Monthly Archives: March 2015

Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

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Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton

 

The LA emergency services received hundreds of call outs a day from armed robberies through to car accidents and public disturbance and for Louis Bloom there is a chance to exploit this and earn himself some money.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays dark well. Bordering on an older version of Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal takes on the role of small time thief, Bloom and his obsession to delve further and further into the world of video media.

We first meet Bloom and are soon introduced to his character and what he does best. Thieving. It is evident that this is how he makes a living and it isn’t until he pulls over at the scene of an accident on the highway that he meets Joe Loder (played by Bill Paxton) who is filming the scene as a woman is pulled from a burning car. Bloom questions Loder’s motives and Loder reveals to him that he drives around to the scenes of crimes or accidents, videos the footage and sells it to the highest bidding news network. When Bloom’s attempts at joining Loder’s team are rebuffed, he uses his abilities of common theft to fund a new career and is soon on the road with a second hand video camera and a police scanner.

Bloom’s inexperience is obvious in the beginning of his new career as he struggles to get the shots that will sell, but armed with enthusiasm Bloom manages to avoid police detection and uncover shots that would blossom his career. He meets Newsroom Director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo) and manages to sell his first video to her for $250. He tells Nina that she will see him again and continues in his persistence to uncover great scoops and video them for financial reward. Knowing that only the best shots can claim the highest price, Bloom’s determination turns to obsession and he starts to interfere with crash scenes purely for the purpose of the media. With his popularity soaring he employs an intern, Rick (Riz Ahmed) to navigate and wait with the vehicle while Bloom gets the shots he needs.

Second hand equipment soon turns to brand new as Bloom uses the money he earns to become better at what he does. The police scanner is top of the range, allowing him to arrive at the scene before any emergency service, his video equipment becomes top of the range and his battered car soon transforms to a sports car, allowing additional speed.

Soon, Bloom is able to turn the tables on Nina not only negotiating financially, but personally and emotionally in order to get what he wants and his obsession continues to deepen the further he gets himself involved.

Gyllenhaal’s performance is sinister and occasionally unnerving in the role of Louis Bloom. He plays on the intense character adaptation between intense scenes, but never giving too much away about who the real Louis Bloom is which is the beauty of the story written and directed by Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy). The focus is purely on Bloom’s obsession revealing very little about his personal life and his ability to intimidate people. Rene Russo supports the story extremely well as Nina Romina bringing with her a wealth of expertise and experience to the movie. Bill Paxton is rarely challenged in his role, but along with Russo, brings an amazing amount of experience. British actor, Riz Ahmed, joins the cast as Bloom’s intern, Rick. A man with a great amount of desperation for money, but shadowed by an often timid exterior. Ahmed pulls off a very strong, well acted performance alongside Gyllenhaal.

Dan Gilroy marks his directorial debut with a dark, chilling tale of obsession rounded off perfectly with exceptional acting performances and a well-crafted, detailed storyline allowing us an insight into the world of media. A reflection of life today, Nightcrawler depicts the society we live in where we are inquisitive about the misfortunes of others to the extreme where battles for financial rights will be fought just to earn the privilege to show this information to the public who may have no interest in it, but would choose to watch it purely for morbid curiosity.

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Review: Dumb & Dumber To (2014)

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Stars: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle

 

There was a sense of childlike excitement that washed through me when the first on-set pictures of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd and Harry appeared on various social media websites. It was the first day of filming the sequel and the buzz surrounding the film began from there. A lot happens in twenty years. We all grow as people and although the actors have grown, the characters haven’t.

Lloyd is in a mental institution. He has been there for those twenty years since he discovered his one true love, Mary Swanson (or Samsonite as Harry still refers to her) was married. Every Wednesday Harry comes to visit his old pal, bringing him candy, changing his colostomy bag and man nappies. When Harry announces that he can no longer visit, Lloyd reveals that the whole thing was a joke that had lasted twenty years. Within the first five minutes we are right back in the comfort of our favourite, bumbling misfits.

Harry announces to Lloyd that he is very ill and needs a kidney transplant. He visits his parents to discover he is adopted and is given a postcard dated twenty years prior from old flame, Fraida Felcher (played brilliantly by Kathleen Turner). Harry and Lloyd go to visit Fraida and manage to find an address for Harry’s daughter and set out on a mission to track her down so Harry can ask for a kidney. Harry’s daughter, Fanny Felcher (yep!) lives with a wealthy inventor and his gold digging wife, but when they get to the house she is not at home and they discover she is to conduct a speech at a Science Award Ceremony on behalf of her adopted father. He later realises that she forgot to take an important package with her, so naturally our goofball heroes offer to take it for them. In true Farrelly Brothers style they meet many characters along the way and in typical fashion they get into more than a few scrapes as well.

Dumb and Dumber To plays like an homage to the original. The storylines are vaguely similar, the old jokes are still there, although delivered differently and there are a lot of new ones thrown in. Old cast members have even been invited back to the movie. Brady Bluhm who plays blind, bird loving Billy was actually tracked down via Facebook and invited to appear in the film which he duly accepted. Also, if you wait to the end credits another old favourite appears onscreen for a split second. There is a lot of reminiscence about this sequel and that’s what gives it its beauty. If you look passed the original and view this as a standalone movie then you will find it thoroughly entertaining and funny. Admittedly, there are a few far fetched scenes unnecessarily drawn out, but overall it is stupidly hilarious. If you choose to compare it to the original you will see the significant way in which it respects the first movie, like an anniversary or celebration. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have eased back into their characters with such grace. The characters and the chemistry between the pair has not changed one bit. It is as if they have never been away. They are supported strongly by Kathleen Turner, The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden as the gold digging mother, Rob Riggle and Rachel Melvin as Harry’s daughter and even Bill Murray briefly as Harry’s new room mate (yes, it is him)

The Farrelly’s have produced an extremely witty script with some hilarious laugh out loud moments perfectly executed by our two lead actors. There are many of the traditional “gross-out” scenes that will leave you stewing and uncomfortable in your seat, but after all, this is what they do best.

Personally, this movie is as funny as the first and I admit to laughing along for the majority of it, even after the scenes had played out and I cannot remember the last time a movie has done that.

Dumb and Dumber is back and will hopefully reel in a new generation of fans.

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Review: Taken 3 (2014)

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Stars: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace

Everybody’s heroic – ex CIA father, Bryan Mills is back and this time he is the target.

Taken 3 continues the story so far in the third and final movie of the trilogy. Bryan’s relationship with ex-wife, Lenore is still healthy, but her relationship with her millionaire husband is not. Lenore takes the opportunity to visit Bryan frequently to talk with him and occasionally reminisce. Stuart discovers her visits with her ex-husband and takes the opportunity to call in on Bryan and ask him not to see her while he is still trying to work things out. Bryan agrees and the two shake hands and separate on good terms. Lenore then contacts Bryan and asks to speak to him. Bryan goes out for Bagels and when he returns to his apartment, Lenore’s lifeless body is left on his bed with her throat cut. The apartment is then surrounded by cops and Bryan is on the run.

Mills then has to use his “particular set of skills” to continue his evasion of the cops and uncover answers surrounding the identity of Lenore’s true murderer. Bryan is able to always be one step ahead of the law, but Detective Franck Dotzler, working on the case, is clever and soon hot on his heels.

Taken 3, or TAK3N as it was referred maybe should have the tagline “Taken: The Money and Run” for it seems the creation of this third movie was purely for financial gain. As a standalone movie it is acceptable. It has everything you would expect from a movie such as this with thrills, action and drama thrown in, but the marketing behind the movie signified that “It Ends Here” rounding up the trilogy, but there was a lot about the movie that didn’t piece together with the other two. The original cast were back with Neeson once again in fine form, but there was no real connection to the first and second movies. The character of Stuart, previously seen in the first movie, was portrayed by a different actor and was confusing to know if it was supposed to be her husband or a new partner conveniently with the same name.

The other downside to the movie was the reduction of the movie’s rating to 12A, presumably to appeal to a wider audience, hence improving the potential of increased earnings. It did take the violence away from the movie with a lot of the fight scenes cut back and the lack of blood in the movie anywhere following any gunshots.

Liam Neeson does what he does best once again with ease. He has made a name for himself as an, without disrespect, older action hero. Famke Janssen returns as ex-wife, Lenore, in a limited role without giving her opportunity to portray her “particular set of acting skills”, Maggie Grace also returns as Bryan’s daughter, Kim, with a different back story to the previous ones. Support in the third movie is strong. Dougray Scott plays the role of Lenore’s partner, Stuart and plays the role well, despite it being unclear as to his actual character’s previous existence in the trilogy. Forest Whitaker comes on board as Franck Dolzer in a solid, impressive performance which is what you come to expect from a man of his stature.

Sadly, it is a disappointing end to the trilogy that has done so well and made a lot of money. Even with the dialogue of the script paying tribute to the original movie, it does have all the action you come to expect from the first two movies, despite being watered down for a younger audience. With loose ends still not tied, or not made clear, it impresses purely as its own movie and not part of the successful trilogy.

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Review: The Imitation Game

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Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

 

Mr. Turing, do you know how many people have died because of Enigma? Three. Whilst we’ve been having this conversation.”

 

It is remarkable to think that because of the actions of one man we are all here today. If it wasn’t for the brilliant mind of mathematician Alan Turing then Germany could have prevailed in the Second World War and the country we live in now could be a very different place. It was down to his actions that historians believe the war lasted two years shorter than it could have done and approximately 14 million lives were spared in the process. But the country he saved turned its back on him and did so for nearly seven decades until in 2013 when Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon for the way he was treated simply because of who he was and not what he did.

During the Second World War the British Government employed a team of expert mathematicians and problem solvers to try and decipher one of the greatest codes in World History used by the Germans, The Enigma Code. Coded messages would be sent giving detailed briefs and instructions for planned attacks on the British. Alan Turing applied for a role and, despite showing a great deal of arrogance during his interview with the Commander in charge, was reluctantly accepted into the programme purely on the basis that he believed you’d need to build a machine to defeat a machine.

It is later revealed that Turing was to work for a team, but he wanted to work alone and slowly and reluctantly agreed to it, later developing a bond with his new colleagues. When Turing was refused the funding to back his machine he went to the highest source possible, Winston Churchill, who granted the funding and also placed Turing in complete control of the operation which began to take more and more time to develop.

With threats of closure and dismissal aimed towards him, he and his colleagues had to fight for the right to continue the project as pressured mounted on them to succeed. The machine, now fully built, was struggling to obtain any relevant information until one day when it all became clear to Alan Turing.

Despite his heroics, Turing lived in a time where laws were strict. He also hid a dark secret from a lot of the people he worked with for fear of repercussion. For Alan Turing was a homosexual and had a history that he wished to keep secret, for if the truth came out, then Turing could be in serious trouble.

Director Morten Tyldum has portrayed the chronicle of Turing’s life beautifully choosing to drift the story from present day, to his childhood at school and during the building of the machine. It allows important elements of Turing’s upbringing and personal affairs play to the forefront providing important information about Turing the man as opposed to what he achieved.

Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the role of Turing superbly with the detailed expressions and renown stutter captured beautifully in a performance deserved of the highest accolades. Cumberbatch ensures the unintentional humour and occasional arrogance are present throughout the role encapsulated into the timid surroundings of Turing as a person. Kiera Knightly plays the role of Joan Clarke, the only woman to apply for and succeed in being part of Turing’s new team. She shares a special bond with Turing and even goes to the length of agreeing to marry him in order to ensure she could continue working with him. Knightley’s performance is well polished and stable showing signs of strengths throughout the story in a performance born of experience and dedication to her art. Matthew Goode plays the role of Hugh Alexander, a fellow code breaker who doesn’t see eye to eye with Turing at first, but plays a relevant role in the success. Goode withheld the performance of the good-looking, intelligent Alexander with such ease allowing the talent of his work to glow. Other support was strong with the legendary Charles Dance playing the role of Commander Denniston and Mark Strong playing the head of MI6, Stewart Menzies.

The factual elements of Turing’s story and subsequent success are fascinating. The achievements alone that one man could do simply with his mind, but the fact he could take little credit for what he had done is admirable. Despite breaking the enigma code, the job they were doing still had to remain a secret for if the Germans found out it would mean years of work wasted.

You may already be aware of Turing’s achievements and there maybe more you will learn from watching this movie and with the combination of a well told story and strong performances it will be more than just the truth behind the story that will impress.

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