Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 114 minutes
Director: Ben Stiller
Writers: James Thurber (based on short story by), Steve Conrad (screenplay)
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Patton Oswalt, Shirley Maclaine

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will be released in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day and is distributed by 20th Century Fox. To be released in the USA on Christmas Day and the UK also on Boxing Day.

Sometimes what we all need is a piece of cinema that allows us to be taken on an uplifting journey away from our everyday life. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is absolutely that.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty celebrates the idea of film as an escape. The lead character of Walter Mitty is not the only one who goes on a journey, as he takes everyone in the audience away with him. It reinforces the idea that regular people can do extraordinary things, even if those extraordinary things aren't quite as farfetched as what we see in the film. These incredible things are enhanced by some magnificent cinematography and the direction of Ben Stiller, who has no problem successfully directing himself.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), an introvert who often zones out into his own world much to the confusion of those around him, is a worker at LIFE magazine, where the object of his affection, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) also works and is oblivious to Walter's feelings for her. When LIFE is taken over and there is only to be one more printed issue, everybody's job is threatened. Walter soon realises that the photo that his new arrogant boss, Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) wants on the last cover has gone missing and the only way of replacing that photo is to find the photographer, Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn). This is the start of the greatest adventure Walter has ever had and is more wonderful than anything he has experienced in his wildest daydreams.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty truly is a joy to behold on the screen. The message it carries about ordinary people being able to do extraordinary things if they take the chance is inspirational and exactly what many people need to hear when starting the new year. While the message may be relevant, Walter Mitty's adventures are a little too extraordinary and the idea of realism needs to be pushed aside for awhile. It does tend to border on the edge of being a little too farfetched and this leads to a feeling of ridiculousness otherwise. There are moments at the beginning of the film where you really start to get However, it is the fantasy aspect of the film that makes this film feel refreshing and sweetly uplifting.

The cinematography is truly beautiful, particularly in the scenes set while Walter is travelling. The landscape shots of Greenland, Iceland and Afghanistan are breathtaking. The scene in Iceland outside the Papa Johns (of all places) with Walter on the phone is an incredible scene visually. It is the type of incredible scene that makes you feel as though you are really there and feeling the chill in the air, but also the peace and serenity of the location. Also, when in the LIFE offices and having the magazine's motto positioned above Walter with perfect timing is a unique touch to the film, but one which works and rides home the aim of the film to inspire. The musical score and soundtrack is also perfectly fitted to the film and enhances many great moments in the film, such as when Walter is about to get in the helicopter and Kristen Wiig's Cheryl is singing "Major Tom" to him.

Ben Stiller has absolutely no problems directing himself. He has done a wonderful job directing this film as it is nothing like anything he has done before and is a great success. Stiller is wonderful as the lead in this film. It is unlike his usual brand of comedy, but his comedic subtlety in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is quite beautiful.

Kristen Wiig does well as Cheryl Melhoff and is endearing in the scenes in which she is in with Stiller. Shirley MacLaine is also very good as Walter's mother, Edna and Kathryn Hahn is good fun as his sister, Odessa. Although he is the bad guy, Adam Scott is also great fun. He is so arrogant and such a horrible new boss that he is actually quite entertaining. Sean Penn doesn't have much to work with in the scenes which he is in, but he is a strong presence whenever on screen, which is exactly what his character is supposed to be. Patton Oswalt also has a very small part, but is great fun whenever his voice is heard and whenever he is seen on screen.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a beautiful piece of work and reinforces that wonderful idea that cinema is an escape, because that it certainly is in this film.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 Films of 2013

So as we come to a close on the film year, we now have a top ten of 2013 based on the Australian release schedule. This top ten is based on the scores out of ten which each film reviewed by Movie Critical has received this year. Here are the top ten films of 2013 ranked from ten to one.

10. Gravity
Release Date- 3rd October 2013
Alfonso Cuaron's film of space survival is a cinematic masterpiece. With an amazing musical score and breathtaking visuals, Gravity is extremely suspenseful and entrancing. Sandra Bullock is wonderful as Ryan Stone, and deserves nothing but the highest praise for how mentally and physically demanding this film must have been for her to star in. Bullock spends the large majority of the film by herself on screen, which one can only imagine would have been incredibly lonely as well as mentally draining. Cuaron's direction brings out the best in his lead lady as well as building an incredible universe around her.

9. Prisoners
Release Date- 19th October 2013
Prisoners lingers with the viewer long after the film is over. As one of the best family related psychological thrillers in years, Denis Villeneuve delivered a film which is so disturbing to watch for any parent, but brilliant in the way that it makes you contemplate how you would react in such a situation and whether there is any way to justify revenge on someone who is capable of such brutality on your kin. Wonderful performances by all those involved and beautifully shot.

8. Amour
Release Date- 13th February 2013
Amour won Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards earlier this year and every bit deserves the honour. In Michael Haneke's beautiful but heartbreakingly real film about lifelong love, Emmanuelle Riva (who was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won the BAFTA for her role) and Jean-Louis Trintignant are incredible on screen as husband and wife Georges and Anne. While the film is saddening, there is also such beauty in the way it is filmed and also in the idea that these two people who have loved each other their whole lives truly cannot live without the other.

Release Date- 26th December 2013
The Railway Man combines an incredible story with incredible film making. The true story of Eric Lomax is absolutely extraordinary and the closure the film delivers is unexpected and completely unpredictable. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful and the landscape shots of Scotland and Thailand deliver far more than just visuals, as they allow you to hear, smell and feel everything that the characters themselves are. Colin Firth does brilliantly in the lead role, as do both Nicole Kidman and Hiroyuki Sanada.
Release Date- 31st January 2013
Kathryn Bigelow's film about the ten year long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden attracted it's fair share of controversy when released, but attracted just as much praise and appreciation. Zero Dark Thirty does not lack in suspense and tension and is captivating from beginning to end. Wonderfully shot and with a powerhouse performance by Jessica Chastain, it won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and was nominated for another four awards.
 5. The Hunt
Release Date- 2nd May 2013
The Hunt made it's debut at the Cannes Film Festival 2012 but finally hit our screens this years. Mads Mikkelsen took away from the festival the honour of being named Best Actor of the festival. He is absolutely outstanding in Denmark's The Hunt, as the father who is wrongly accused of child molestation. The film is incredibly shot and captures the real beauty of it's country. Although the subject of the film is a confronting one, it is not actually about the graphic subject but the way people react when faced with the subject. It is saddening how the accused can innocent until proven guilty, but the people see you as being guilty until proven innocent.
Release Date- 24th October 2013
The Spanish film Blancanieves is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, in which in 1920's Seville Snow White's mother was a beautiful dancer and her father a famed Spanish bullfighter. This film is a completely original version of a well known story, as it is also filmed in black and white and is a silent film. It contains beautiful imagery which doesn't rely on colour to make it exquisite, and it's musical score is wonderful. The performances are also wonderful by Macarena Garcia and Maribel Verdu, as being a silent film, so much relies on facial expressions. Truly one of the most beautiful films of the year.
Release Date- 31st January 2013
David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook was the comedy of the year. It's absolutely outstanding screenplay that brought mental illness into the spotlight was confronting at times, but also very funny and uplifting. Russell is known as a director who brings out the very best in actors and this was more than evident in this film with Bradley Cooper giving the performance of his career, and Jennifer Lawrence giving an amazing performance which earned her the coveted Best Performance by a Female in A Motion Picture Academy Award.
Release Date- 29th August 2013
The Rocket is the most charming film of 2013. It has so much simple beauty in it shown through characters who are incredibly unique and an absolute joy to watch on screen. Director Kim Mordaunt made the first feature film to be filmed in the war torn country of Laos and really captured the country's beauty in an incredible way. All the lead actors gives just wonderful performances and it is hard to believe that young Sitthiphon Disamoe and Loungnam Kaosainam (who is one of the best child supporting actress's you will ever see) are not professional actors. Truly an unforgettable film.
Release Date- 24th January 2013
Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is our top movie of 2013. Tarantino's does historical brilliantly, as he has proved before with Inglorious Basterds, as he puts his own quirky twist on them by throwing into the mix modernism and his black sense of humour. Tarantino is another director who brings out the best in his actors and this is evident considering Django Unchained gave Christoph Waltz his second Academy Award under his direction. The screenplay, which also won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, is brilliant as it is always intriguing, often very funny and the dialogue is absolutely captivating. The ending is so over the top, but is just Tarantino perfection.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Philomena (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 98 minutes
Director: Stephen Frears
Writers: Martin Sixsmith (book "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee"), Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (screenplay)
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Michelle Fairley, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Barbara Jefford, Peter Hermann

Philomena is now showing everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Hopscotch Films.

The true story of Philomena Lee as told in Stephen Frear's Philomena is incredibly moving and although it is beautiful in it's execution, plays out every mother's worst nightmare on the big screen.

Judi Dench once again basks in the spotlight in Philomena and blows everyone away with her raw and emotional performance. Completely intriguing and riveting from beginning to end with a wonderful screenplay, yet also disturbing and absolutely heartbreaking. No mother will be able to watch Philomena and not be moved and be grateful for every moment they have had to spend with their child and watch them grow.

British journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) decides that he should put the writing of his book on Russian history on hold and look towards embarking on a human interest story, an idea he is initially not overly keen on. He meets Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a woman who has a remarkable story to tell. Decades ago, Philomena fell pregnant while a teenager and was sent to a convent to give birth and live and work there as repayment to the nuns for taking care of her and her son, Anthony. When he is four years old, Anthony is taken from Philomena without her consent and she never see's him again. Martin agrees to help Philomena find her son and they set off on a journey that will take them from Ireland to Washington, DC and take them from strangers to understanding.

Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan have constructed a wonderful screenplay. Philomena is not at any point in time dull or tedious. It consistently moves forward even when you least expect it to be doing so, and creates tension where you least expect it to. There is some truly wonderful dialogue spoken between the main characters and the dialogue spoken in the key scenes is so powerful and memorable. The spoken word is so very important in a film like this that challenges you to contemplate some hard issues. The characters have to say the right things in to make a scene as powerful as the issue itself. What is absolutely remarkable is that Philomena not only possesses some of the most moving, yet at the same time confronting scenes as a result if the exchange of words between the characters, but it also delivers some very funny scenes. Philomena is really a wonderful character as although she has been through so much, she still remains loyal to her faith and she is endearing as well as being unintentionally comical.

Although there are quite a few laughs, Philomena remains any parents worst nightmare, having your child taken away from you and never see them again. What it must be like to know that your child has progressed in the world and grown up without you knowing how or where is a terrible notion. They say when you have children it is like having your heart wander around outside your body and although Philomena did have other children, there must have been a great deal of feeling lost as she never knew where her heart was. While there is closure at the end of the film, there is still great sadness along the journey and you really feel for Philomena, It makes it even more heart breaking to know that Philomena is actually based on a true story and that this is not just a story made up for a film. This really did happen to many mothers and children. It makes you sad, but also makes you thankful for what you experience with your children and should never take for granted.

On top of this, the issues that are explored in the film are very thought provoking. Philomena doesn't quite paint these nuns in a very good light, but on the other hand it does show the strength and beauty in faith to forgive those who have done something to us which is usually deemed unforgivable. The film absolutely challenges you to not only think about what you would do in the same situation, but also how you would handle the situation.

Judi Dench is absolutely exquisite as Philomena. It is hard to imagine that anyone could have played this role other than the great Judi Dench. It seems to be role she was born to play and one can only imagine that the real Philomena Lee must be thrilled to have Dench portray her. Her performance is so moving and she is absolutely endearing and so likable, Dench captures Philomena's inner purity and her submerged pain so well. While she acts so strong, the moments in which she lets go are so powerful. The last scene when she is confronted with Sister Hildegarde is just brilliant.

Steve Coogan is also very, very good as Martin Sixsmith. Like Dench, his best scene is the final scene with Sister Hildegarde and the confrontation is perfect in every way as far as performance and dialogue go. The chemistry between Dench and Coogan is a highlight of the film. The two work exceptionally well together on screen and the work off each other so well. Sophie Kennedy Clark, who plays the young Philomena, is also very good.

Philomena is an absolute gem of a film which will make you both laugh and cry. Beautiful performances accompanied by perfect direction and a very well written script make this film really one of a kind.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Railway Man (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 116 minutes
Director: Jonathan Tepiltzky
Writers: Eric Lomax (autobiography), Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson (screenplay)
Cast: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine, Hiroyuki Sanada, Sam Reid

The Railway Man will open in Australian cinemas on the 26th December and in the United Kingdom on the 1st January 2014.

The Railway Man is one of the most extraordinary stories to be told on screen in the past year.

War changes men in ways in which those who haven't experienced the horrors of battle will never understand. For those who became prisoners of war and lived to tell the tale, how do you move on from something like that and find closure? The true story of Eric Lomax is unlike any you have heard before and is brilliantly adapted for the screen in The Railway Man. While the story is incredible, the cinematography, flawless acting and wonderful direction bring the spirit of the story to life and make it an incredibly emotional experience.

We first meet Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) on the train ride in which he meets the love of his life, Patricia Wallace (Nicole Kidman). The two fall madly in love with each other and are married. It doesn't take Patti long to realise that she has married a very disturbed war veteran and when she tries to talk about his past experiences with Eric, he shuts her out and tells her never to ask him again. It is only when she approaches his lifelong best friend, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) that she realises the horrors he has experienced and both her and Finlay know there is only one way Lomax can get past this trauma. Finding and taking his revenge on the man who was responsible for his torture.

While The Railway Man is set largely during WW2, it is not the typical war film as it is set away from battle. Jonathan Tepiltzky's film shows the horrors of being a prisoner of war with Lomax being captured and being forced to work on the "Death Railway", the railway in between Thailand and Burma. The scenes set during this time can be quite graphic and are a reminder that it wasn't only on the battlefield that nightmares were made. It shows the different ways men lived with the horrors they had seen and how different men coped in different ways.

The Railway Man is a very emotional film. It has the ability to make you feel very uncomfortable and is quite distressing, but it is the final 10 minutes of the film that are incredibly overpowering. Lomax's story has a completely unique and extraordinary ending that can teach everyone a huge lesson regardless of whether you have experienced a situation like Lomax's or not. There will be some who will feel that this story is a little far fetched, even though it is a true story. What happened to Lomax at the end of the film is extraordinary and not many other people, if any would have experienced thing. That is what makes this story so amazing and breathtaking on the big screen.

The cinematography takes away nothing and adds everything to the film. Tepiltzky has the talent of making the audience feel as though they are standing right next to the characters rather than being an observer from afar. During the scenes in which they are making the railway, you can feel the heat and stickiness of the climate, but you can also feel on an emotional level the dread and misery in the air. While in the scenes with Lomax and Patti at home, you can smell the salty air and feel the chill of the Scottish coast and countryside. It is also a beautiful period piece that truly captures the times in which it is set.

Colin Firth is once again brilliant in this film. From the very first scene you can see that his mind is not always in the space he is physically in and that he is a very troubled and disturbed man. His final scenes are incredible with Lomax's enemy, Nagase, who is played by Hiroyuki Sanada. Sanada, although not in the film for a considerable amount of time, is also brilliant. When he is faced with Lomax, you immediately see in him a man who has been able to convince himself over the years that he is an innocent, but struggles to maintain that once he is there with this man. The scenes with Firth and Sanada are wonderful, and the chemistry these two form is wonderful.

Nicole Kidman is also wonderful as Patti. She and Firth work so well on screen together and her final scene where she finally comes to the realisation of what her husband has really been through is beautiful. Stellan Skarsgard is also very good. His Finlay doesn't overtly show his emotions in the way Lomax does, but his controlled manner even shows glimpses of his inner torment.

The Railway Man is one of the best told stories on screen of the year. It combines great storytelling with magnificent film making It will not leave you with a dry eye, but will leave you filled with wonder.


You may have also seen Colin Firth in.....
The Kings Speech as King George VI

You may have also seen Nicole Kidman in.....
Stoker as Evelyn

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Love, Marilyn (2012)

Year: 2012
Running Time: 107 minutes
Director: Liz Garbus
Writers: Liz Garbus (written by). Truman Capote, Elia Kazan and Natasha Lytess (excerpts from memoirs), Marilyn Monroe and Ralph Greenson (personal papers), Norman Mailer and Gloria Steinem (excerpts from book), Norman Rosten (excerpts from poem), Billy Wilder (excerpts from letters)
Cast: Marilyn Monroe (archive footage), F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Banks, Adrien Brody, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Hope Davis, Viola Davis, Jennifer Ehle, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, Stephen Lang, Lindsay Lohan, Janet McTeer, Jeremy Piven, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Lili Taylor, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Now available on DVD through Madman Entertainment. Available to buy from Amazon

Even today, 51 years after her untimely death, Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most popular movie stars in the world. Her name conjures up images of old Hollywood glamour and a brand of sexuality that she brought not only to the screen, but to the forefront of society. Many girls and women still name her as one of their idols as they look up to her for her beauty and talent. We all know who Marilyn Monroe was, but who was Norma Jeane Baker?

Recently two boxes of personal letters and writings of Marilyn Monroe's were discovered in storage which have been able to give us a look deep into the mind of the classic actress. Love, Marilyn is an in depth documentary on the life and inner torment that plagued Marilyn/Norma Jeane. Director and writer, Liz Garbus has employed an unique approach to exploring in great depth who this woman really was, as several well known actors recite Marilyn's own words and the words of other notable Marilyn Monroe biographers and those who knew the woman herself. Accompanied by incredible archive footage of Marilyn before and during her career, as well as interview with people who had come into contact with her including her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star Jane Russell and ex-husband playwright Arthur Miller.

Love, Marilyn is incredibly touching, especially to those who are fans of her or who have studied her career and her persona. With the discovery of her personal writings and the way which they are incorporated into the film, it is as though we can really hear Marilyn talking to us. Marilyn was an extremely complex and interesting person and her words are haunting. It is really devastating how when her words are being spoken, we are seeing the actual documents which the words are being spoken from on the screen. Although when spoken by these actresses, you do forget for a moment that they are Marilyn's words because you are not hearing the husky voice which Marilyn was so popular for, but when you actually seen her handwriting you are instantly reminded of this fact. The film is incredibly sympathetic towards her and does the best job of any documentary previously released of getting to the core of who the woman underneath the Marilyn Monroe persona was.

The film is really like watching a biography play out on screen. This is of course what a documentary is, but Liz Garbus's film is like the perfect Marilyn Monroe book. There is insight from the ones who knew her and also from historians who have studied her life in great detail. Yet it is better than a biography as you are able to really see the visuals of her writings, film clips and amazing archive footage of Marilyn's early modelling days and interviews. Love, Marilyn doesn't flow from the beginning to end in chronological order, but visits her troubled childhood when discussing how Lee Strasberg started to work with her. This does work because it is able to continue the audiences empathy with Marilyn throughout the film at appropriate intervals.

Although as off putting it can be to see and hear other actors speak as Marilyn and not have any of the same mannerisms, the actors who are speaking as her do a good job, particularly Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Ehle and Uma Thurman. The male actors also do wonderful jobs. The stand outs for the men are Jeremy Piven speaking as Elia Kazan, Ben Foster as biographer Norman Mailer and Oliver Platt as Billy Wilder.

Personally, Love, Marilyn brought up a lot of feelings about Marilyn Monroe which I have felt over the years. After seeing several of her films, I decided to read Barbara Leaming's biography "Marilyn Monroe" to find out more about this character. What hit me upon finishing this book was how incredible it was that Marilyn really had  no ego and was plagued by depression and self esteem issues her whole life. I understand why she did have so many psychological problems as having a loveless childhood will do that to anybody, and none of that was ever her fault. Her self underneath the persona of Marilyn Monroe was shaped by the tragedies in her life which always coincided with feelings of abandonment, lack of love and that constant feeling of not being good enough. Marilyn Monroe was always a persona, she was never really that person underneath all the make up and beautiful clothes. She was little Norma Jeane who just wanted to be loved, taken care of and wanted desperately for someone to take her seriously.

Marilyn once said "Men go to bed with Marilyn Monroe and wake up with Norma Jeane". This quote always makes me feel numb. This poor woman wanted so desperately to be loved, but not for the character that made her a star. However, as her third husband, Arthur Miller found, she was often emotionally unstable as a result of this feeling of being unloved. She never felt that she was good enough or that she was ever taken seriously.

This floors me. Again I can understand why she felt this way as she was never really acknowledged for her acting, although towards the end of her career she absolutely showed what she was capable of in films like Bus Stop, The Prince and The Showgirl, Some Like It Hot and The Misfits. How could this be? This movie star who will always be remembered and who is still one of the icons of Hollywood, was afraid that people saw her as a joke and would never remember her? It's a devastating thought. Marilyn will be remembered forever. I wonder if things would have been different for her if she somehow knew that half a century later she would still be talked about her image seen by millions, even if they haven't seen her films. It's a tragedy how short her life was cut. As it is said in Love, Marilyn, the days before her death were filled with positives and I would love to think that this was just the start of amazing things for her.

Marilyn Monroe is such a tragic figure. To many she is a icon of beauty and glamour, to me she represents sadness and tragedy that plagues many of us. I love learning about her and she is an extraordinary character to study, but I feel an overwhelming sense of sympathy for her and I am so sorry she didn't know or live to find out how wonderful she really was. Love, Marilyn brought up these feelings again for me, and there is no doubt that it will have the same effect on others.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 119 minutes
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (written by and based on characters by)
Cast: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Meagan Good, Greg Kinnear, Harrison Ford

Anchorman 2:The Legend Continues opens in Australian cinemas on the 19th December and is distributed by Paramount Pictures. Now showing in the USA and UK.

"Oh hey, guess what everyone!? Did you hear? Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has a sequel!" said no one ever.

You must have been living under a rock if you hadn't heard about the upcoming release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. It's aggressive promotional campaign which involved Ron Burgundy appearing on various news broadcasts across the world and he and his news team popping up in the places you least (or most) expect them, such as on "Saturday Night Live" singing "Afternoon Delight" with One Direction. The amount of promotion for this film was almost enough to worry you if you weren't worried already about Anchorman 2 not living up to the success of the first film. Comedy sequels are always very tricky territory as they are seeking to write a screenplay that matches the successful humour of the first. While many people will be over the moon to see the return of Ron, Brian Fantana, Champ Kind and especially Brick Tamland, there is no doubt that what made Anchorman so unique and funny just isn't there in the second film. Anchorman 2 pushes so many boundaries that just give off an air of trying way too hard and coming off as painful rather than funny.

Co-anchors, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) have enjoyed many years of success after they relocated from San Diego to New York together. When Veronica is given a promotion and Ron is sacked, he hits rock bottom when he finds himself working at Sea World as an announcer. By a stroke of luck when he needs it most, he is summoned back to New York to anchor on the first 24 hour news channel and re-assembles his old news team consisting of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). When the four arrive in New York, they find that they have a lot to do to regain their success and popularity. They have to measure up to the anchorman of the moment, Jack Lime (James Marsden) as well as somehow impress tough businesswoman, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good).

The thing that made Anchorman work was that it was silly and random but in a completely unique way. It stood out from other comedies which with it's memorable characters and ridiculously quotable and hilarious dialogue. It still remains the Will Ferrell movie you like even if you do not like Will Ferrell. Anchorman was always going to be a hard act to follow. What made the first Anchorman work so well is what writers, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell seemed to have forgot in the writing of the sequel. Anchorman 2 is more about pushing the boundaries on topics which many will find offensive and hope that these risks will be seen as funny. It is the mistake many writers make when writing comedy, they feel they have to try really hard in order to make us laugh. The problem being that most of the time audiences can tell when a film is trying too hard. Anchorman was silly and very random, but didn't go over the top, while Anchorman 2 does. There are certain scenes (particularly that of Ron and Linda at the family dinner) that can be perceived by some as being quite racist or to some, very racist. Some may say that it is just how things may have been, but it still doesn't make a difference to how uncomfortable some of the dialogue makes you. There is also more sexual references, more cringe worthy images and references and silly turns to stupidity. Anchorman 2 is unfortunately what many will call a typical sequel, which means there is more of everything which the first film has and those dreaded words used to describe many sequels are absolutely used here...it is nowhere near as good as the first. It is even hard to say whether die hard Anchorman fans will appreciate this film as for the most part it walks in the opposite direction of the first. Anchorman 2 was never going to be as good as the first, but it would have been nice if it could have been half as good as it at least.

The screenplay really is a big step backwards for McKay and Ferrell. There are laughs to be had , but nowhere near as many as the film makers would want you to have. The first few minutes are funny and after you get over the happiness of seeing the news team again, you settle into the film and then realise that not much is really happening. It jumps all around the place for awhile and never really solidifies in the story. It's all about getting people to laugh again at Ron Burgundy...and it doesn't even achieve this for the most part. At nearly two hours, the film seems a lot longer than what it actually is. The highlight of the film are the hilarious cameos which take place towards the end of the film, and it is almost worth watching the whole film just for this segment.

Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy isn't as likable or endearing as what you want him to be. His character, like the film, just seems all over the place and often painful and annoying. He has no real consistency through the film and while in most circumstances this would be seen as versatile, in Anchorman 2 you just feel like you really have no idea who Ron Burgundy is anymore. Paul Rudd's Brian Fantana probably has a bit more to do in this film than he had in the first, and he is actually a lot more likable as opposed to Ron Burgundy and to the first film. His character actually shows progression in changing emotions and his character development is quite well done. He is a stronger character who in the end, is the one holding the team together and the true friend.

David Koechner was probably the least likable out of the news team in the first film and this is continued here. He's not particularly interesting and if it wasn't for his first scene in the film, you would forget about him being in the film at all.

Anchorman will always be remembered by many as the first time they saw and took notice of Steve Carell on the big screen. His character of  Brick Tamland is one warped and strange human being, but has given use some of the most quotable comedy film dialogue in the past decade. Here he is probably the one character who really saves this comedy. Once again Carell delivers some hilarious dialogue, which will again be quoted by many in years to come. His on screen relationship with Chani, played by Kristen Wiig is not really oozing with chemistry or humour, but does have it's moments. Wiig does well enough, but would have benefited from having a larger role in the film to work with. Christina Applegate is fine and her performance probably would have seemed better if it was in a better film. Meagan Good is working with a character who is just too overdone and seemly unrealistic just by how over the top she is.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues may still have it's lovers, but is not the type of humour which a large portion of the population will enjoy. It is definitely a good idea to be familiar with the first in order to understand the second, but seeing and enjoying the first doesn't mean you will enjoy this one.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Frozen (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Writers: Jennifer Lee (screenplay and story), Chris Buck and Shane Morris (story), Hans Christian Andersen (inspired by The Snow Queen)
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Graff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk

Frozen will be opening in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios. Now showing in the USA and UK.

Disney have done it again. If there is one thing they know how to do, it is make a good Disney princess movie. And the best thing about their princess movies? They aren't just for girls, boys and men aren't afraid to say that they like them. There is absolutely some talent in being able to do that.

Frozen is sure to become one of the Disney classics. It contains the same spirit of the classic Disney films, but surprises you with modern ideas and relatable underlying themes. The screenplay, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Snow Queen, is very clever and the characters are all colourful, memorable and a lot of fun. On a whole, Frozen is unforgettable and it's catchy tunes will be having you humming them for days after.

Sister princesses, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) used to be so close as children, but when Elsa's strange gift that makes her turn everything to ice hurts her little sister, the two are kept apart for fear of Elsa hurting Anna again. When Elsa ascends to the throne when she is of age, she tries her hardest to keep her gift hidden from everyone. However, when she finds out that Anna had just got engaged to Hans (Santino Fontana), she is unable to control her powers and runs to the mountains to live by herself in her ice palace. Anna fearlessly takes off after her sister and along the way meets Kristoff (Jonathan Graff), his loyal pet reindeer, Sven and Olaf (Josh Gad), a hilarious snowman who Elsa built that has come to life. While everybody in Erindale is pointing their fingers at Elsa, nobody guesses that they have more to worry about closer to home.

Frozen is for Disney lovers young and old. It has the true feeling of a Disney princess film with pretty visuals of young princesses, ridiculously catchy songs and the similar plot points which are recurring in such a film but surprisingly, this one does feel a little more modern in a subtle way. With being a princess in a Disney film, there is always the presence of some sort of tragedy which bestows the princess (or princesses in this case) and there is always the presence of the young man who wishes to rescue her and true love concurs all. When Anna and Hans start singing "Love Is An Open Door", you almost feel like groaning as you think "Oh here we go again, another story about love at first sight".

Then something crazy happens. The characters start ridiculing Anna about falling in love and wanting to marry someone she just met. In past Disney films, the idea of falling in love with "The One" as soon as you meet them and often singing a song about it is common practise. Yet Frozen is far more modern in it's delivery. It ridicules the idea of love at first sight and carries the message that you really must know someone before you decide to spend the rest of your life with them. It's not the fantasy princess ideal that we have seen in the past, but it is refreshing to see a realistic take on love in a Disney animation. While there is never any lack of romantic love talk, there is also a great deal to be spoken of sisterly love. The idea that no matter how your siblings act towards you, they would always have your best interest at heart and will put themselves between you and danger.

The animation is really beautiful in Frozen, particularly in the scenes where there is snow and Elsa's ice palace. The colours employed are really exquisite and seeing this film in 3D really enhances your cinematic experience. As Frozen is a Disney musical, it is no surprise that it excels also in the musical department. The lead song from the film, "Let It Go" which is sung by Idina Menzel in the film and also by Demi Lovato in the closing credits is an instant classic. It contains a wonderful message and is one of those songs that can be used in a different context which many people can relate to when not accompanying the film. With awards season starting to kick in, this song will for sure be featuring in the Best Original Song nominees.

And of course, the characters and the actors who supply their voices really make Frozen come to life. Anna is a wonderful heroine. The greatest thing about her is that she is a very strong young woman and not the damsel in distress, but she is a goofball. She has some hilarious dialogue and is a really fun character. Kristen Bell had a big role in the creation of her Anna and it once again demonstrates Bell's great comedic timing. Bell also shocks everyone in the best way possible with her incredible singing voice. One person who there was never any doubt whether she would be able to hit the big notes for Elsa's songs was Idina Menzel. Her rendition of "Let It Go" in the film is so powerful and makes it into a huge musical number.

Jonathan Graff gives voice to Kristoff, who is a character which really grows on you. The presence of his "family" of trolls feels a bit out of place and although they are there for a purpose, they don't grab your memory as much as other characters. One incredibly memorable character is that of the snowman, Olaf. He is an absolute ball of laughs. He can come across as a bit of a children's character at times and some people may find him a bit annoying, but it is his simplicity that makes him endearing and his simple humour that makes him memorable. Josh Gad does a great job of giving him a voice.

Frozen is the perfect holiday film for all the family and is released at the perfect time of the year to coincide with winter in the Northern Hemisphere and give the Southern Hemisphere a taste of winter over the holiday break. A true Disney classic.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

American Hustle (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 138 minutes
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Eric Singer and David O. Russell Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Pena

American Hustle is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by Roadshow Films. Opening in the USA and UK on the 20th January 2013.

Could a film like American Hustle possibly avoid the hype? Not likely. Director David O. Russell’s film making has gone from strength to strength, especially with his last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Then there is the impressive cast which Russell is able to assemble for his latest film, all of which are past Academy Award nominees (Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence having won one award each and both under Russell’s direction) and all, except Jeremy Renner, who have worked with him before. So we have one of the most talented film makers in the business today and five of the biggest movie stars in the world working together on one film. American Hustle is a hit even before the first tickets are sold.

It’s a good thing that American Hustle does live up to its hype. Russell once again brings out the very best in his actors with some incredible and captivating performances taking place, especially that of Jennifer Lawrence. The performances do tend to hide the fact that even though the screenplay contains the usual brilliant dialogue Russell’s movies possess, it does try to do a little too much and ends up achieving the opposite of what it is meaning to in parts. It gives too much at times, and too little in others. Yet, the players in American Hustle still manage to overshadow these inconsistencies and make the film the hit it was always believed it would be.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a charismatic career con man who is in business with the seductive and deceptive Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who cons everyone besides Irving into believing that she is the British Lady Edith with numerous valuable connections. At the height of their business, they are caught out by FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Agent DiMaso convinces the two to work with him in order to con those the FBI has had their eyes on. Together the three of them head into the world of New Jersey powerbrokers and mafia with their sights set on Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) who is looking to rework Atlantic City. The only thing that stands in their way is Irving’s unpredictable and unstable wife, Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who has the power to overthrow everything if she says the wrong thing to the wrong people.
Firstly, the thing that has American Hustle missing the link between a very good film and a brilliant film is it’s screenplay by Russell and Eric Singer. The film isn’t consistently enthralling and at times tends to lull. At 138 minutes running time the film isn’t overly long, but it does try to pack too much into that time. This leads to the film spending a little time on everything and therefore not spending enough time on things which are important to the story, and too much time on little things which don’t have to be in the film. Yet the screenplay is not by a long stretch a failing one due to the brilliant and colourful dialogue given to its characters, which has become a trademark of Russell’s films and is always a favourite amongst audiences.

The late 1970’s is brought back in spectacular style. The fashion and hair is spot on for the time and add to the overall atmosphere of the film. The d├ęcor of locations such as Irving’s office and house is extremely reminiscent and spot on of life in the 1970’s, particularly of his house where domestic and psychedelic collide. The time period inspired soundtrack is also great fun. There are some wonderful cinematography moments, in particular during the opening credits with the three lead characters, Irving, Sydney and Richie walking up a corridor in unison, which straight away tells you how important these three will be. There are some strange and unexplained cinematography moments, like the close up of Sydney’s stiletto in the car. Yet this seems to be a recurring visual from Russell’s films as the is a similar vision in The Fighter of Melissa Leo’s high heels.

Russell has once again brought out the best in his lead actors. All of the top five billing actors give performances that will always be remembered as one of their best. Christian Bale is brilliant as Irving. One would normally think of a somewhat sleazy looking and overweight con man and think about how unlikable such a figure would be, but Bale makes him absolutely intriguing and astonishingly makes him likable. He is just so charismatic and full of character and towards the end of the film, you are really rooting for him. Amy Adams has once again morphed herself into another intriguing character. You never really find out exactly who she really is underneath her disguise, but through Adams’ acting we can see the hurt and insecure girl she really is underneath all her sexy glamour.
Bradley Cooper gives another stellar performance under Russell’s guidance. In the opening scenes, the first verbal confrontation between Bale and Cooper is just superb as watching these two amazing actors go at each other is a real treat. Cooper’s scenes where he loses control and goes slightly mad are so interesting to watch. Jeremy Renner is also superb. He is so likable as Carmine and as you watch him being deceived, you feel so embarrassed and bad for him. The only complaint about the films players is that there is not enough of the uncredited Robert De Niro.

It is Jennifer Lawrence who you remember the most when you leave American Hustle. . She is an absolute scene stealer whenever she is on screen and as she doesn’t have as much on screen time as her cast members, you really wish you could see more of her. Her dialogue is great and everything she does is so entertaining. Lawrence has the uncanny ability of being able to play someone who is supposed to be older and more life experienced than she is, and she is never questioned by anyone as she is so believable and brilliant.

American Hustle is a cinematic delight. The story may not be continuously riveting in its execution, but it has many redeemable qualities. A must see for fans of David O. Russell or any of the five main players. And what you have probably heard is also true, there is an astonishing amount off sideboob.


You may have also seen Christian Bale in....
The Fighter as Dickie
The Dark Knight Rises as Bruce Wayne/ Batman

You may have also seen Amy Adams in....
The Fighter as Charlene
Man of Steel as Lois Lane

You may have also seen Bradley Cooper in....
Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano

You may have also seen Jennifer Lawrence in.....
Silver Linings Playbook as Tiffany Maxwell
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Katniss Everdeen

You may have also seen Jeremy Renner in....
The Hurt Locker as Will James
The Town as Jem

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Carrie (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Writers: Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sarcasa (screenplay), Stephen King (novel)
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell

Carrie is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Sony Pictures. Please see your local cinema guides for times.

Here is the question that the 2013 remake of Carrie encourages you to ask yourself, is there really such thing as a good horror film remake? And here we are not talking horror movie good where the film scares you and therefore it is a success, we are talking about whether it is actually a well made film. Or does that really matter when it comes to horror movies, as it only matters whether it scares you. The latter question's answer tends to vary depending on the person who is answering, but the first question leans more towards the negative.

Carrie, which has been reimagined for the 21st century, reminds us why some films should be left untouched and remain in the time they were made. Although the Kimberly Peirce's film has done a fine job at recapturing the suspense of the first film, this horror classic doesn't gain anything from being remade. Instead what we have is a rather unremarkable teen horror flick which leaves you completely unsure about what you should be taking away from it.

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a young girl who has lived an incredibly sheltered life at the hands of her overly religious mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore). Carrie was home schooled for the majority of her life until forced to attend a normal high school and since then she has been an outsider and chronically awkward and shy. When she receives her first period in the girls change room after swimming at school, she is terrified as she was unaware what her menstrual cycle is. The girls in the change room, headed by Sue (Gabriella Wilde) and Chris (Portia Doubleday) ridicule Carrie by chanting and throwing tampons at her. Ms Desjardin (Judy Greer) breaks it up and punishes the girls involved, which is when Chris gets banned from attending their senior prom. She blames Carrie for her misfortune and plots a cruel plan to humiliate Carrie in front of the whole school. What nobody suspects is that when Carrie is pushed too far, her kinetic powers cause all hell is about to break loose.

Even though you want to view Carrie as a stand alone film, for those who have seen the original it is very hard not to compare the two. Rather than being the un-nerving and disturbing horror film which the 1976 film was, the 2013 Carrie seems just like an atypical teen horror film that is not at all original in it's delivery. In particular, in the scenes with Carrie's teenage classmates, we could be watching any film in the teenage subgenre which have been released in the past few years. The montage scenes of the girls and boys getting ready for the prom contain the same images and music as we have seen in so many films before it and Carrie's tormentors are like the girls we have seen in films such as Mean Girls with some Stephen King injected into them. It is obvious that what director Kimberly Peirce is trying to do is appeal to this target audience and update Carrie in order to fit into the young adult world of today. By doing this, all Peirce does is add to the pool of films which are soon to be forgotten after their release because there is nothing remarkably or positively original to remember them by.

As is the case with many remakes, the horror elements of the first are taken and inflated to make ideally more scary. What would be a horror remake without more blood and gore? Or a crazy religious mother who is even more crazy and religious than before? How about we also make Carrie in her rage like a real supernatural being with bizarre body movements like we have seen in other horror films? However, the saving grace for Carrie and the thing we can rejoice about when comparing it to the original is that there is still a great deal of suspense leading up to the infamous prom scene. There is a constant feel of dread and tension as you know what is coming up and there is also a feeling of excitement to see how Carrie does lash out with her powers. The last five minutes of the film doesn't hold the same power in this way and is a completely lack lustre finale. The dialogue of this ending doesn't give you any sense of closure and although many horror films do not like to give their audience's closure as a scare tactic, this ending just leaves you more confused about what you are meant to take away from the film.

The CGI used in the film is very touch and go. There are some fantastic moments, in particular the blowing up of a service station and shattering of the car, yet there are also some moments where it lacks, such as in the house towards the end. The use of slow motion and repetition towards the end of the film does create more emphasis in the scenes which they are employed in.

Chloe Grace Moretz does well as the title character in Carrie. However, there are certain characteristics  you wish she could have portrayed. In particular, Moretz does awkward and lonely well, but there isn't really a great deal of character development over the course of the film. There is of course the craziness she takes on in the prom scene, but her rage is completely unexpected when you think about how Carrie never seemed to be getting close to her breaking point. She is simply awkward, then almost happy, and then murderous. There is no smooth progression to any of these emotional states. Moretz's Carrie is sweet and vulnerable, but Carrie is far from being to role of her career.

Julianne Moore is very good as Margaret White. She is very creepy and you find yourself at times being far more scared of Margaret than of Carrie. Moretz and Moore do have great on screen chemistry together. Gabriella Wilde is likable, but her role as Sue Snell doesn't allow for her to really do that much. Portia Doubleday gives an interesting performance as Chris. In all honesty it feels as if Doubleday has just been directed badly. She gives off an air of great potential, but her timing and deliverance of her dialogue is off the mark.

Carrie was again reinforces the fact that the real horror classics shouldn't be tampered with. There is no such thing (as of yet) as a wonderful horror film remake, and a remake being made so that teenagers of today can relate to it more isn't an idea that always works, as Carrie has shown us.


You may have also seen Chloe Grace Moretz in......
Kick Ass / Kick Ass 2 as Mindy Macready/ Hit Girl
Hugo as Isabelle