. It just works.
With its eerie silences, gasp-worthy moments and mind-boggling twists and turns, you certainly will need to talk about Kevin as you chew your nails wondering when and what Kevin’s most unimaginable final act will be.
If you like movies with a lot of dialogue, this movie certainly doesn’t fit the brief – (as my Dad said, “the script writer had an easy job on this one”) – but it’s a whole lot more than that. A haunting visual and dragged out music note can summarise a whole plot more than any one-liner can, and let me tell you, in this case, We Need To Talk About Kevin is the epitome of a job well done.
This is not a movie to watch with your friends on a night in, or to snuggle up on the couch with when you’re nursing a hangover. It’s a tricky one, so watch it by yourself. It’s okay to be anti-social, so shut your blinds and turn out the lights. Grab a bag of Doritos (though you’ll stop eating them mid-bite) and switch off your phone. Then, prepare to be blown away.
Oh, but don’t watch it if you’re pregnant, because if any movie can dissuade you from reproducing in fear of creating a demon child, then this one can.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Hello and welcome!

Finally made a blog to thrust my film reviews upon :) I'm about to watch the 1st movie!!!! The review will be up as soon as I finish watching it.
Hopefully one day, instead of having a deadline for a blog which nobody *at the moment* follows, my deadline will be for Empire Magazine.
Dreaming big.
Here's some inspiring songs to pass the time.