Posts Tagged ‘ Reviews ’

On The Road…

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

With the help of one all star cast which includes Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Kristen Stewart and Tom Sturridge director Walter Salles has finally done what so many before him have only ever dreamed of; brought to the big screen Jack Kerouacs 1957 novel On The Road. Adapting such a well known and well loved novel was never going to be easy but fortunately for the Brazilian director, the novels legion of die-hard fans, and of course all those fantasists that came before him I can honestly say that he has risen to the challenge and done quite the respectable if not somewhat predictable job here. When I say predictable I am of course referring to Salles earlier film The Motorcycle Diaries which On The Road undoubtedly echoes. Perhaps 2004s effort was simply the directors way of warming up? Who knows!

Set in the late 1940s On The Road tells the story of a group of young hipsters all of whom are yearning to experience something real, something beautiful. Although the story belongs to Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) the real star of the show is the charismatic Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) who is all but determined to live his life against the conformist grain. Following the death of his father aspiring writer Sal who is desperate to escape the bout of writers block that has been plaguing him for far too long now, begins frequenting various dive bars with the poet Carlo Marx (Tom Sturridge) only to find little in the way of inspiration or indeed relief. But then, suddenly he meets the freewheeling alpha male that is Dean and everything changes. Both the audience and Sal are first introduced to a stark naked Dean who has apparently been enjoying a tryst with his 16 year old bride Marylou (Kristen Stewart) So fascinated and inspired is Sal by this sexually charged and free spirit who seems so gloriously unbound by the restrictions of life, doing what he wants when he wants, and determined to avoid all sense of responsibility that he actually embarks upon a series of cross country road trips with him. Of course these aren’t just any old road trips rather they are the adventures that inspire Salles furious scribbling of notes for a would-be novel.

Predictably, Marylou joins the guys on the road and it isn’t long before Sal develops a sort of infatuation with the saucy youth but somehow it never feels genuine and viewers get the feeling that he doesn’t really care about her and that this infatuation may in fact be the result of one seriously displaced homoerotic bond with Dean. Hrmmm! Throughout the entire film we the audience are treated to a birdseye view of the non conformist life. A life in which drugs, experimental sex, jazz and black culture are all embraced – eagerly! We are also introduced to a whole host of equally weird and wonderful characters including the eccentric couple that is Old Bull Lee (Viggo Mortensen) and Jane (Amy Adams) as well as some very angry women who have been used and abused by the men of the film such as Camille (Kirsten Dunst – so good to have her back!) Camille, in case you were wondering, is the much more stable woman Dean eventually divorces Marylou for in order to settle down and start having babies with. As you can imagine, that doesn’t exactly work out and the films stud quickly returns, again and again, to the ever tolerant and ever willing arms of his ex-wife. Let the drama (or should I say even more drama?) begin…

Although, On The Road does carry with it a sort of touching sadness whereby Dean eventually becomes the used up and left behind raw material for a book destined to make Sal a wealthy New York big-shot the films impact is at best variable. This, I don’t believe can be attributed to any one thing. A film adaptation of the novel was always going to prove difficult after all throughout the novel there is a complete lack of dramatic structure as the book focuses on not one but several unique journeys which ultimately results in a fitfully episodic narrative. All of these are issues even the best director would struggle to overcome and as a result Salles deserves our respect as do the actors and especially the actresses who give it their all. Truly the women of this film do a brilliant job in each of their respective roles and in my opinion really steal the show. It is, after all, their shrill yet futile anger that proves to be one of the most raw and convincing elements of the entire film. And believe me I hate to say this but Stewart (Best known for her role as Bella in Twilight or perhaps for cheating on Robert Pattinson – the horror) who was chosen for the role of Marylou almost five years ago after giving a stellar performance in Into The Wild is perfect, in fact she is beyond perfect. As a long term fan of cinematography I have to say Eric Gautier makes great use of superb and diverse locations such as New York, Canada, Mexico and Argentina making this film, regardless of its overall success one truly worth seeing. Also wonderful is the overall sense you get when looking at the clothes, the decor and hearing the vast range of music that this film was researched to its very limit which not only lends a wonderful sense of authenticity to the movie but makes it an absolute pleasure to watch.

Just remember this; it is extremely rare for any adaptation or interpretation of a song, book, film or any other creative piece to live up to it’s original self and I can guarantee you will enjoy this film!

Film review: Magic Mike

It may cost you a few singles but Magic Mike shows some of the hottest men in Hollywood take off their shirts, pants and what little they wear underneath. But this stripper film is about more than just some g-strings, great abs and gyrating hips.  Director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Contagion) may have been shooting under his pseudonym Peter Andrews but it’s not hard to miss his skill of pulling the best out of his leading actors.

Set in Tampa Florida Magic Mike tells the story of Mike (Channing Tatum), a part-time roofer who dreams of becoming a custom furniture designer while saving all the singles he earns stripping in the seedy nightclub Xquisite. A chance encounter with Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is the beginning of the end of his stripping career.

Mike takes Adam under his wing and mentor-protégé relationship develops. At first it’s all fun and games and the two hot male strippers enjoy the single life and spending the ones stuck in their underwear. But Adam’s protective older sister Brooke (Cody Horn) isn’t happy with the changes she sees in her little brother and sees Mike as the culprit when things go wrong.  But as the story progresses Mike discovers that the life he is leading isn’t the answer to his dreams and he struggles to see what and how he can change.

Tatum is perfectly cast in the role of Magic Mike and shows he hasn’t forgotten how to move since Step Up and performs acrobatic back-flips and sexy dance moves to prove it. But he is more than just a very sexy body in this movie, it is in the quite moments, particularly partnered with Horn or Pettyfer where his true ability shines through. As a producer on this film the idea behind the script came from his own personal experience as a 19-year old stripper at the beginning of his career, so maybe that is why his portrayal is so raw and real.

Pettyfer holds his own as the bashful newbie stripper, who leaves his socks on, who then succumbs to the lure of the night-life glamour.  But even at his best he can’t steal the scene away from Tatum whose charm and screen presents out shines him.

But the true star of this movie is Matthew McConaughey whose supporting role as the leathery, overly tanned club-owner and old-time stripper Dallas couldn’t be more cheesy, more greasy and more of a self parody.  Seeing him prance around in his ridiculous hats and outfits makes the film worth seeing on it’s own.

Magic Mike is hard to but into one genre as it is not a date-night film, the poor lads will never live up to the expectations given on screen, and it is not a chick-flick either as it is grittier than expected. But even though the ending is a little disappointing and one can’t help but feel let down or that the story ran out, Magic Mike is a good film with strong actors and surprising moments. And if you can look past the fact that Sonderbergh fell a little too in love with his yellow filter that taints many of the scenes and gives them a vintage feel, Magic Mike gives a little insight into a milieu most of us don’t know and isn’t afraid to be a bit controversial.

Film review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Meteor Matilda is approaching earth fast and in 21 days the world will end.  Of course this means that every day is now casual Friday at work, you can have sex with random partners, not having to worry about any consequences and heroin is the latest party gift.

But while everyone around him has succumb to debauchery, drugs and random looting Dodge (Steve Carell) is stuck in his midlife-crises thinking of all the women who got a way, including his wife. Always playing it safe he sells insurance for a living, even the Armageddon package, and while he keeps trying to fire his cleaning lady he can’t help but wonder where everything went so wrong.

His neighbour Penny (a healthy looking Keira Knightly) is his opposite, a free spirit with a love for vinyl and the wrong kind of men. Always five minutes behind everyone else she has missed all the planes out of the US and can’t help but be upset by missing out on spending her last days with her family. When she discovers that it is her fault that Dodge didn’t get a letter from Olivia, the love of his life, the unlikely pair partners up to try and help each other.  With the agreement that she won’t kill him if he doesn’t rape her the two of them and Sorry the dog go on one last adventure, all bundled up in a tiny blue smart car.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is not your typical rom-com, although it is very funny in parts and tender and romantic in others, but refreshingly the ending is not your normal Hollywood scenario. The main let down in this film is that there is no chemistry between Knightly and Carell and while you could understand why someone like Dodge would fall for Penny, the reverse is not believable. Knightly is good and looks better with a bit more weight on her but Carell only has two facial expressions and none of them ever suit the situation.

But if you are looking for a funny and at times endearing film to while away a few hours on a grey and wet afternoon, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a good, enjoyable choice.

Film Review: Dr Seuss’ The Lorax

It may be 30 years since Dr Seuss published The Lorax but the topic of deforestation and ecological responsibility couldn’t be more timely. Sadly the latest animation by Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Hop) is more plastic than real and even the singing and dancing can’t mask the fact that this film is all about commerce and not about saving the planet.

The story revolves around Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron), a young boy who lives in the walled city of  “Thneed-Ville”. Everything in Thneed-Ville is made out of plastic and is brightly coloured, even the pets aren’t real and trees glow at night and spin. When Ted’s crush Audrey (Taylor Swift) declares she would marry the guy who brings her a real tree Ted’s adventure begins.

Ted’s lively and feisty granny (the dame du jour Betty White) tells him he has to look for the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who lives outside the city walls, as he is the only one who knows what happened to the trees and where to find one. Escaping the clutches of the nasty mayor of Thneed-Ville (Rob Riggle) Ted finds the Once-ler living in a shack surrounded by pollution and wastelands.  The Once-ler agrees to tell Ted his story and over a series of visits Ted learns all about how the Once-ler invented the Thneed by chopping down a native Truffula tree. This act against nature summoned the Lorax, the grumpy, orange, peanut-shaped guardian of the trees. With a lot of singing, dancing and rhyming the Lorax persuades the Once-ler to not chop down any more trees, but to just harvest them instead. But when the Thneed becomes a commercial success reinforcements are called in and the Once-ler breaks his promise, destroying everything around him.  Now it is up to Ted to change the way things are and save the trees.

Unlike Wall-E, The Lorax fails to practise what it preaches and everything feels plasticy and even the forest animals and The Lorax are noisy and synthetic.  The film is loud, preachy, a little bit hysterical and very annoying. And while the animations in The Lorax do emulate Dr Seuss’s distinct quirky drawing style the graphics are more decorative than actual elements of the film.

Overall Children will enjoy the film due to its catchy music and easily learned songs and possibly the sensory overload will appeal to their sort attention spans. But the more mature audience may find The Lorax that bit too much and regret having paid for a ticket to watch such trite.

Film Review: Detachment

Director Tony Kaye (American History X) is back in Cinemas with his latest film Detachment and this time around the hell he explores is a public high school somewhere in New York. Filled with disillusioned teachers, unmotivated, dysfunctional students and indifferent parents the school is on the verge of being shut down because of its low test scores causing property values to drop.

Adrien Brody plays the lead in this fractured film, his character Henry Barthes is a substitute teacher, and although Barthes is dedicated to his students he not really willing to commit and make a lasting difference in their lives. In his free time he regularly visits his sick, slightly senile grandfather in a nursing home, cares for a 15 year-old run-away prostitute and writes his thoughts into journals.

While the story pivots around the saintly figure of Brody his supporting cast includes big names like Marcia Gay Harden as the besieged principle, Lucy Lui as the stressed out guidance councillor, James Cann as a pill-popping cynical teacher and beautiful Christina Hendricks as a colleague who tries to initiate some romance with Henry. And although tiny glimpses into the faculty members home lives try to give reasoning and depth to these characters and their actions most scenes seem too unrealistic and bleak. .

Newcomer Sami Gayle as Erica the runaway prostitute however is vibrant and vulnerable and most of the better and tender moments of the film are between her and Brody. And although her transformation from mistreated prostitute to homemaking surrogate daughter is a little too fast, she is the only positive light in this dark film.

Detachment tries to mask its somewhat over the top storyline by using arty tricks like crude chalk drawings, quotes by Albert Camus and Edgar Allan Poe, grim monologues directed at the camera and garish disjointed flashbacks. Instead of enhancing the flow of the story or giving depth to it these interferences often fracture it more and feel too forced.

Ultimately Brody excels in his performance as Henry Barthes, his calm exterior and obvious inner turmoil beautifully brought to screen in subtle actions and quiet moments. But sadly this is not enough to make Detachment a good film.


The Amazing Spider-Man

Only ten years after Toby Maguire brought Spider-Man to life director Marc Webb (500 days of Summer) has not only spun a new story on Spider-Man’s origins but has managed to make a really good film.

Like in all versions Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is bit by a genetically enhanced spider and develops skills any teenage-boy (and girl) would dream of. But this time around his advisory is the one armed scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) who turns into a rampaging mutant lizard after injecting himself with a formula to regenerate DNA. Of course the love story is not forgotten but instead of the normally beautiful but boring Mary-Jane, Parker falls for his high-school classmate the sexy, sassy and smart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). An extra twist is given when it turns out that her father (Dennis Leary) is the captain of the taskforce trying to put Spider-Man in jail.

Unlike director Sam Raimi ‘s original trilogy, Webb doesn’t rely on action sequences but takes time in developing characters, which gives them more depth. This is most noticeable in Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker, he isn’t just the Hollywood version of a nerd or geek but has a darker side and harder edge to him. And while he is a good guy and tries to do the right thing he is believable still is a teenager trying to figure out life, not just his Spider-Man persona.

And with the charming Emma Stone playing his love-interest Gwen, who already has a crush on him before he turns into a superhero, the relationship is more believable and the chemistry undeniable. Stone is more than just a pretty face or arm-candy but a true partner who will not be sidelined.

Of course there are still some general bases of the story that The Amazing Spider-Man covers, like the killing of Parker’s Uncle Ben, but Martin Sheen’s portrayal of him is edgier and somehow that makes his death even sadder. Sally Field cast as Aunt May is brilliant, she isn’t a caricature but a real person and you can feel her pain and confusion. She is a relatable mother figure and a good solid foundation to help understand Parker’s motivations.

This reboot of Spider-Man is well worth watching and while Webb only uses the 3D effects sparsely throughout the film they tend to stand out more and seem less of a gimmick. This makes The Amazing Spider-Man just as good in two dimensions and overall a better-told story.  It is fast paced and you don’t feel the more than two hours it takes to come to the end.  The film has a sleek slightly futuristic look and feel to it, which makes it all the more enjoyable to watch.

On a side-note it is well worth mentioning that the musical score by James Horner is interesting and exciting. And for all of you, who rush out of the movies once the end credits start to roll, sit tight as you may get a peek at what a sequel could hold.

Not So Happily Ever After For Average Snow White Film

Coming in a year where fairytale based movies seem to be a dime a dozen, Snow White and The Huntsman has been billed as a gritty, dramatic take on the much-loved fairy tale. Sticking quite closely to the story we all know it stars Kristen Stewart in the title role with support from Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and Charlize Theron as the evil Queen.

A relative newbie to the scene Rupert Sanders has stepped up to the plate to direct and he hasn’t done such a great job at it. The film isn’t terrible but it seems to be lacking in the general scheme of things. Charlize Theron has a great turn playing the beautiful and villainous Queen Ravenna. She eats up every second of screen time given to her and her performance alone nearly makes this film worth watching again but alas this isn’t a fairytale of a movie.

Kristen “why do I have to be here?” Stewart seems to never really have the strength to command the role given to her. In a scene where she must rally the troops it all falls a little flat. Hemsworth gives a good stab at the Scottish accent, even if the only research he done for the role was to watch Braveheart.

The problem lies with the chemistry between the two leads. The audience is supposed to buy and root for their relationship but in the end it all comes off as a little cold and aloof.

The costume design in flawless and helps give the film more of a cinematic scope. But for every positive there is a negative waiting to leap out and pounce. More humour wouldn’t have gone amiss and maybe a better developed story. Less C.G.I and more special effects make up might have helped.

The list could go on and on, so maybe its best not too.

It’s a shame because a movie like this had a lot of potential. This bedtime story was just a little too good at causing the audience to yawn.