Monthly Archives: October 2015

Spectre

Double O Fine

Not many people know this but I have a disability. You probably wouldn’t realise from looking at me or even talking to me but it’s there. My problem is that for the life of me I cannot remember which one is which out of my girlfriend’s 2 cousins even though i’ve met them both and even though I’ve had it explained literally tens of times.

Ok, so it’s not really a disability, in fact most people would just call me a forgetful moron and slap me across the chops with whatever is closest to hand… but it’s real to me dammit!

At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. The problem isn’t just confined to my girlfriend’s cousins; I have a similar trouble with Bond films. I’ve seen all of them many times, I can remember the villains and some of the action scenes but the plot just doesn’t sink in.

Spectre might have just broken that curse. There are perhaps 2 reasons for this. Firstly we know that Daniel Craig wants to drop the 007 moniker and whether this will happen or not (he wanted to leave after Quantum of Solace too) it does lead me to the second reason which is that all his films have been leading up to this point.

Casino Royale was obviously the origin story of everyone’s favourite “double-0” and it was a film that showed James bond as a rough, rugged and physical character. In Spectre Bond’s persona is very different. Bond now feels like the suave and cocksure agent of the original Dr No. It also references people from all of Daniel Craig’s films to show Spectre as the infamous shadowy organisation featured in the earlier James Bond films. To this extent Spectre feels like a complete package and a perfect drop off point to bring in a new Bond and a new storyline.

I really liked how Spectre pulls it’s influences from past all these different Bond films even if it does play with the tilme line in a way that hardcore Bond fans might not appreciate. What are hardcore Bond fans called anyway? Bondages? Flemingoers? Who knows.

Anyway, mild spoilers, but Spectre not only sets up the organisation of the same name but it also sets up one of the most infamous super-villains in Bond history.  Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) plays our iconic villain, of course, that’s not the name he is famous for but I won’t spell it out.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Waltz as the main villain. He isn’t as disconcerting as Javier Bardem was in Skyfall and apart from his intelligence he doesn’t seem so formidable to Bond. He does however have one surprising advantage: an awesome henchman.

Dave Bautista plays Mr Hinx. Not only does he have a terrific name but he is terrific as a henchman. Bautista is so massive in comparison to Craig that you are ready to believe that Bond has finally met his match. So good was his character that I would love to see him come back in a Bond film down the line, only this time with more than one word being said would be good.

Another surprise to me was the car chases, which have always been a staple of Bond films. In spectre there is no overtaking on tight corners, no ramming of cars, no big impressive jumps or flips, no explosions or crashes just a lot of one car tailing another. The car chases sadly seemed to lack inspiration and excitement when compared to almost any other Bond film.

Another staple of Bond films is 007’s unrelenting womanising. Of course we are treated to a couple of Bond girls with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci). You would have thought that with all the fuss about the age of Monica Bellucci’s age before release that she would be in the film for more than 10 minutes. It’s actually a shame she is not in the film more. If she was the main Bond girl instead of Léa Seydoux I could have been singing Bond’s praises for being a progressive Hollywood film.

Sadly that’s not the case but you shouldn’t, and probably won’t, focus on that because Spectre manages to wrap up Daniel Craig’s Bond era in a really satisfying manner. In my eyes it’s one of the best Bond films but oddly enough not because of it being a stunning, gadget-laden spectacle. Instead its a relatively deep, involving and well paced plot that is the highlight. The only question remaining is who will be the next Bond, James Bond.

Go See

  • Return of the henchman
  • Introduction to super-villains
  • A well rounded Bond film

Avoid

  • Belluci’s bit part
  • Uninteresting car chases
  • Waltz as the villain

Overall

4-stars

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Crimson Peak

Fairly Tale

Guillermo Del Toro has probably read more novels than David Cameron has gone back on his promises. He also collaborated with legendary game auteur Hideo Kojima because he fully immerses himself in whatever interests him. In short; he’s a massive fucking nerd.

This is exactly why I love him. Del Toro holds so much reverence, knowledge and enthusiasm for his source material that it often translates to something special on screen.

This is never more true than when he is making his subversive fairy tales. Crimson peak is Same Same. If you don’t know this amusing Thai term it actually means ‘same same but different’.

Crimson Peak has all the trademarks of a Guillermo Del Toro film including a lack of CGI for a start. There is a lot of enhanced imagery but the core aspects of the film are all real. Allerdale Hall; the house situated atop crimson peak, is probably the most special. I couldn’t tell you if this was a masterfully built set or an actual house somewhere but every time the film treats you to shots of the entrance hallway you can’t help but sit there in amazement of the craftsmanship.

It’s the same story with the immaculate costumes within the film. You can almost see every thread from the painstakingly stitched and embroidered lace, cloth and silk. Each of the main characters could be placed directly into masquerades ball if only they had a mask. I really can’t praise them high enough.

You then have the ghosts which are actually real actors who have been enhanced by CGI to have parts of their skulls cratered in, or their limbs and digits extruded into spindly cords of supernatural menace. Their aggressive movements and the way they phase in and out of the physical realm makes them more wraith-like than an innocuous specter.

This brings to life the fairy tail sensibilities that Del Toro is famed for but it’s not quite the same same as Pan’s Labyrinth or Cronos it’s actually very different.

Crimson Peak is actually a Gothic romance borrowing just about as much from Wuthering Heights as it does from the House on Haunted Hill. I found this very surprising as the trailers suggest it’s a pure ghost story.

I suppose I should have listened to our heroine Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) who routinely tells us that she is writing stories that happen to have ghosts and not ghost stories as this imitates Crimson Peak’s storyline perfectly. It’s not necessarily what I wanted though.

This leaves the ghosts to be a few mere blots in a bigger connect the dots puzzle. They crop up at a few key points but they lack resolution leaving their involvement in the events of the film all but irrelevant by the end of the film.

Instead, the audience are meant to get wrapped up in the burgeoning love affair between Edith and Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) as well as Thomas’ slightly odd relationship with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). I’m not sure that ever truly happens.

The film falls foul of the same problems that films like Sense and Sensibility have: time. Time has moved on. It’s no longer a shock to show sex on screen so it clearly won’t be a shock when someone states that ‘one is favourable to one’s fancy’ or to flash an ankle or to turn up at a ball without a handkerchief – the horror!

I know some people will really like this traditional approach but for me, and probably many others, it’s as stuffy as a build-a-bear workshop.

At least the moral high ground isn’t this traditional. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Edith grows from a fiercely modern but slightly feeble lady of privilege grow into a strong and independent lady. By the end of the film she doesn’t have to rely on a strong and handsome man to save little old her.

I was a bit disappointed with the ending because there are no surprises. The film has the opportunity take one of many dark and bitter turns that would have provided a devilishly fitting end to this twisted love story but sadly it doesn’t take them.

That’s not to say it’s a bad ending, it’s just not as good as it could have been. It’s pretty much how I feel about the whole film. A love story wasn’t quite what I was expecting but the homage that is paid to Gothicism and the supernatural provide a beautiful looking but fucked up fairy tale that’s not Del Toro’s best… A fairlytale if you will.

Go See

  • Guillermo Del Toro’s fairy tale
  • The House, the costumes, the ghosts are all stunning
  • Mia Wasikowska

Avoid

  • Lack of ghosts
  • The romance
  • Missed opportunity ending

Overall

3-5-stars

Suffragette

Rights, Camera, Faction

As a male I am all too aware that women are always right. Even when they believe Ray Winstone’s name to be Ray Mears or claim that a scorpian is a lobster: women are ALWAYS right.

As a rational human I am amazed to find out that women have only had the vote (in the UK) since 1918 and that was only certain women. It was only 1928 that all women have had the right to vote. It is truly mind-boggling that it is such a recent event.

My Grandma was probably somewhere near the first generation born into Britain where voting was just the norm. She wouldn’t have had to fight for something that seems so basic by today’s standards yet there were people – not much older than her – who would have had to do just that.

I believe that everyone should vote. Even if it’s just to slap a big ol’ “None” across the ballot and a strike through next to all those muppets names. Even so I genuinely had no idea that the right to vote is known as Suffrage. It’s kind of ironic that through suffrage we often get to suffer egotistical idiots for at least 4 years. Anyway; the Suffragettes, as you can probably guess, refers to women who have to fight for their right to party… in a polling booth. The film Suffragette is a based on a true story following exactly this plight.

The main focus of the film is on Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) who is an unassuming worker at a cleaning workhouse. Maud has no interest in being a suffragette until she crosses paths with Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff). From here on she becomes more politically active and more radicalised.

The film charts the journey of her changing beliefs and morals and how these start to shape her own world simply by the consequences of her actions.

She looses her job, her husband, her home and her only child but with the exception of her child none of these are dramatised to good effect. She finds a new job working at the headquarters for the women’s vote campaign, her husband and home is replaced by a family of suffragettes so I felt emotionally detached from her struggle.

Even the loss of her child is underplayed. When the child is sent to a foster home Maud tells her child to always remember his mother’s name. Now, given she is the lead character and this is based on true events you would expect a flash card before the credits to say Maud Never saw here son again or something to that effect. Nope. Nothing. How about the last scene showing her child grown up being proud of his real mother. Nope. Nothing.

What we do get to see at the end of the film is a real film clip from a procession that was made for one of the suffragettes. This isn’t for Maud though. Instead the procession is for Maggie Miller (Grace Stottor) who plays a bit part for 80% of the film. It’s so bizarre that we don’t get to know more about her character and yet here she is at the end of the film as a key character?!

The best character for me though was Edith Ellen (Helena Bonham Carter) who works at a local pharmacy and is a key figure in the women’s rights movement. Edith is clever and quietly confident. She wears the trousers in her marriage not through being domineering but by earning the respect of her husband and therefore his sympathy and endless loyalty to her cause.

Possibly my favourite aspect of the film is its location. There are lots of old terraces and old Victorian factory buildings that really bring the turn off the century to life. There is one shot particular of some washing strung up between buildings that I would have been chuffed to have i taken as a photograph.

The worst part however was how it shies away from showing any violence. I understand that this is a film and at an older audience but with a lack of emotional attachment I think a bit odd shock value would have worked well.

It’s a shame that this film doesn’t feel as important as it’s subject matter. Although it has a number of things that it does well I just didn’t find it as gripping or dramatic as I had hoped which left me emotionally cold. I am, of course, wrong on my opinion here though as the woman next to me in the cinema was crying like a baby and as we know; women are never wrong!

 

Go See

  • For educational value
  • Excellent setting
  • Helena Bonham Carter

Avoid

  • Under dramatised
  • Pulls it’s punches when dealing with violence
  • Confusing characters

Overall

3-stars

Sicario

FBI Am Confused

Have you ever been abroad and sat down at a restaurant and you look at the menu and recognise nothing on it? You scan the menu and decide on anything that sounds OK. Gafikalonis? Sure, I’ll go for one of them, and maybe some Padesh whatever that is.

The food is brought to your table and it looks amazing. You start eating and you can’t quite work out whether you like it or not. It does look and taste good but something in the back of your mind tells you not to eat it. Perhaps it’s because you still don’t understand what this food is really about? It could be pork testicles and ferret kidneys in a passion fruit and mustard sauce for all you know.

This is how I feel about Sicario. It looks great and it sounds even better. That aside; I don’t really know what Sicario is.

Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is a member of a hostage response team who consistently excels at everything she does whilst also being a firm idealist. When her team is attacked by an ever more ambitious drug dealer from Mexico she is offered a chance to catch the guys responsible. She joins a team lead by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) that consists of battle hardened grunts and the sharply dressed but mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).

All makes sense so far, but this is where the problems start. The film’s focus is building tension and drama, which it does exceedingly well, but to the detriment of the story. We never really find out who this drug dealer is or how far reaching his control is. Instead he is this anonymous figure, a shadow being hunted, a bit like ISIS or Al Qaeda.

It wouldn’t be a problem if it was just the enemy who we knew little about but it’s also Brolin’s and Del Toro’s characters that are kept in the dark. This forms part of the plot as Kate becomes more and more suspicious about the motivations of the team but by the time we learn anything about these characters it’s too late and the film is running through it’s finale.

Presumably the aim is to keep you guessing and keep up the tension but for me I was just confused as to what it was I was consuming. The ending for me is more problematic than that though. The root of this is actually the very beginning of the film which states that in Mexico the word for hitman is “Sicario”. There is absolutely no reference to a hitman until the films conclusion and even then it’s not exactly clear, in fact, it was only when I was driving home that it suddenly clicked. So now I think about how these very loose strings tie up I have to say that the ending was highly disappointing.

Still… it does look good. It’s cinematography is evocative enough to bring about a sense of unease at every step. the golden colour of every shot not only beds the film into it’s Mexican surrounding but also shows that this is an immaculately produced film.

If you needed any further proof of this then you need look no further than the sound design. There are driving abstract tones that grow in a crescendo throughout the film which, once set on top of long unedited shots, again adds to the feeling of unease. It’s often something you see utilised well in trailers but is often more difficult to pull off in films.

The acting in Sicario is excellent as you might imagine from the cast listed above. Del Toro’s aloofness brings out an inherit distrust of his character whilst Brolin’s ability to switch from evasiveness to direct orders makes his a character that you wouldn’t want to cross.

Sicario or hitman has quite the misleading title but the biggest issue is that the film doesn’t make more of an effort to feed you cues for the storyline. Otherwise though its a wonderfully produced film – even down to the excellent poster. Yet, for all Sicario’s production values it means sweet F all if you leave the cinema confused and underwhelmed. I mean; just because it looks good and doesn’t taste bad doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to eat more of it.

Go See

  • Great looking
  • Great sounding
  • Great acting

Avoid

  • Story
  • The Hitman
  • Unsatisfying End

Overall

3-5-stars

Pan

Hook Line and Stinker

I’m getting to that point in my life where I’m having to take care of my eyebrows at an alarming rate. They are growing faster than a toddler, longer than my arm and curlier than a quaver. My knees are also starting to hurt when doing challenging stuff such as ‘standing up’ or ‘gentle walking’ so it’s probably about time I stop going to see kids films.

Thankfully I have a girlfriend so I only look like a partial weirdo rather than a full on weirdo when I go to the cinema but some point soon I’m going to have to steal a kid as well.

I think Hook might have been the first film I saw at the cinema – it was certainly the first one I properly remember going to see. I also got a Game Gear as a kid with Hook the game which I absolutely loved, I still have it somewhere. So it’s obvious that my main interest in Pan was my nostalgia for Hook.

Unlike the 1991 film I certainly won’t have any fond memories of this version of Hook (Garrett Hedlund) 15 years down the line. Garrett Hedlund tries really hard to play a wild swashbuckler and that’s exactly how it comes across on screen; forced. If you think back to the Dustin Hoffman’s Hook his character was much more self assured and demure; his wig was the most forced thing about him.

It’s the same with Peter Pan (Levi Miller) who only seems to know how to do intensely concerned with a shaving of scared on top. It’s a bit like when you are not quite sure if that fart came with added extras!

The only 2 characters to really stand out is Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Adeel Akhtar as Smee. This is mainly because they encapsulate that light-hearted fun that made the original Hook enjoyable where Hook and Pan don’t.

It’s a shame because there are a lot of really cool visuals in the film. There are floating balls of ocean complete with fish. There are mermaids who all strangely have the face of Cara Delavingne which is, well, whatever. There are guns that make people explode! Explode into wondrous puffs of smoke that are all colours of the skittles rainbow. It’s like Warner Bros. licensed out Salvador Dali’s imagination.

The best bit, in my book, is the flying pirate ships. Who doesn’t love big old wooden pirate ships? Exactly. Now who doesn’t love it when they fly? EXACTLY!

I wish the forest where the lost boys lived held the same joyful imagination. There is one main area with a trampoline and that’s about it, the original had Rufio ‘shredding’ along a track through the camp. This film is meant to be bigger and better yet the lost boys playground doesn’t look that fun.

There is one other thing that I just have, have, have to mention that doesn’t really fit into the rest of what I’ve written and that is the teen spirit. I’m not talking about some sort of hormonal mood swings I’m talking about the first time we meet Blackbeard and the whole of his mining community is singing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Who thought this was a good idea? Were they stuck for ideas and ask the guy standing outside the chip shop to name any random song? Why hasn’t the person who approved this been drowned in custard?

Outside of the visuals there isn’t a whole lot to keep your attention but perhaps if your are 6 – like I was when I saw Hook – the visuals alone will be an enough to make this worth the watch. Pan never dug it’s hooks into me and I even found it boring in parts. Maybe I’m pining for a bit of nostalgia or perhaps I’ve just grown up and lost my boyishness.

Go See

  • Cool ship planes
  • Imagination a plenty
  • If you have kids

Avoid

  • If you are an adult
  • Forced acting
  • Song choice

Overall

2-stars

The Walk

Phillipe-ing Heck!

“Unlike anything you have seen before”. That’s what we were promised by the trailer.

The curtains roll and Phillipe Petit (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is monologuing at the camera, which I’ve definitely seen before. The camera pulls back to see him stood on the Statue of Liberty, which I’ve seen before. The whole scene isn’t quite coloured right, the wind looks like it’s coming from a wind machine and the CGI sticks out a bit. In short it’s clearly green-screened and I’ve seen that before too.

The film continues to give the whole back story of Phillipe which involves him going to the circus and being amazed at the high wire act. His eyes light up and that’s it; his destiny is laid out in front of him. He knows he needs to do something big with his art: tight rope walk between the World Trade Centre towers.

I know how he feels. I used to be into breakdancing. Used to eat it, sleep it, breathe it. Everything I did in life was far less important than when the next training session was. I wasn’t interested in performing, although I did now and again, but ultimately I wasn’t dancing for other people I was doing it for me, for the art of it.

Phillipe is also concerned with the “art” of his skill. The difference between Phillipe and me is firstly; he was actually good at his art and secondly; he is aggressive in achieving his dreams making him the arrogant character that I’m not. Hey, not everyone can be as awesome as me. Joking aside though Phillipe holds little regard for the charity of friendship so unless you are a real arse-hat you’ll dislike him more and more as the film goes on.

The Walk tries to evoke nostalgia for the 60’s and 70’s but it doesn’t quite stick it’s landing. Some of the costumes feel inconsistent, the music doesn’t quite seem right for the vibe of 60’s/70’s and the film grain doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to mimic VHS or 4K filming. The whole feel of the film languishes somewhere between Ocean’s 11 and The Social Network.

There are some things that the film does do well though. Firstly Joseph Gordon Levitt is very good as Phillipe and the moments that he speak French are surprisingly convincing. As it turns out Levitt can speak French in real life but his accent in this is sometimes a bit wobbly. Given that accents are incredibly difficult and he’s not a native speaker that’s to be expected; I mean the last time I tried to do a French accent I swear the sofa became sentient just so it could laugh at my pitiful attempt.

On top of Levitt’s performance a lot of the supporting cast are invaluable in building Phillipe’s driven, yet destructive, personality. It’s a trait that wouldn’t have been as powerful if the performances and chemistry missed the mark from the likes of Jean-Louis (Clémont Sibony), Jeff (César Domboy) and PJ (James Badge Dale) as members of “The Coup” to walk the twin towers and in the case of Annie (Charlotte Le Bon); his love interest.

Then there is Sir Ben Kingsley who plays Papa Rudy. He plays a critical role in Phillipe’s development as an artist and although he only has a short amount of screen time Kingsley is strong as ever. Gotta love that guy!

About an hour or so into the film and it’s decent enough, ‘good’ even, but not “unlike anything you have seen before“. Even if you take it in the abstract sense where “unlike anything you have seen before” could simply be a connotation for “incredible” or “unbelievable” it still isn’t that.

Then the walk happens. Suddenly everything makes sense. All the mediocrity and little niggles up until now are forgiven. I’ve heard rumour that people were getting vertigo while watching this scene and it’s fully justified. I’m not the best with heights so watching this in 3D made my butt cheeks clench firmly as Phillipe traversed the twin towers. Even his unfavourable character traits seem to break down with a sense of admiration taking it’s place.

The film ends with a little tribute to the twin towers but thankfully it isn’t heavy handed. The film doesn’t feel the need to tell you what happened to them, why they are no longer there or how many people lost their lives that fateful day, deciding instead to treat you like an intelligent adult. It serves up a dose of nostalgia that’s genuinely quite touching and amazingly simple. They are gone, we all know that, but they are still missed.

It’s incredible to think that this is all based on a true story even if it does feel very dramatised in places. It’s just as incredible to think about stepping out onto a high wire over 100 stories high let alone seeing it on screen and in 3D. I willingly forgave all the film’s faults for that final walk where even the Levitt’s accent seems totally fine by the end. I guess I should have expected a really enjoyable film; after all Robert Zemeckis has a long history of very good films, this one however is unlike anything I have seen before.

Go See

  • The wire walk
  • World trade send off
  • Levitt and Kingsley

Avoid

  • Starts badly
  • Doesn’t quite ‘feel’ right
  • Probably not as good in 2D

Overall

4-5-stars

The Martian

Out of This World

There are people out there, somewhere, that thought that thought the Martian was based on a true story. No, really, you can see it here.

The above is either a testament to the endless stupidity of humans or a testament to how well scripted and directed The Martian is – I haven’t decided yet.

Let’s assume it’s the latter because let’s face it, this is an amazing film. Is it Ridley Scott’s best film? Probably not, but it is definitely up there with a fighting chance and is a return to form after a number of lacklustre films such as Exodus, The Counsellor, Prometheus and Robin Hood.

What makes this film so good is unquestionably the script. At any one point in time Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is, in his words, “sciencing the shit out of this” but don’t worry; no audience member is left behind because of a lack of understanding of scientific principles.

 

Watney religiously keeps a video log which gives you enough science to make everything he is doing seem viable in real life. As an example he makes water by using hydrazine (rocket fuel) to create hydrogen gas, which is then combusted to create a by product of water.

Sure, I didn’t understand a lot of the science but most things are also explained in layman’s terms such as making fertile land by mixing martian soil and human waste as a fertiliser. This means that even the people who think this film is based on a true story can understand it. In fact it is exactly the reason why they think it actually happened in real life.

At no point does the script feel padded out to fill time yet it also doesn’t overreach itself by trying to do too much. Writer Drew Goddard is surely up for an Oscar nomination for his input.

There is, however, one downfall to such a methodical and grounded approach in that there is perhaps too little dramatisation. There is only ever one or two moments where Watney ever seems in danger so at times it can feel a little flat.

Still, the flip side of Watney not being in danger is that he keeps high spirits all the way through the film making it consistently enjoyable to watch. Matt Damon puts in a great performance to bring Watney to life as a loveable but highly intelligent clown.

This is perhaps not as true for the supporting cast. Watney’s original crew, who left Mars without him, play an integral role in his rescue but their screentime is all too short to get a feel for who they are as people. There are only 5 of them but I wonder if the film put more attention on only 2 or 3 of them, leaving the others as just generic background engineers/crew, that this would afford more time to depict a team mentality and for us to care more about them.

It’s a similar story with the NASA ground crew on earth. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) gets a decent amount of screen time to show that he is the brains and the drive behind the operation to bring Watney back but that isn’t so true with Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels). Teddy is the head of NASA so he obviously has a million and one demands on his shoulders but this is never really shown or explained in detail so his quick and at times obstructive decision making make him look a dismissive and uncaring villain. Perhaps that was the intention?

Still, the supporting cast shouldn’t be a concern when the main focus is, of course, on Matt Damon in my mind there was only downside to his character. The longer Watney is on Mars the more weight he loses but this is only obvious in a handful of chosen shots where a bony body walks past the camera. This is clearly a body double that is made all the more obvious when you see Matt Damon’s face that simply doesn’t match the gaunt look of the double. It is, by no means, as convincing as Christian Bale in the Machinist for example.

Both the final frontier and Ridley Scott’s recent poor form have been conquered in the Martian. It really is a fantastic film that will make you realise that firstly, terra firma is a nice place to rest your feet and secondly that the events in The Martian could have been based on a true story.

P.S. It wasn’t… idiots!

Go See

  • The fantastic script
  • Matt Damon
  • One of Ridley Scott’s best films

Avoid

  • Missing some dramatic beats
  • Often bland supporting crew
  • Malnutrition scenes

Overall

4-5-stars

Miss You Already

Give it a miss already


I’ve skipped the gym recently due to personal reasons but I went the other day expecting to pick up where I left off. It was only 5 minutes into my run and my thighs feel like they’ve been stabbed with needles, I’m sweating like a nun in a whore-house and my lungs feel like they are lined with bricks.

Expectation is a bitch sometimes.

That’s my main problem with this film is that I was expecting to see a drama about friends and family ripped apart by cancer and what I got instead was a standard chick flick about 2 friends, one of whom happens to have cancer.

Half of the story is actually about Jess (Drew Barrymore) trying to have a baby. Her husband Jago (Paddy Considine) goes to work on an oil rig to pay for IVF and after it’s successful Jess tries to hide this fact from her bestie Millie (Toni Collette) so as not to overshadow her cancer.

We never see Jess tired, we never see Jess miss work, we never see Jess give up any of her life except for a short bit of dialogue stating they put off making a baby for a few months. In other words, according to this film, it really doesn’t seem that difficult to deal with your friend dying.

Millie on the other hand obviously suffers more hardships but we still see her trying to go to work and we rarely, if ever, see her drained or physically sick through the chemo. Even when her hair falls out it’s made into something fun by trying on wigs. In fact the second greatest hardship she seems to face is that she can’t partake in her rock and roll lifestyle or be the free spirit she used to be.

The personal reasons why I dodged the gym recently was because of the death of a close friend. It was a death that affected hundreds of people because of the nature of their kind and selfless personality. It was a great loss.

So to see an underlying selfishness to Millie’s character that drives an egotistical and vain desire to be the centre of attention made it really hard to connect to her and evidently hard to care.

At some point, to save her life, Millie needs a double mastectomy. Not only is this her greatest hardship but it’s also the best and most harrowing part of the film. It’s one of the only moments that made me care even, which is a shame because this is precisely the reason I came to the film in the first place.

When Millie turns to the camera and takes off her bandage it’s truly shocking to see how she has lost such a huge part of her identity and femininity. I just wish there was more of these touching moments.

OK, so we’ve established that the film missed my expectations so how does it do as a film about friendship? Meh… it’s OK. The chemistry between Barrymore and Collette is decent and you could easily believe they are good friends in real life. A good script allows for a lot of dicking about and banter between all the main characters which helps to build the on screen friendships.

Even if this friendship is half decent I can’t get over the fact that this is a really wasted opportunity to visualise an important and life changing affliction. Even when it does try to draw tears from your eyes there isn’t enough context for the illness and given she isn’t a very likeable character I don’t think I’m missing Millie already.

Go See

  • The boob job
  • Chemistry between the two leads
  • Amusing script

Avoid

  • It’s not very powerful
  • Cancer is given a back seat
  • Millie is not a very nice person

Overall

2-stars

Everest

Getting Roped In


So normally when a film finishes there is a low murmur, a bit of shuffling of feet or crinkling of food packets but at the end of Everest there was a raucous stampede as people were eager to leave.

Not because it was a bad film, oh no, it’s because the film gets more and more tense and by the end you too are left gasping for oxygen and a set of fake nails to replace the ones you’ve just wedged into the seats armrests.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised by the plot: people climb a mountain, stuff goes bad. The thing is though, it doesn’t go bad like a typical movie from Hollywood would. Wood would? Whatever.

It’s not that there are avalanches or rock slides or shocking accidents it’s more that the climbing team all push themselves past their limits.

If that sounds dull then think again because a lack of action means it can focus on the fantastic characters; all of whom have very different relatable characteristics.

First up is Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who is an organiser and a father figure. He is completely selfless and just wants to help everyone achieve their dream as safely as possible. An all round good guy.

Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) is our underdog. A postman. Divorced. He wants to peak to show his children that even the most unassuming person can realise their dreams and achieve greatness.

Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the local extrovert and all round cool dude representing that guy you wish you were!

Last up is Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) who starts out as a massive bellend if I’m honest. He’s your first choice candidate to be the first person facing a grizzly death. Yet the more we get to know him the more him we realise that it’s a facade of a man who doesn’t fit in. It is perhaps an underlying feeling of worthlessness that pushes him, under prepared, into a dangerous situation. He wants the world to humble him and show him how small he is.

Some excellent acting helps you further invest in the characters so by the time they head up to the top you are rooting for all of them. Every trudge into the snow feels like a cliffhanger as you are will them on.

There is a very slow build up to a climactic end and some people may not appreciate the films pace or find the build up to be somewhat uninteresting but that is because this isn’t your average disaster movie.

Even if the place is not to your liking then there are other aspects that should keep your attention such as the stunning cinematography. Every shot feels like it is there for a reason and some excellent color work make the images almost edible especially when you are treated to some stunning vistas.

Although Everest is a mostly predictable affair it is a true story that digs its crampons into you and ropes you in. The tension grows to such an extent that by the end of it you too will walk out the cinema gasping for air and exclaiming “Sod that! I’m happier watching Everest than climbing it”.

 

Go See

  • Beautiful cinematogrphy
  • The lack of oxygen
  • Excellent characterisation

Avoid

  • If you are a climber!
  • If you are expecting Cliffhanger 2
  • A slow build up

Overall

4-5-stars

The Intern

Just About the Fit

The Intern is constantly on the verge of being fired for inappropriateness but is kept on board thanks to a bit of humour and an underlying good sentiment.

What I mean by this is that the film is heavy handed with its themes of sexism and ageism and the main culprit is the script. Jules (Anne Hathaway) constantly reminds us that she is a woman in business. She is a woman in a position of power. She is a woman who has had to be successful on her own initiative. She’s looked down on by other powerful men. She’s a woman who won’t shut the fuck up about it.

Now before the feminists start getting offended I’ve nothing against the message it’s just the way it’s portrayed and it’s the same with the way they handle ageism. Oh, you’re old you mustn’t have heard that because you are deaf. Can you see because you are probably blind. Did I mention that you are deaf? You are probably fucking deaf.

Thankfully these moments where the film steam rolls it’s way through the its most important themes are few and far between the much of the script is quite good. A lot of the dialogue feels very natural and helps build the oh so important relationships between the main characters.

Ben (De Niro) is simply looking to fill some time since his wife passed away so he applies for an Intern for the elderly programme. The theory behind the programme is that it is good to have elders in the workplace and actually they can prove invaluable, which is especially true in Ben’s case as he has years of sales and management experience and is still as sharp as a knife.

Really though, he’s just an observer, a man looking from the outside in. He doesn’t need to make an impression after all he’s deaf and blind right!? No, but seriously, it’s not like he’s looking for a promotion so he can take everything in and apply his years of experience so when the time comes he casually does a better job than most people half his age.

This ability to take a holistic view of Jules’ pride and joy – About The Fit – is what warms her to Ben. Jules spends almost every waking moment keeping her company running. She loves it but it is often to the detriment of those around her. In Ben she finds someone who is understanding and supportive but more importantly someone who she can relate to as he too is often overlooked as someone who can be a professional, a mentor, a leader.

In this bond is where you can find a layer of good sentiment that offsets some of the script’s heavy handedness. If it wasn’t for Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro this film would have likely been a bit of a disaster but the two have a really good chemistry which really help solidify those subtle moments where they are alone and fragile.

I mentioned earlier that the film is helped out by some good humour and this comes mainly at the expense of men everywhere as the film constantly, and probably quite rightly, pokes fun at our idiosyncrasies. This is all realised through Jason (Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zack Pearlman) who take up the all too predictable goofy slapstick other interns.

Actually, a lot of the humour comes from Ben’s reaction to situations. I shouldn’t have been surprised given De Niro’s history with comedy but I guess I can only ever see him in the role of a gangster or a miscreant.

At times the film is charming and witty yet at other times it’s grindingly obvious and as subtle as an American abroad. The absolute highlight is De Niro who plays Ben, he’s such a lovable character that you’ll leave wishing that he was your granddad or friend or boss or your intern.

Go See

  • De Niro as a loveable old man
  • Anne Hathaway
  • The three (intern) stooges

Avoid

  • Obvious plot points
  • Heavy handed dealing with sexism
  • Heavy handed dealing with ageism

Overall

3-stars