Monthly Archives: May 2013
I feared that I had been drawn in with some excellent marketing when watching the trailer for Tower Heist. The trailer showed some very funny, memorable scenes in particular the ones featuring Eddie Murphy. I understand that trailers are created to draw in potential customers to watch a film and that also some trailers preview all of the best moments of a movie into a two and a half minute segment. Ben Stiller comedies can either be gold or bronze. He has made a name for himself in some of our much loved comedies and with a stellar supporting cast, there is nothing that can go wrong.
Stiller plays building manager, Josh Kovaks, a man employed to maintain the daily running of one of New York’s finest, richest buildings. Kovacs works for Mr. Shaw (Alan Alda), a rich businessman who owns the building and from the outset appears to hold a respectable relationship with Kovaks with whom he regards highly. The pair even enjoy playing online chess with each other.
Following an attempted kidnapping which transpires to be a cover-up for an attempted flee, Mr. Shaw’s dubious business dealings catch up with him when he is arrested for fraudulent behavior from his past transactions. It is here we see the true side of this warm character, but also that we discover that Josh Kovaks asked Shaw to invest the pension funds of all the staff at the tower in the hope that he could potentially treble their savings, a promise that never came to fruition. When trustworthy, reliable doorman Lester (the loveable Stephen Henderson) attempts to take his life we discover that he gave Shaw his life savings of just over $73,000 to invest, a move that resulted in all the money being lost. Kovaks then takes drastic action visiting Shaw who is on house arrest in his penthouse apartment and flanked by Charlie (Casey Affleck) and Enrique (Michael Peña) takes a golf club to the $10million Ferrari once owned by Steve McQueen sat in Shaw’s living room, a move which gets him and his colleagues the sack, despite them having no involvement.
The now jobless Kovaks decides to do whatever he can to help out the staff he feels he let down by breaking into the penthouse apartment to steal $20million dollars securely locked in a safe ensconced in one of the apartment’s main walls. With the help of his ex-colleagues, Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) a former Wall Street employee evicted from the tower and small-time crook, Slide (Murphy) Kovaks attempts to perform the impossible and steal from his former boss.
As the introduction to the review covers there are many trailers that you will see that show all the best bits of the film and leave the rest of it flat. I believed that this too would be the case from this movie, but what I saw was a thoroughly entertaining, action packed and somewhat meaningful comedy. It isn’t your typical laugh-out loud comedy and it isn’t a typical American gross-out comedy, but what the writers have produced is definitely worth a watch.
The inclusion of Eddie Murphy as a small time crook was an inspiring casting and he steals the movie with a lot of his scenes, but that isn’t taking anything away from the rest of the cast. Michael Peña puts in a strong comedic performance as does Matthew Broderick who plays the role of former tower resident, Mr. Fitzhugh in a slightly depressing way and Casey Affleck sculpts his character of Charlie well. Infact, all of the cast, Stiller included, provide us with some memorable characters all of which differ from each other, but ultimately work well within the movie.
There are one or two characters that are questionable. The uber-talented Gabouery Sidibe from Precious fame plays the character of Odessa with a slightly debatable Nigerian accent and Téa Leoni plays a rather over familiar FBI agent Claire Denham.
You may find that you do laugh-out-loud (LOL) with this movie; others of you may find that you titter mildly, like myself, but will be entertained by the storyline. Yes, there are scenes which are totally far-fetched and you question how anyone would get away with it and there are moments where the storyline takes a darker twist when dealing with the threat of imprisonment, but on the whole the movie entertains and retains the viewers attention.
Before this movie even starts we are introduced to the theme by the evocative quote from author Arthur C. Clarke –
“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
This sets the tone of the movie and from blank screen we are brought into the modern day. Dark Skies has the making of a truly great horror thriller. Much like a bottle of fine wine, it has everything on appearance. The bottle is unique, the outer packaging is tempting and you just hope and pray that the wine isn’t corked. On opening this particular bottle, the first sip tasted great and got better right through to the end of the bottle.
Moving quickly away from that rather peculiar analogy the story follows a modern day family living in a suburban neighborhood in which everything seems normal. That is until strange occurrences start to happen. They are mild at first (food missing from the fridge, bottles and ornaments stacked on a kitchen worktop), but they soon become more and more surreal and frequent. The youngest son, Sammy (Kadan Rockett) starts to tell his parents of the nightmares he has and of the Sandman that comes to visit him. The atmosphere inside the house becomes increasingly unbearable both to the family and to us, the audience. We see mysterious symbols on the ceiling, family members suffering from disturbing blackouts and in one particular creepy scene we catch a brief glimpse of what we are dealing with. Rather than present the enemy in its full entirety, Writer/Director Scott Stewart is clever to only let us have snippets of it, the rest is left to our imaginations which add to the horror.
Stewart has crafted a fine script and balances the levels of thriller and horror to perfection. There is rarely an easy moment during the film to catch your breath before there is another dark scene approaching. There are certain scenes where, although you can sense the outcome, it will still no doubt shock you and you can feel your heart rate grow. It doesn’t make viewing easy and there will be a large amount of shifting in seats and hands covering faces as you wait for something to happen.
There are other elements that let the movie down, but not many. The finale, for example, looks as though it has been plucked straight from the movie Signs and the usually superb J.K.Simmons cameo as an alien expert is miss-cast in my opinion although the character holds the key details of the story.
Aside from that there are some remarkably chilling performances from the youngsters in the film which enables the true horror of the story to come to life. There were moments that I expected the Hollywood influence to play a major hindrance of the movie, but fortunately it didn’t. If anything, the chills kept coming and the movie’s finale will leave you wanting more.
Are we alone in the universe? The verdict is divided, but Dark Skies may tip the balance and change our beliefs that there are other forms of life on a different planet.
Or on this one…
*PARENTAL GUIDANCE – THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE. WELL, ONE WORD ANYWAY *
The synopsis alone should warn you that this movie could get messy. Jeff Chang (Chon) is just about to turn 21 and the night before his big interview for a job in medicine, his old friends Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) turn up to take him out and celebrate his 21st, but Jeff Chang is cautious and really doesn’t want to go out. Jeff Chang is under orders from his strict father to ensure that he doesn’t ‘screw up’ the opportunity presented to him and to follow in his families footsteps of becoming a doctor. Eventually he agrees to have one or two drinks. Sound familiar? It should do as the films writers/directors; Jon Lucas and Scott Moore were also responsible for the Hangover movies. I am sure you can imagine what happens next…cue shots being lined up, beer flowing and general, drunken merriment from our three stars.
There are many crude moments throughout the movie and times when you may cringe with embarrassment, but the aim here was to try and shock more than anything else and it doesn’t really do that. There are far-fetched scenarios, pointless scenes and plenty of de-ja-vu moments.
This movie is primarily a teenage version of The Hangover with scenes stolen from the American Pie cutting room floor. There isn’t a great deal that is original with the story and the lead roles can be quite annoying. The script seems centered on seeing how many ‘fucks’ and other curse words that could be included in any one scene. There are occasional lines muttered by the female love interest (Sarah Wright) which intend to be risqué, but end up sounding uneasy. Maybe now I’ve turned 34 my youth is extinct, but the storyline is predictable in areas and you get a sense you know how it is going to turn out. There are awkward scenes like when Jeff Chang (he is always referred to by his full name throughout the movie) starts stripping on a bar just to urinate on people and the more drunk our young alcoholics get the more rude and obnoxious they become with the bouncers on the doors of various clubs, a feat that over in the UK would result in not even making it into the club in the first place.
The themes and morals of the story are simple. It’s all to do with growing up and friendships and understanding fully how you do know somebody. There is an underlying, almost dark sub story involving Jeff Chang which is explored towards the end of the movie when the climaxing ‘moment of clarity’ signals the finale and everyone gets what they want. Cue happy endings.
As entertaining as it might be to some people, I believe there is too much repetition from a series of previous, alcohol related, teen American movies to allow it to stand out as its own movie. Comparisons will always be made with movies, but in 21 & Over there are too many to count.
The Wachowskis (Andy and Lana) are no strangers to epic sci-fi productions after 1999’s The Matrix and it’s two sequels spurned a new generation of movie making and visual effects. Here they adapt the novel written by David Mitchell telling the tale of how decisions can affect the lives of others throughout generations of time.
Filmed throughout six generations of time, the story begins to unfold with introductions to characters from different eras. There is a young lawyer from the 1800’s who strives to rid the country of slavery while sailing back across the Pacific to be reunited with his true love, the young homosexual musician who tricks his way into working for one of the world’s most famous composers and writes letters to his lover, the reporter in the 1970’s looking to uncover a murder at a nuclear power plant, the modern day publicist who ends up as a prisoner in an old people’s home, the rebellious Korean clone forced to work in a 2144 futuristic world and a post-apocalyptic tribe who fight against a cannibal clan.
It is the soul of the character which is carried through time and excerpts of each generation is discovered in the different periods of time. In 1970, Luisa Rey (Berry) meets an elderly Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) and she discovers the letters written to him by his former lover, Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) who worked for world famous poet Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent). Broadbent also plays the role of Timothy Cavendish whose latest client; Dermot Hoggins (Hanks) hasn’t taken kindly to a critics review and throws him from the balcony of a building killing him. After his imprisonment Cavendish reaps the rewards from Hoggins book sales until he is threatened by Hoggins associates and has to ask help from his brother, Denholme (Hugh Grant) who ends up sending him to an old people’s home. The result of which becomes a film in which Hanks portrays the role of Cavendish and is later viewed by Korean clone, Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) and her rescuer, Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess) in a moment of respite. Sonmi-451 is the inspiration for revolution as discovered by Zachary (Hanks) and Meronym (Berry). With me still?
As you can see the storyline is incredibly complex and it make take a couple of views to piece the puzzles together, if indeed they are there to be pieced. The downside to multiple viewings of this movie is the running time of nearly three hours. It’s a long period of time to concentrate.
Credit here must go to the actors whose diversity and versatility show the true capabilities of their skills. There are moments even after the film is over that you will need to research who played who as some of the transformations are truly spectacular. Hanks is a stalwart in any role that he is cast in. He is dependable, reliable and there is no question of doubt in his performances (maybe with the exception of his Irish accent). Halle Berry portrays various roles including one unrecognisable performance of Vyvyan Ayrs wife which I eventually discovered was her after the film was over. A Wachowski favourite, Hugo Weaving plays some truly captivating roles including that of a devil figure keen on tormenting Hanks’ character of ‘Zachary’ in post-apocalyptic Hawaii in 2300 and the hilarious portrayal of a nurse at the home where Jim Broadbent’s character of Tim Cavendish is held prisoner.
There is a strong congregation of British actors who appear in the movie with a wonderful set of performances from Jim Broadbent and also the future of British cinema, Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy and Ben Whishaw. The final accolade for me must land with the captivating performances by Hugh Grant. Usually typecast as the bumbling, romantic lead Grant doesn’t get enough screen time in my opinion, but he makes the most of his roles including the terrifying role of cannibal leader the Kona Chief. Grant really proves his worth as an actor in this movie and I crave more of the same from him.
With a lengthy run time and complex storyline, Cloud Atlas will leaving you in awe of the visual effects and filmography represented by a tight, decent script. It is just the perplexing connections of each storyline that may spoil this for you as you desperately attempt to work it out. You may get it first time and thoroughly enjoy this. Or you may not. Even so, the Wachowski’s have developed this production with superior quality once again which never questions their ability and judging by the box office takings they have produced a winner.
The Social Network (2010)
You’d have to have been living in a cave for the last ten years not to have heard of Facebook. People either love it or hate it, but it is still the continued forefront of all of our social endeavours. Facebook has replaced the previous popular form of communication, texting and, before that, physical conversation which has been replaced by electronic conversation in the form of a “Wall Post” or “Message” using one of Facebook’s many functions. The social media website has 500 million users all over the world and it has made the co-founder Mark Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in the world. But just how did it come about?
David Fincher’s take on the book The Accidental Billionaires by author Ben Mezrich is the visual tale of the birth and rise of the world’s biggest social outlet which began life as a simple hack job on a university computer. Following on from a split with his girlfriend, Zuckerberg (the excellent Jesse Eisenberg) comes home drunk and immediately starts shooting his mouth off on his blog and taking no prisoners. He then adapts the idea of comparing the female undergraduates of the university against each other using their personal university sites known as “The Facebook Profile” and later gets reprimanded after crashing Harvard’s system due to the surge of users logging on. Following the stunt he is targeted by twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss to help them program their own website idea for use in the Harvard campus. Zuckerberg agrees to help, but despite constant attempts by the twins at contacting him he drops out of the project to instead focus his attention on his own university website known as “The Facebook” with the help of college friends Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Dustin Moskovitz (Joseph Mazzello). Zuckerberg’s website becomes the talk of the campus before the talk of the campuses (plural) as the site reaches out to other schools.
As the films tagline suggests you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies and success becomes the more dominant goal for our young geniuses. As the popularity of the site grows, friendships are tested and ideas are generated, but not necessarily agreed as tempers begin to fray. The film is split between two varying lawsuits which Zuckerberg attends discussing the history of the creation of the website which is shown in flashback clips and throughout the course of the movie, your loyalty will not doubt change.
Eisenberg plays the role of Mark Zuckerberg with suitable arrogance and his performance emanates the correct levels of pedantic-ism (?) Not knowing the true personality of Zuckerberg, it’s hard to comment on whether his performance is exact, but it is dark in the right places and earns him the plaudits he deserves. The dialogue of the film is quick, punchy and intelligent and combined with the dark score (composed by Nine Inch Nails front man, Trent Reznor) it’s chillingly suitable for the theme of deceit and trust.
Britain’s own Andrew Garfield plays the role of the other co-founder of Facebook and Zuckerberg’s (former) friend Eduardo Saverin in a role that displays the true levels of his abilities as an actor. Former star of Jurassic Park, Joseph Mazzello plays another of Zuckerberg’s college roommates who becomes a programmer for Facebook and the man of many talents, Justin Timberlake plays the role of Sean Parker the founder of website, Napster who collaborates with Zuckerberg eventually becoming a shareholder.
The story of Facebook is an interesting one and the whole uncertainty surrounding the ownership and development of the site combined with the actual truth keep your attention sustained throughout the course of the movie. You allegiances will change throughout although we never establish who really is the ‘bad guy’. We don’t know the actual truth behind it, but there are those out there that do and they are the ones responsible for 500 million addictions.
Love it or hate it you cannot escape it. Zuckerberg has to take a lot of credit for the fact that it has never been about money for him. He wanted to create something that people will love. I don’t think he could ever prepare for the outcome of Facebook.
This movie will leave you wanting to know more. It will generate more of an interest in Facebook as a website and more of an interest regarding those responsible for it and it may even help you love it, if you are a hater.