Monthly Archives: July 2013

Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly (2012)killing them softly

Stars: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Richard Jenkins

Andrew Dominik made his directorial debut with 2000’s biopic of Australian criminal, Mark Read in the film Chopper. In Killing Them Softly, Dominik reunites with Brad Pitt with whom he directed in 2007’s The Assassination of Jess James By The Coward Robert Ford

The film tells the story of a couple of deadbeats hired by a low life criminal to hit a card game attended by gangsters in order to rob them.  The games are run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) and it won’t be the first time they’ve been targeted following a previous robbery set-up and organized by Trattman himself. Following this revelation, the robbery is set-up with Trattman likely to be the number one suspect.

A hitman (Pitt) is drafted in to take care of the situation, but hires help in the form of Mickey (the late James Gandolfini) due to his connection with one of the associates to the victims. Here follows vengeance in a particular violent way all played around the narrated theme of the Presidential elections with the focus centred on the global recession.

Killing Them Softly, on occasions, can be extremely violent and the violence portrayed is cleverly filmed in slow motion sequences which make it all the more unbearable to watch, but creates an excellent piece of cinema. The action itself makes up for the slow pace and lack of storyline.

The movie is sluggish and there are characters introduced pointlessly into the action. Gandolfini’s role in particular, although played fantastically, seems a bit lost and inappropriate to the storyline. Liotta performs a particularly disturbing role, a far cry from his Goodfellas days and the violent scenes in which he features are acted well and almost too realistically at times. Pitt, as ever, is superb and at the risk of using an acting cliché when describing the versatility of a performer, he is a chameleon. I watch Pitt’s performances and I don’t know how he does it, but in the hundreds or so movies he has appeared in he’s never played a role that is similar to one previously. He has the ability to add something different to each character to separate them from each other.

With the accompaniment of a fantastic cast my expectations of this movie were high and to summarise I was disappointed. Scenes were drawn out unnecessarily and there was room for improvement.

 

Rating: 5/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Killing Them Softly

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The Call

The Call (2013)call

Stars: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut

 

In 2005 Halle Berry was awarded a Razzie for the worst actress in the flop Catwoman. A “Razzie” is like an Oscar, but completely opposite. These awards are for the worst movies, the worst directors, worst stories and worst actors / actresses. Berry turned up to accept her award and received a standing ovation for doing so. This is the kind of person that she is. She is truthful. She is honest and she is not afraid to stand up to her critics and mock herself. She is also one of the finest actresses that has ever graced our screens and her performance in The Call is proof of that.

Berry plays 911 operator Jordan Turner who takes a call one evening from a distressed young girl claiming that a man is trying to break into her house. Jordan talks the girl through her ordeal getting her to hide upstairs while she arranges for a police car to come to the house. Jordan convinces the girl to pretend that she has gone outside when the intruder heads upstairs, but really she is under the bed and it is only when the phone connection is lost and Jordan makes the wrong move is the young girl discovered. Her body is later discovered buried in woodlands and it hits Jordan hard.

Fast forward six months and Jordan is now a teacher, showing young apprentices how the operation works. When a fellow operator receives a distress call from a young girl Jordan finds herself thrown back into the action and suddenly realises she is confronting the same killer from her past.

The Call is everything you imagine a thriller to be. It literally keeps you on the edge of your seat through fast paced action, scenes of utter tension and energy throughout. The hub of the movie is the 911 operator station throwing you to and from the action as it progresses through the storyline never allowing us time to take breath. Intense performances help heart rates increase. The reality of the storyline will add to your frustrations, but in a good sense. You feel you are there, you are part of it.

As mentioned before, Halle Berry once again puts in a solid performance throughout achieving such a level of tension that the longer the story pans out the more unbearable the action is. Abigail Breslin (the little girl from Signs believe it or not) shows how far she has come along as an actor with a resound performance in a difficult role. But it’s the role portrayed by relatively unknown actor Michael Eklund that really stands out from the rest. Eklund plays the role of the kidnapper Michael Foster in a truly unbelievable performance. His aggressive, neurotic persona borders on an Anthony Perkins portrayal of Norman Bates. The mannerisms and subtle nuances of his character are disturbing at times, but extremely effective.

The conclusion of the film does have a dark twist to it, but also with a profoundly heartwarming connotation in a depressive amalgamation. The unsettling manner of Foster’s being is explained in select shots and not dialogue and the outcome is unsettling. That doesn’t take anything away from the movie itself which is satisfactorily thrilling.

 

Rating:  8/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for The Call

 

 

The Last Stand

The Last Stand (2013)the-last-stand-movie-poster

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville

 

In his first full length feature since the end of his term governing California (excluding cameo appearances in the Expendable movies), Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to do what he does best. His last film was back in 2005 so that is an incredible eight years off screen.

Schwarzenegger dominated the main stream action movies of the late 80’s, through the 90’s and the occasional film in the 2000’s until he decided to run for the governor of California.  Schwarzenegger dispelled the fact that bodybuilders are all brawn and no brain for the man is intelligent. His knowledge of politics is quite eye opening and may surprise some people. Either love him or hate him, he managed to stay in power until 2011 and his immediate decision was to return to the movies and we welcomed him with open arms.

The Last Stand tells the story of sheriff Ray Owens, once a big shot in narcotics he quit following a bungled heist which nearly left him dead to live a relatively quiet life as the law in a small town known as Sommerton on the outskirts of the Mexican border. Meanwhile, a convict is being transported from Las Vegas to a high security prison and during the transfer he manages to escape. The team of people who works for him and an insider on the police force intercept the police convoy in some style and set up ambushes along the route towards the border into Mexico where he is headed to give him a clear run. The last town before the border is Sommerton where nothing really ever happens, much to the despondency of cop Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford) who wishes for more action. When a local farmer is found murdered, Schwarzenegger and crew become suspicious and uncover the convict’s gang located near the border and all hell breaks loose.

Schwarzenegger will probably never get the recognition for his acting skills that other peers in his profession gain.  I cannot truly see him lifting an academy award for any of his performances, but his screen presence and cult status make him a hero to many, myself included.  That was why I had a lot of uncertainty about watching this movie. I sensed it may not be what I was hoping it to be. I confess to being wrong.

The movie from the outset almost seems that it is split in two with life on Sommerton playing up against the chase sequence from Las Vegas. Schwarzenegger portrays his role comfortably well in this film, with the emphasis being on his age somewhat and is stature throughout the community.  On every occasion he is always keeping his eye out, he is a protector of the people.  He is supported by a fine cast of actors. The excellent Forrest Whittaker plays FBI agent John Bannister, who is tasked with transferring drugs convict, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega). Johnny Knoxville plays an oddball sort of a character in the film, but has some great scenes and Luis Guzman plays one of Owens’ deputy’s. Guzman is a fine actor and has never received the level of praise he truly deserves. He always plays a background character, but his performances are memorable. I guarantee that when you see him you will recognise him from another movie.

The Last Stand has everything you need from an action movie. Tension combined with car chases and a classic western shootout modernised for a new genre.  The bad guy is suitably cheesy as in most Arnie films, but overall the movie was thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.  Yes, there are flaws. Yes, it’s never going to be Award winning, but it will register on many viewers’ enjoyment levels.

Arnie has definitely returned to us and based on this performance it’s like he’s never been away.

With rumours of reprising roles in both the Terminator and Conan series it looks as though we will be seeing a lot more of Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for The Last Stand

 

 

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)silver-linings-playbook

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

 

Pat is coming out of rehab following a fallout after the breakdown of his marriage. Ordered to stay with his parents he has to follow certain rules and must observe a restraining order placed on him by his estranged wife. Pat suffers from a Bi-Polar disorder which makes him tense and edgy to say the least. He struggles to contain his violent streak set off by his wife having an affair, a story which is told to his therapist during one of his sessions. When Pat finds his wife having an affair, Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour is playing and it was the song played at their wedding and the song that Pat now struggles to escape from. It triggers something devastating inside him. Fuelled with passion for reconciliation to rekindle the lost love with his wife, Pat tries in vain to communicate with her, but to no avail.

During a meal at a friend’s house, Pat meets Tiffany. Tiffany is dealing with the loss of her husband, killed in a road accident and she too is struggling.  They share an uncommon bond with one another, both mourning loss in a different way, but ultimately dealing with it the same. Pat’s violent streak still continues to torment him and he takes to running to clear his head. It is while out running that he continues to meet Tiffany who is also out running.  The relationship between them is fraught at first as they try to compare their situations against each other. Tiffany tells Pat that she can get a letter to his wife, Nikki, but he has to do a favour for her in return. She wants him to be her dance partner for a competition she is training for. With the promise of communication with his wife, Pat reluctantly agrees and a whole new form of therapy is created.

Bradley Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in this movie and on viewing it you can see why. Although the most confusing aspect regarding his performance is how he didn’t win, for he produced a simply breathtaking performance. Cooper is a fine actor, one of the finest actors of our generation and deserves the awards for it. His portrayal of Pat was one of the best acting performances I have ever had the pleasure to witness from him.

Jennifer Lawrence plays the role of Tiffany. She too was nominated for an Oscar for her performance and she won. She deserved to win. She performed an absolutely stunning role. Both actors had the challenge of producing believable performances from very difficult characters to portray and they both made this movie what it is. They bring unbelievable tension to their roles. It is like watching a balloon being blown up. You don’t know when, but at some point that balloon is going to burst.

The script is based on the novel by Matthew Quick and was adapted for the screen and directed by David O. Russell. To jump straight to the conclusion, this movie is phenomenal. It’s faultless. It is perfect. There is nothing negative that I am able to say about it. The story is the perfect blend of black and white. The black being the therapy sessions, the depression, the violence. The white being the dancing. The flip side of the coin. The two parts of the story couldn’t be further away from each other in terms of genre, but brought together they bond perfectly.

The script is heavily worded and extremely detailed, but essential in capturing the theme of the story. The dialogue is quick and determined and the direction sublime encapsulating the heart of the plot throughout even during particularly difficult scenes.

Another fine performance is of that by Robert De Niro who plays Pat’s father, Pat Snr. Pat Snr is a sufferer of OCD and believes heavily in superstition. The movie concentrates on his affliction well capturing subtle moments like the remote controls all lined up in a certain way. He believes that Pat Jnr is a good luck charm for his football team, the Eagles and ensures that Pat wears the tops and watches the game with him. De Niro hasn’t performed a role this well for a number of years. He truly is back to his best.

Silver Linings Playbook will fill you with tension and anxiety towards the final scenes of the movie as we await the outcome which will move you emotionally. It is a highly charged movie caressing our every feeling and passion and when the credits role at the end you will feel satisfied.

Never did I believe that a movie could be so perfect and never did I believe that I could rate it so highly, but I simply cannot find fault with this movie. It is brilliant.

Rating: 10/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook

 

 

Submarine

Submarine (2010)220px-Submarine_poster

Stars: Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Craig Roberts

 

Welcome to Oliver Tate’s life. Oliver is, by anyone’s standards, considered a loner, an outsider, different from everyone else, but there is no denying his intelligence and his view on life. Depicting key moments in a hand held diary, Oliver uses his everyday observations to his own advantage. He then notices Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige) a girl in his class who is different from most of the girls that you will meet. When Oliver defends Jordana’s honour during a fight with a fellow classmate at school she suddenly can see him for who he really is and a relationship between them forms, albeit a difficult one. Jordana is not your everyday girl who expects flowers, chocolates and romantic music. She opts for a spontaneous life opting for walks through abandoned funfairs setting off firecrackers to beach strolls in the sunset.

Oliver’s parents relationship starts to wane while his own appears to blossom and is not helped by new next door neighbor a physic and spiritualist reader, Graham Purvis (the excellent Paddy Considine). Purvis is discovered to be a former lover of Oliver’s mum, Jill, whom his father, Lloyd (Taylor) stole her heart from years ago. With Jordana’s affection towards Oliver changing his does too as his focus is concentrated on saving his parents relationship while his own is at risk of being destroyed.

Richard Ayoade will probably be best known in the role of Moss from The IT Crowd, but it is his adaption of the novel by Joe Dunthorne in which he shows true talent. His script and direction really blossom in this superb outing with a combination of cleverly filmed sequences interspersed with some abnormal scenes all set on a drab, desolate canvas of Wales. The true skill crafted in this rendition is the surroundings of the action giving the feel of the movie a truly murky backdrop which results in a true reflection of moods.

Ayoade has been blessed with a fine cast of British actors with the excellent Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins playing the role of Oliver’s parents with a hilarious performance by Considine as Graham Purvis. Considine really shows his true comedic talents in a role he seemed to revel in playing. But it is the young talents of the movie’s focal points, Oliver and Jordana that really complete it. Both actors were not even twenty years old when the movie was filmed and both performed sublime roles for their age. Both characters were not easy to portray, but the actors accomplished very experienced performances.

British cinema is on the increase and the industry has produced some of the finest movies of our time. Submarine belongs right up there among them for it truly is British cinema at its best.

Rating: 8/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Submarine

 

 

The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers (2011)innkeepers2

Stars: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis

 

The premise for The Innkeepers had definite potential for a truly terrifying horror film. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is a haunted hotel that due to poor business is spending its last weekend in open. Employees, Claire (Paxton) and Luke (Healy) are working the last shifts of the almost empty hotel at the same time of trying to record any noises they hear of the apparently haunted hotel for a website that Luke is working on after claims that he saw the resident ghost, Madeline O’ Malley.

Other than the two employees, there are only two other guests including famous actress, Leanne Rease-Jones (McGillis). During one evening, Claire decides to investigate noises coming from the basement, but realises it’s only a trapped bird. She re-enters the lobby of the hotel and armed with recording equipment tries to capture some noises. In doing so she can hear the subtle sounds of the piano playing and as she nears the instrument and unseen force hits some of the keys on the piano forcing Claire to flee away from the scene and seek comfort from Luke who is asleep upstairs.

Claire bares all to guest Leanne Rease-Jones who informs her that she now works as a spiritualist healer and tries to contact the spirit of Madeline O’Malley. She warns Claire away from the basement, but during the last night at the hotel both Claire and Luke get drunk and armed with alcoholic courage head into the basement.

This movie had so much potential that the finished product was disappointing overall. The characters of Claire and Luke were played with such seamless repertoire between each other that you could believe the closeness between the characters. Paxton gave the role of Claire such innocence that the manner of her performance even down to the smallest detail was charming.

The chilling scenes of noises being heard and expectation of movement in the shadows did well to terrify with long drawn out pauses only adding to the fright, but the movie had elongated scenes in between which left you waiting for something to happen. It was slow moving with certain scenes pointless to the rest of the story. Admittedly some of the early scenes were played out to set up the story, but there wasn’t enough to warrant a true scare from this movie even though the potential was definitely there to terrify. Kelly McGillis performed a non-challenging role without trouble and her character didn’t really bring any valuable addition to the storyline.

Interestingly enough the film was set in the real Yankee Pedlar Inn which with its own haunted history is more interesting than the movie itself. The stories from the Inn inspired the storyline of this movie and the cast and crew even stayed there to add reality to the story.

In summary this movie had everything you would have believed were available to set up a truly haunting tale, but in reality there was so much more that could have been done to make this even scarier.

Rating: 6/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for The Innkeepers

 

 

Man of Steel

Man of Steel (2013)mos_glyph_hires

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

 

Back in 2006, Superman received the big screen remould in the form of Superman Returns. It had been 19 years since Superman’s last outing in the 1987 movie Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, so an overhaul was long overdue. Or was it?

Bryan Singer’s version had everything. A strong cast incorporating the talents of Kate Bosworth, James Marsden and Kevin Spacey to name but a few, a strong script (supposedly set in between Superman 2 and 3) and a potential new star in Clark Kent/Superman that Christopher Reeve himself would be proud of. The star, Brandon Routh, was a relatively unknown actor, but he ticked all the boxes for the man in tights. So what went wrong? A lot of people were desperate for this movie to do well and even though it went on to gross over $200 million at the box office it left a lot of people disappointed. It just didn’t seem work. Even after the movie there were talks of a sequel, but all plans were later shelved and the idea flew away.

The year is now 2013 and Superman is born again in Zak Snyder’s remake. The franchise was definitely due some justice so whatever is done; it has to be done well. Superman is right up the top of all time superheroes for a lot of people. No pressure there then.

With heavy influence from the successful collaborators of the new Batman franchises, David S. Goyer (script) and Christopher Nolan (producer), Man of Steel tells a deeper, darker story of Kal-El, the son of Jor-El and Lara his parents from the planet Krypton. Krypton itself is involved more in this new telling of the story with the overthrowing of the planet causing Jor-El to take the decision to send his new born son to Earth, to be a protector of the people and for Krypton to live on within him. The film is then shown in a contrast of flashbacks depicting key points in Kal-El’s new identity, Clark Kent’s life. In essence the film’s motive is about dealing with being different and overcoming the challenges that have been set for you while ultimately trying to find a purpose. A young Clark Kent saves his school colleagues from drowning when the school bus plunges into a lake, but is warned by his adopted father to take caution. An enemy can dwell from the knowledge he gains.

When General Zod turns against the people of Krypton he is tried with murder and imprisoned within a frozen cell in outer space, but makes it his aim to find the son of Jor-El and to destroy him. Clark, still with no purpose to his existence or knowledge as to who he was discovers a spaceship frozen in ice which is being investigated by intrepid reporter, Lois Lane who discovers the strange character who is impervious to the freezing conditions and can fire laser beams from his eyes. She centres her story on him, but is warned away from it by her editor at the Daily Planet, Perry White. Clark then discovers his true existence when he meets a vision of his father, Jor-El who tells him of his past and what he is here to do. It is then he realises his purpose. It is then he becomes Superman.

The vision of the script is interesting detailing on Kal-El’s upbringing from a small boy to Clark Kent, the enigma. Gone away with the red pants over the tights is also the reporter by day, superhero by night background with the script centering on Clark as an individual dealing with his life and his powers. Superman is an enemy to the people of America and has to prove to them that he is on their side and when General Zod escapes from his prison he attacks and the Americans have all the proof they need as to his allegiances.

Some of the fight sequences are heavily laden with CGI with the object to generate as much damage as possible and in certain cases it does get a bit excessive. With a stellar line-up behind the camera comes a huge force in front of it. Russell Crowe plays the role of Jor-El, Kal-El’s father from Krypton in a solid performance. Jor-El gets more screen time in the new version with the attack on Krypton creating the first twenty minutes of the movie. Krypton is also brought to life in this telling and we see it as the planet that it is. On Earth, Clark’s adopted father is played by Kevin Costner and in the limited screen time he is given he manages to pull off a truly convincing and captivating performance. He left the feeling that he had been involved in the movie more. Michael Shannon portrays the pure evil and menace of General Zod with such ease. He defined a newer, more aggressive version of the character. Amy Adams may not be everyone’s choice for Lois Lane, but she plays the role well. The character of Lois Lane is not really a woman who is hugely attractive, she has an inner beauty that Clark/Superman falls in love with and Adams captures the essence of that beauty well. British newcomer, Henry Cavill, dons the Superman outfit in a role that has been connected with many of Hollywood’s hugest stars including Nicolas Cage. Cavill beefed up for the role of Clark, a loner who struggles to deal with life and continuously finds himself on the road trying to discover his purpose. He performs superbly in a hugely demanding role.

Comic book fans should note that there is no tongue in cheek quips or one-liners that we’ve come to expect in other movies like Iron Man and The Avengers. The script is dark and serious and born from the same mind as Batman Begins. The story has been put together intricately setting us up for more. CGI unfortunately rules much of the action unlike the Batman franchise, but the direction of the storyline has left this franchise open for another movie or even series of movies.

 

Superman flies again.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Man of Steel