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Love & Other Drugs

22 Feb

Love & Other Drug‘s poster is deceptive – it let me think that I was going to watch a light-hearted, typical RomCom. And that is what I got for the first 45 minutes before the comedy quietly slipped away to reveal the drama that I  knew had been lurking since Anne Hathaway made her entrance and Jake Gyllenhaal got to stare at her boobs.

Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall, a through and through womaniser ne’er-do-well who has tremendous charm. Hence he gets to sleep with so many women. After losing his last job, he enters the world of pharmaceutical repping and begins at Pfizer when Zoloft is still their biggest selling (pre-1996).  While trying wangle his way into the hearts of the local doctors (most of whom won’t give him the time of day), Jamie meets Maggie Murdock and the pursuit begins. Maggie is no usual quarry, however, calling Jamie on all his BS and seemingly as much as a player as he is. The raunchy sex scenes are something that I, as typical RomCom fan, wasn’t really prepared for, but they themselves also provide some laughter (even if it was shocked!).

Anne Hathaway in the outstanding role of Maggie Murdock

And, as my boyfriend knows because I have trained him well in the art of the Romantic Comedy, the roller coaster begins. There are ups and downs in all RomComs, but this one has particular lows as Maggie suffers from early on-set Parkinson’s. This is a story that has been told before, but unlike Winona Ryder in  Autumn in New York and  Charlize Theron in Sweet November, Anne Hathaway’s character plays very little on her self-pity. Her performance in fact is superb. She uses her bright eyes and quick smile to her advantage not only when being a vixen while reeling Jake Gyllenhaal in, but also in her more vulnerable moments.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jamie is the ultimate smooth talking salesman and he provides (along with his character’s brother) most of the humour in the film. His break though is hilarious and anyone will chuckle about the drug he ends up making his name on (here’s a clue – it’s blue!). So while Love & Other Drugs is pretty funny, it also contains a lot of sadness in , particularly if you know or have known someone who suffered with Parkinson’s. The film does try to deal with living with the illness, but at the end of the day it is a Romantic Drama with excellent casting and it is the romance between two unlikely characters that lies at the heart of it.

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The Town

22 Jan

I have always had a little crush on Ben Affleck, before he betrayed me by forming not one, but two Bennifer couples. *sigh* There is nothing better than a talented man, who also happens to be 6ft2″, and Affleck really does show off his talent by acting in and directing The Town. And let’s not forget the Boston accent.

The opening subtitle of The Town claims that Charlestown, a suburb of Boston, has produced the most bank thieves and armed robbers in the United States. The film then zooms in on a particular group of bank robbers and their slickly planned hits. From the beginning it is clear that Ben Affleck is the brains behind the operation while John Hamm (The Hurt Locker) is the unstable, violent element of the gang.

The opening robbery goes somewhat awry, with someone grabbing Rebecca Hall as a hostage. The poor woman is left unharmed, but traumatised on a Boston beach. She is immediately swooped upon by the Feds, hoping that she will provide the key to catching the gang.

The film follows Ben Affleck dealing with Rebecca Hall as a live witness, the Feds closing in and the gang becoming more desperate to remain free, especially Hamm, facing his third conviction and life in prison.

Affleck has directed a gripping film (as much as I disdain that phrase!), which made me feel more like I was watching a particularly good episode of The Wire rather than a 125 min film. And believe me, this is a good thing. The film is fast paced, yet manages to keep a focus on the relationships and history between the characters.

Ben Affleck and John Hamm in The Town

Rebecca Hall pulls off a good traumatised victim, desperate to find some normality in her life. I found her performance quite convincing and her actions towards the end of The Town left me with admiration for her character and her acting skills. She plays a good foil to Ben Affleck’s character, all softness versus his rough edges. But it is John Hamm’s aggression and desperation that steal the scenes he is in. He by no means rules the film, but he has a great presence.

I have grown in respect for Ben Affleck, and thankfully I can forget his forays into dud (well, to my mind) films like Daredevil. Of course none of these affected my crush on him, but respect is another thing all together.

The Town is still showing at selected cinemas – see it before it goes to DVD.

Kick-Ass

24 Sep

I love a good superhero movie. Superheroes are fascinating. Whether you like the idea of radio-active spider bites or prefer the dark mystery of Bruce Wayne, there is a superhero out there for everyone. Kick-Ass takes this concept one step further – if everyone loves superheroes why haven’t people tried to BE superheroes?

Dave (Aaron Johnson) is a fairly innocuous school boy. He loves comics, struggles with girls and has shaggy hair – a typical film geek. He is inspired by comics books however, and decides to become his own superhero and help people around him. A few missteps down the line and suddenly Kick-Ass (his chosen pseudonym) is an Internet superstar.

Unfortunately there are more competent superheroes (of the Batman ilk) around town and they are causing trouble for Crime Boss, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), so he is seeking them out, hoping to destroy them. I’m sure you can see how this will cause trouble for Kick-Ass, no?

What follows is a feast of violence, wire-dependent filming and some really funny scenes. Of course by funny I mean dark and satirical humour, but that’s the best kind really.

Aaron Johnson is the perfect anxious teen, but it is his unknown nemesis, Chris D’Amico, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who really captures high school angst. He’s come a long way from bit parts in Superbad and Year One. Mintz-Plasse is just one more sign that in Hollywood, nerds are becoming really cool.

And what about the real superheroes I mentioned? Nicholas Cage is the disillusioned father bent on

Chloe Moretz as Mindy Macready

revenge, who drags his sweet daughter, Mindy, into the fray. Mindy is played by Chloe Moretz, and if I were her mother I would have washed her mouth out with soap at the end of each day’s shoot! But this girl can act. She carries the weight that Halle Berry lacked when she played Cat Woman, and she’s only 12! Nicholas Cage is matched by his small co-star and she is one to look out for in the future.

 

Mark Strong does what he does best in Kick-Ass: mean. His acting range is not fantastic (he’s been the scary, quiet type  in everything I’ve seen him in – Rock’n’Rolla, Sherlock Holmes, Body of Lies…). While it would be wonderful to see him extend himself, he certainly didn’t need to in order to pull of Frank D’Amico convincingly.

Be prepared for a film that moves from ordinary narration of teen angst to high-gear, Kill Bill-style violent escapade of good vs evil. Awesome. The fact that the most violent character is a 12-year-old girl worried me for a bit, but once she has on her superhero outfit, I could forget her real identity!

Away We Go

18 Sep

Away We Go is an off-beat offering from Sam Mendes which had me in stitches and quietly contemplating the directions we take in life.

Burt and Verona are expecting a baby, (the way they discover this is a strange opening scene!). They lead average lives in an average town and haven’t really got all the details figured out yet. But they know that their love will get through anything. In anticipation of a baby, one would expect parental support, but no, Burt’s eccentric parents decide to up and leave to Amsterdam a month before the baby is due.

Verona realises that they too don’t need to stay in their average little town and so begins their quest for where to settle down. Their travels take them to Phoenix, Montreal, Miami and, hopefully, home.

John Krasinki & Maya Rudolph

John Krasinksi (The Office US) is fabulous. He has the dorky charm of an old teddy bear and the way he portrays husbandly love is sigh-worthy (take tips, gentlemen!) He is bold when he needs to be, but his performance never loses its softness. Opposite him, Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Idiocracy) is perfect. She has the nerves of a new mother down, but her natural humour makes her accessible even to people who have no idea about babies (i.e. me). She also carries a sense of sadness in her performance, creating a balance which is stunning.

Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal have hilarious bit parts as various friends the couple visit on their travels. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a mother who doesn’t believe in the three Ss – separation, sugar and strollers. This you need to see!

It’s not surprising that this insightful comedy on relationships and parenting is written by husband-and-wife-and-parents team, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. It must take personal experience to write so naturally and also to mock all the kinds of parents there are out there!

Sam Mendes has veered away from his typical serious films with Away We Go, and it might open him up to a whole new audience. Heaven knows this light, quirky film is a far cry from American Beauty and Jarhead, but it has its commentary too, though far more subtle.

Rent Away We Go for a comfortable night on the couch, some good laughs and hopefully you’ll be with someone to give a big kiss to afterwards! (boys, this does not make it a chick flick!)

Having said all this, one of my favourite parts about Away We Go is the soundtrack. I will find it and buy it! It’s mostly made up of Alexi Murdoch, who I didn’t know before this, but the sprinklings of George Harrison, The Stranglers and Bob Dylan makes for a really great music experience.

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Away We Go is an off-beat offering from Sam Mendes which had me in stitches and quietly contemplating the directions we take in life.

Burt and Verona are expecting a baby. They lead average lives in an average town and haven’t really got all the details figured out yet. But they know that their love will get through anything. In anticipation of a baby, one would expect parental support, but no, Burt’s parents decide to up and leave to Amsterdam a month before the baby is due.

Verona realises that they too don’t need to stay in their average little town and so begins their quest for where to settle down. Their travels take them to Phoenix, Montreal, Miami and, hopefully, home.

John Krasinksi (The Office US) is fabulous. He has the dorky charm of an old teddy bear and the way he portrays husbandly love is sigh-worthy (take tips, gentlemen!) He is bold when he needs to be, but his performance never loses its softness. Opposite him, Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Idiocracy) is perfect. She has the nerves of a new mother down, but her natural humour makes her accessible even to people who have no idea about babies (i.e. me). She also carries a sense of sadness in her performance, creating a balance which is stunning.

Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal have hilarious bit parts as various friends the couple visit on their travels. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a mother who doesn’t believe in the three Ss – separation, sugar and strollers. This you need to see!

Sam Mendes has veered away from his typical serious films with Away We Go, and it might open him up to a whole new audience. Heaven knows this light, quirky film is a far cry from American Beauty and Jarhead, but it has its commentary too, though far more subtle.

Rent Away We Go for a comfortable night on the couch, so good laughs and hopefully you’ll be with someone to give a big kiss to afterwards! (boys, this does not make it a chick flick!)

Having said all this, one of my favourite parts about Away We Go is the soundtrack. I will find it and buy it! It’s mostly made up of Alexi Murdoch, who I didn’t know before this, but the sprinklings of George Harrison, The Stranglers and Bob Dylan makes for a really great music experience.

Please Give

7 Sep

Buying furniture from dead people’s estates sounds wrong. Buying furniture from dead people’s estates for as little as possible and selling it on at a profit seems somewhat despicable. Yet this is how many people, including Kate (Catherine Keener), make their living. Can she still consider herself a good person?

Quirky comedies are my favourite genre of film (if quirky counts as a genre?). And Please Give fulfils the criteria of quirky very well. As in the vein of Garden State, The Squid and the Whale and 500 Days of SummerPlease Give tells a small, personalised story which deals with universal issues, in this case, what does it mean to be a good person?   

Kate and her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt), own a furniture store which they stock with furniture bought from dead people’s estates. Kate struggles with the morals of her job. She is a deeply compassionate person, but only sees the negative around her. Thus she spends her time being upset those less fortunate and handing $20 bills to beggars in an effort to “save the world”. Her daughter, a teenager struggling to deal with her self-esteem and skin problems, does not see the use of her mother’s compassion.

Next door lives Andra, a cranky 91-year-old who is looked after by her granddaughter Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and ignored as far as possible by her other granddaughter Mary (Amanda Peet). These two families’ lives meet as Kate and Alex have bought Andra’s flat (at least this purchase was before death!).

Catherine Keener gives a wonderful performance as a woman struggling with her image of herself and her choices in life. Rebecca Hall is the iconic self-sacrificing granddaughter, but she

Rebecca Hall

develops throughout the film. Her softness is so welcoming and adds to the empathy the audience feels for her long-suffering character.

The best performance must surely come from Sarah Steele. She plays Abby, Kate and Alex’s self-conscious daughter. She also played Adam Sandler’s chubby daughter in Spanglish. Her frail self-image and despair at her teenage skin is so real and I felt instant sympathy for this poor girl.

Please Give does not come to a great climactic ending. Not even all the issues are resolved – but isn’t that life? Do not go see Please Give if you are an adrenaline junkie or wanting to be a voyeur of the gritty realities of life. Please Give is calm, at times very funny and poignant film about people trying to be better.

Inception

26 Aug

This is the smartest movie I have seen in a long time. Inception is built on layer upon layer of narrative, setting and characterisation. Just when you think you have it all figured out, there’s another layer. It’s like Russian dolls that way: as soon as you think you’ve gotten to the smallest doll, you discover the crack that reveals another one.

The story follows Cobb (Leonardo di Caprio) and his team (including Joseph Gordon- Levitt) as they plan a subconscious burglary – they steal ideas through the subconscious mind. This sounds tricky, and it is for the team and the audience. First you have to suspend disbelief and allow the premise that people can in fact enter dreams. But the dreams are so brilliant, so real, that the film sweeps you up and the difficulty in telling dreams from reality makes the film.

Cobb of course has his demons to battle (as does any worthwhile protagonist), and it is with these battles raging that he attempts his most difficult project ever. Enter Ariadne (Ellen Page) and various other team members. Cillian Murphy is the target and he is as cool as ever, though less ruddy than in his previous films (The Dark Knight, Red Eye)

This may be a film about a heist but it is not way simply a hi-tech robbery film of The Italian Job and Ocean’s 11, but the story also looks at far more intriguing themes like forgiveness, acceptance and guilt. Ellen Page plays the grounded confidante to Di Caprio’s troubled mind and she is the character that ultimately drives the story forward in revealing what has happened or will happen.

Layers are integral to Inception, and the way they interlink is something I’ve never before seen. Some may compare it to The Matrix, but this goes far beyond those simple levels to a far more complex and meaningful story. 

Leonardo di Caprio has, with Shutter Island and The Departed, shot to that echelon of stardom that few reach and his performance in Inception is laudable. He plays it cool, yet accesses some really deep emotions without heading for melodramatic territory. He is going to be one of The Greats and Inception will surely be one of the films that will appear in Classic Di Caprio DVD sets in the future.

Go see Inception on the big screen, as the visual effects by Chris Ourbould are stunning and the big screen will allow you to become totally immersed in the reality/fantasy of the film. It is worth going to see Inception for the cinematography alone.Christopher Nolan is a brilliant director and this is even better than The Dark Knight. And the ending… It is mind boggling. Please, see this film!

I Love You, Phillip Morris

9 Aug

There is something about I Love You, Phillip Morris that is hard to pin down. It’s part camp comedy, engaging love story, tragedy and conman whirligig, all thrown into one extraordinary film.

It follows the life of Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) who we meet while he lies in the hospital dying (not as an old man, surprisingly). He narrates his crazy adventures as a closet gay man, openly gay conman, prison inmate and escape artist. His flashback narration catches up with the narrative and I was swept forward, wondering what he could possibly have in store for the audience next.

Ewan McGregor is the title character, a naïve and adorable gay inmate with whom Russell is besotted.

At first it is difficult to believe Carrey and McGregor’s onscreen chemistry, as both are such familiar faces from films like Ace Ventura and, of all things, Star Wars. It is testament to their talents though that eventually their melodramatic love affair becomes real to the audience.

The film is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. John Requa also wrote the screen play, as he did for that great hit Bad Santa (oh, Billy Bob was such a champ in that!). The most amazing part about this film must be that it happened. “It actually did.” I was gobsmacked when I realised near the end of the film that yes, I had actually heard of Russell, but please don’t google him before you see the film! The directors show us all sides of Steven Russell, some of which is not comfortable to watch. Carrey portrays Russell’s search for himself expertly and uses his cheeky grin and devilish eyes to keep the audience guessing what is and is not real.

Ewans McGregor’s performance is equally good. His wide-eyed innocence and capacity to smile with those beautiful white teeth won me over immediately. I kept hoping throughout the film that he wouldn’t get hurt, so protective I became over him.

This film will definitely not make for a dull night! It takes the best aspects of Man on the Moon, Matchstick Men and Down with Love, but is astonishingly a true story. You might hate it, but I’m willing to bet that you will most probably, after trying to pin it down like me, love it.Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Starring: Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.