Posts Tagged ‘ Movies ’

Film Review: Joyful Noise

Riding on the coattails of the TV series Glee Joyful Noise is the story of a small town gospel choir competing to be the best in their field.  With Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton in the lead, great music, strong voices and a mix of beautiful and quirky young singers you’d think that Joyful Noise has the perfect combination to be a fun-filled film. But a bit like Dolly Parton’s wardrobe it only ends up being a little bit tacky and gaudy and sadly lacks the charm that Dolly has to make it work.

The story is simple; when the choirmaster Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) dies Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) decides to name Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) as his successor, sidelining Sparrow’s widow GG (Parton) in the process.  Loyalties are split but while the two main characters try to work it out a Romeo and Juliet scenario develops between GG’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) and Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer).

As the story plods along the choir practises to compete in the final sing-off concert, Parton and Latifah fight, sing and dislike each other, Jordan and Palmer make-out, sing and rebel against the rules. But nothing feels real; the scenes are often over-acted and the dialogue is dull, self-deprecating and always unrealistic.

The last big number comes as a surprise when suddenly bit-players have interesting solos but have otherwise only feature a few minutes throughout the film. But then this fits into the messy stitching that holds the plot together.

Another surprise is the fact that although she is forever present on our screens and in our ears it has taken Dolly Parton twenty years to return to the big screen in a lead role, why she chose GG in Joyful Noise is anyone’s guess.

All in all Joyful Noise is filled with good songs, bad lip-synching, a tired love story and many dull moments. The only thing that save’s this film from being a total fiasco are the two young rising stars Jordan and Palmer and the two real live divas Latifa and Parton.

Take Shelter

Take Shelter

Take Shelter

Take Shelter revolves around a family man who suddenly begins having very vivid dreams about a storm that has a strange effect on those around him.

It stars Michael Shannon, although not too well-known to many now unless you follow Boardwalk Empire, his stock has risen since being cast as General Zod in the upcoming Superman movie due for release in 2013. He plays Curtis LaForche a quiet family man who works on site for an oil drilling firm and is married to Samantha (Jessica Chastain) who have a deaf daughter.

Curtis begins to get troubled by these dreams or visions and the extreme vivid nature of them carries over to his daily life leaving him disturbed and worried by what he had dreamt. He begins to change things in his life as a reaction to these dreams. He starts working on an old storm shelter out in his back garden and ostracising himself from those that appeared in his dreams. His unusual behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed, culminating in conflicts between Curtis and his employers, co-workers, friends, the local community and his wife.

The film is shot at a slow pace which gives time to both weigh up and question all that Curtis sees and does. It throws a few twists and turns at us, especially when we discover the history of Curtis’s mother.  The film also operates essentially without a soundtrack over it which really adds to the heaviness and tension of some scenes and also the realism, giving it a more raw feel. Between all this and the slightly duller feel to the lighting it adds to the feeling of dread and in fact does almost feel like there is a large black cloud hanging over the entire film.

Shannon is excellent in this. The supporting cast are good, especially Chastain but the film is  about Shannon and he delivers.

Shannon is thoroughly believable as the happy old school, southern, family man. His character is quiet but has a good strong presence which lends real power to the scenes where his character becomes more emotional. He is astounding as this essentially good man driven to the brink of insanity, portraying a real sense of quiet desperation.

This film is definitely worth seeing. It’s easily one of the best dramas of the year so far. It’s tense, gripping, simple and psychological. See this.

Score: 4/5

We Need To Talk About Kevin

This film is an adaptation of a novel by Lionel Shriver which deals with the life of a mother whose son has done something horrific. Tilda Swinton plays Eva, the mother in question, who has to not only deal with the fall out of this incident within the community but with her own guilt after the actions of her son. It stars Tilda Swinton as the mother Eva, John C.Reilly as the father, Ezra Miller as Kevin.

On one level the film deals with the nature versus nurture question. The film doesn’t blatantly side with one argument but shows enough so that both possibilities could be argued by the viewer. Was Eva merely an unfortunate woman who randomly give birth to an evil child or did her feelings of hate and disdain for the unwanted being inside her filter through  to the unborn and manifest itself into this problem child? Is the latter what lead to an automatically antagonistic relationship between mother and son, did this lead the son to doing what he did so as to torture the mother?

Or, as I said earlier, maybe her son is just a vindictive evil being. The flashbacks from time to time give the feeling of Eva looking back and chastising herself for not recognising earlier that there was something wrong with her son. How far does a child need to go before you acknowledge these issues? We can see occasions where Eva knew things weren’t right but didn’t act however no mother wants to believe there child is bad and Eva is the same as she desperately tries to salvage some form of normal relationship with her teenage son.

On another level the film shows how the parent of someone who commits an atrocious act must deal with the fallout. With her son incarcerated we see that Eva has grown accustomed to dealing with the ill feeling of the entire community. Being struck by still grieving parents in the street is not a big issue for her, neither is her house being vandalised or dodging other parents in supermarkets. Eva’s willing acceptance of the entire repercussions of her son’s actions, at times, gives an impression of self-punishment.

It certainly is an interesting and fresh angle from which to approach the act in question (Kevin’s crime). Often the lives of victims and victims families are focused upon but to take the view of the mother of a serious criminal and how their lives also become thrown upside down is thought-provoking.

In fact the  entire film is thought-provoking and also very scary in a confidently hushed way. The scares in this movie are, thankfully, the antithesis of cheap “horror” shocks like in films such as Hostel. The horror of this movie is more cerebral, more horrifying in the plausible reality of it.

The actin g in the movie is impressive. Swintin is impeccable as Eva. Thoroughly believable throughout from beginning, as a woman who’s life is now interrupted by the impending birth of this child, to the aftermath as a gaunt,drained, hurting shell of  a woman. There’s been some Oscar talk already for her performance in this.

In my opinion, credit must also go to the young actors playing Kevin, especially Jasper Newell who plays childhood Kevin. The acting of children can mostly be very limited and lacking powerful use of the eyes to suggest more, like  more experienced actors can employ. However,for someone so young, Newell has this down. The looks he gives his mother are unnerving and unsettling.

The film is well shot, edited and directed with some interesting use of visuals and music however, it is too long. Or at least feels it’s near 2 hour duration. Some scenes could have been omitted without taking away from the story, especially given the primarily slow pace of the film.

A challenging, disturbing, scary, thought-provoking statement of a film. This is not one for a Saturday night out or a date and certainly will not help those already afraid of having children. It is a film that you very much need to be in the right mood for, but if you are able for something like this then you will appreciate it.

Score: 4/5

Contagion Review

Contagion Movie Poster

Contagion Movie Poster

Contagion is a movie about the global outbreak of a new highly contagious infectious disease that kills rapidly and has spread around the world at an alarming rate. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s 11) and featuring a strong cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Brian Cranston, Marion Cottilard, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Paltrow plays a business exec who becomes sick while travelling and brings this disease back to the U.S. from Asia. When the disease begins spreading rapidly and killing the American population Admiral Haggerty (Cranston) calls on Fishburne, the head of the Centre for Disease Control, to investigate. Fishburne sends Dr. Lipkin (Winslet) out into the field to investigate further. Meanwhile the WHO (World Health Organisation) sends emotionally cold field agent Dr. Orantes (Cotillard) to Asia to attempt to uncover the source of the disease. Back in the U.S., Matt Damon plays a father/husband who has become very protective of his daughter after suffering two losses in his family already. Jude Law features throughout as Alan Krumwiede, an australian freelance journalist and conspiracy blogger who was first to uncover this disease.

If reading that above description felt long and a bit too much, then I completely agree and that is essentially the problem with this entire movie! There is far too much happening in it. The movie has the feel of an adaptation of a much larger book from which huge chunks have been cut to condense it into a more manageable film. It touches on far too much without giving enough of the desired detail. It teases by arousing interest in certain aspects of the plot then ignoring them again.

The acting is solid, it can’t really be faulted as the actors don’t appear to have been given much in terms of their characters. There are too many characters, too little time and as such they are very one-dimensional. We aren’t given any real background to the characters and rarely see them in any real situations to expose us to what kind of people they really are. That is, apart from Damon’s character. His character (Mitch Emhoff) is the most fleshed out character and Damon does a very good job of making him believable and ultimately have us root for him throughout.

You get the feeling that the movie attempted to be a little too clever and as a result ended up as a jack of all trades, but master of none. It touches on the emergence of completely new diseases, as have been seen in the last number of years with  “Bird Flu” and “Swine Flu”. It grabs our interest by mentioning the conspiracy that it may be “big pharmaceutical” creating these diseases so as to profit from the remedies then it leaves it at that. The movie refers to the dangers of pushing the widespread use of rushed vaccines without knowing the long-term effects, as happened with the ‘swine flu’ vaccine. It gives us a glimpse of the panic and hysteria that can spread, how society can turn on itself and easily disregard the cords that bind us –which is always an interesting angle –  then shows us no more.

Ultimately this movie is a decent effort, you can see what it attempted but it just doesn’t pull it off. It’s an alright watch if you’ve seen all else out now and want to scare yourself as to how easily disease can spread in a globalised world. However, you will never regret it if you don’t see this film. You may have covered all it’s basis if you’ve already seen films such as Outbreak.

Score:    3/5