Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bullet To The Head



Title: Bullet To The Head
Director: Walter Hill
Released: 2012
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Abaje, Christian Slater, Jason Momoa

Plot: Hitman James Bonomo (Stallone) and police detective Taylor Kwon (Kang) find themselves forced to work together when they find themselves targeted by the same enemy.

 
Review: Not to be confused by the superior John Woo classic "Bullet In The Head" and Based on Alexis Nolent’s French graphic novel “Du Plomb Dans La Tete” loosely translated as “Lead In The Head” with this film would come for Stallone at a time when he was riding high once more in his career, having dragged himself out of the depths of DTV hell by revisiting the roles which first made him a star, as well as cashing in on that legacy further with the first two entries in “The Expendables” trilogy. Of course we would be heavily mistaken if we thought that Stallone was back on track as here he sleepwalks his walks through this shambling Neo-Noir thriller.

Now the idea of someone with a legacy like Walter Hill has in the director’s chair it would normally be something to be excited about, but sadly this is not working at his prime as we like to remember him with films like “The Warriors” or “Southern Comfort”. With this film though it is hard to tell if these lacklustre effort is to do with a veteran director losing his mojo or the fact that he was drafted in to replace Wayne Kramer who wanted a darker vision for the film than Stallone wanted, leading to Stallone bringing in Hill who at the time had at the time just had the movie he’d been working on fall apart after he’d spent a year trying to get it made.

Refreshing set in New Orleans, here Stallone’s Bonomo also known as the bafflingly unthreatening Jimmy Bobo, is an aging hitman who lives by his own code of conduct, as emphasised by the opening hit on a corrupt cop in which he refuses to kill a prostitute witness. It is of course this hit which Bobo on the radar of Kwon who was the cops partner and from here it is only an onslaught of confused plotlines with only the occasional dash of action to keep the mildest hint of interest in this otherwise bland thriller. Things head south pretty quickly here after a strong opening, with the Bobo and Kwon being forced to work together, but thanks to Stallone and Kang having zero chemistry together this is far from the mismatched partner dynamic we would expect with every situation usually consisting on Stallone handling the action, while Kang plays on his phone. Seriously there is no situation which doesn’t seemingly find a resolution by him looking up the answer on his phone making his credentials as a detective all the more shaky while making you wonder why his character had to be a cop and instead couldn’t have been a hacker or some other profession. Interestingly though Thomas Jane was to play this role, only for producer Joel Silver to recast the part feeling needed a “more ethnic actor” to appeal to a wider audience. It remains to be seen if Jane could have done a better job, or if the flaw is just in the character. Elsewhere Shahi shows up as Bobo’s tattooist daughter who supposedly according to Bobo’s claims went to med school for a week, yet has no problem dealing with gun shot wounds or any other medical issue that arises. Frustratingly while Shahi gives a good performance, her character seems to largely have been included as an excuse to up the nudity quota or just so Hill could have a pretty girl in the cast, especially when her character could have easily have been written out without any effect to the film in the slightest.  

The other main issue with the film is the lack of a decent big evil with the closest we get to a memorable villain is in ex-mercenary turned heavy Keegan (Momoa) who gets one of the few highlights of the film when he gets to engage in a fire axe dual with Bobo at the finale. While the character is memorable, its another lacklustre performance from Momoa, who the more I see the more convinced I am that his performance as Khal Drogo in “Game of Thrones” was a one off, especially when everything else I’ve seen him in has yet to come close to that performance as further reinforced here. 

The action scenes are all enjoyable enough, though hardly containing anything overly original to make them standout more, while the final axe dual despite containing a number of impressive moments, relies too heavily on close up shots to be truly effective. We also get a massage parlour brawl but again I struggled to get into this fight, mainly because it felt like a poor man’s version of the same scene in “Eastern Promises” only thankfully Stallone doesn’t get naked in this one.

A forgettable Neo-Noir thriller let alone a heavily flawed one which even the diehard Stallone fans will struggle to find anything to make it worth your time. At the same time it remains to be seen if Hill can recapture his film making mojo which made his early films so memorable especially when this is certainly a stumble on his resume. Of course this is only made all the more frustrating when here is clearly trying to do something new within the genre, especially in terms of setting, its just a shame that the few moments when the film does work, don’t make up for the rest of the film to warrant giving it anything but a curious watch.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Wow I Won An Award!!


Recently I was honoured with “The Dragon Loyalty award by the Vern over at “The Vern’sVideo Vortex” and the “As You Watch Podcast”.

Now as these awards go there are rules to be followed which are as follow
  • Display the award on your blog
  • Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who awarded you
  • Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award
  • Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded
  • Write seven interesting things about you.
So let’s kick off with the good stuff as I now get the honour of presenting the following bloggers with this award, who constantly manage to produce entertaining and informative work on their blogs, while continuing to prove that there is still great talents running blogs, especially in these times were it seems that most critics have switched over to video blogging.


2.      Day of the Woman


4.      Forgotten Films


6.      French Toast Sunday


8.      The Film Connoisseur







15.  Final Girl

And now here are seven facts about myself, whose level of interestingness I will leave for you to decide.

1)      My favourite authors include Bret Easton Ellis, Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, David Sedaris

2)      My first piece of writing was my attempts to write down the script for “Gremlins” after being told by Grandfather that I’d seen it so many times that I could write the script. The end result though would probably describe as more of a junior novelisation, but it’s were my love writing started.

3)      I celebrated my 18th birthday not by going straight to the pub (the legal age to drink here in the UK) but rather by joining six different video stores, with eighteen also being the age that you could sign up for a card. While the stores have long since closed down I still carry their membership cards in my wallet.

4)      My childhood hero was Doug Mcclure and the star of such classics as “At the Earth’s Core”, The Land That Time Forgot” and “Warlords of Atlantis”. Your go to guy for seducing exotic ladies and punching anything which gets in his way. He was also the inspiration for Troy Mcclure on “The Simpsons” he was that darn cool!!

5)      Outside of the cult, foreign and obscure cinema I also have a love for documentaries which choose to focus on social subgroups such as old school gamers, punks, skaters etc. which lead to me to recently creating the spin off site “The Armchair Sociologist”.

6)      My favourite comic series is “Hack/Slash” which follows Cassie Hack and her gas mask clad man mountain of a best friend Vlad as they hunt down monsters called “slashers” due to how they all resemble movie slashers. Outside of this I am also a big fan of Deadpool whose movie adaption is the one comic book movie I’m excited about.

7)      I believe that 1999 is probably the best year for cinema and not 1984 as Todd over at “Forgotten Films” would have you belive.
Thanks again to Vern again for this award!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road



Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Released: 2015
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Megan Gale, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, John Howard, Richard Carter, Angus Sampson, Melissa Jaffer

Plot: In the distant future society has all but collapsed while those who remain battle over the last remaining resources. In this latest instalment of the series Max (Hardy) has been captured by the fanatical War Boys who in turn are ruled by the tyrannical fascist Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne). Meanwhile supply truck driver Imperator Furiosa (Theron) decides to break away from his rule as she liberates his captive wives with a plan to head for the Green lands, with her path soon crossing with Max’s as the two realise that their salvation will require them to work together.

 
Review: Coming a staggering thirty years after the flawed yet still highly enjoyable “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” there was unquestionably a sense of hesitation as much as there was giddy excitement to finally have a new addition to the franchise for while it had been left open with potential for further adventures the fans weren’t left feeling that there was still things that hadn’t been left unanswered at the end of the last film which could very well have remained the end of Max's journey. So while Miller went on to other projects, including more randomly the celebrity voiced animal features “Babe” and “Happy Feet” there was however always an undying desire from the fans for another entry in the series. Still considering the film has been in various stages of development hell since 1998, on one hand its surprising that the film has now actually been released, while unquestionably setting a bar of expectation from the fan base which couldn’t possibly be met….could it?

Well thankfully I can report that the wait has been more than worthwhile as Miller shows he’s not lost any of the vision which made the original films stand out and if anything has spent the last thirty years thinking of ever more creative ways to bring chaos and destruction to screen once more which he delivers here in spades. At the same time this is also not so much a reboot but rather a tweaking of the series which sees the film being shot with more brighter colours than the original trilogy and with minor changes to Max's character, while Miller clearly chooses to leave it to the fan boys to hammer this entry’s position onto the timeline, especially with no real clear indication on where the story is supposed to happen on the timeline.

One of these major changes of course sees  the original road warrior Mel Gibson passing the torch to Tom Hardy who he has gone on record to call "a real firecracker" and its great to see Hardy once more being able to take on a such an iconic role while at the same time continuing to his reputation as the human chameleon. Max here is shown as still a shell of a man, whose years in the post-apocalyptic outback have at this point left him essentially feral while still haunted by the ghosts of the family he lost. However its fun to see Hardy pulling off some of Max's classic badass moves including entering into a standoff with an empty sawn off shotgun, while bringing a smile to my face with his ideas for unchaining himself from Nux. This time though he is equally matched by the feisty Imperator Furiosa who also carries with her, her own ghosts while hoping to find salvation at the mythical green lands much like her rag-tag band of survivors she takes along for the ride. Furiosa is equally enhanced beyond being just a female Max she might seem on the surface thanks to feminist writer / activist Eve Ensler who is no doubt best known for writing “The Vagina Monologues”  and here Miller brings on board to help develop the female characters. A smart decision especially in this world were the wives are see by Joe as being another commodity, an aspect which see’s Ensler bringing her real life experiences of working with abused and dominated women to help shape their creation, as seen with their rebellious graffiti they leave behind in their former prison / quarters proclaiming such slogans as “We Are Not Things” an aspect only further highlighted by their shedding of barbed Chasity belts they have had padlocked to their bodies.

Once more it is a colourful cast of characters that Miller brings to life here, while he clearly takes advantage of the time which has passed to bring back Keays-Byrne who originally played “Toecutter” in the original “Mad Max” and who here returns as the equally colourful Immortan Joe, with his skull mask and ventilator backpack and who like so many members of his clan he is slowly dying of disease and infection, while using his monopoly on a seemingly unlimited supply of water (or aqua cola as he calls it) to keep maintain his position of power and using his wives to breed the next generation of war boys. His gang the War Boys are equally an fascinating group as they live with a set of beliefs comparable to that of the Vikings as they view it an honour to die in battle, fuelled with hopes of making it into their version of Valhalla as they call for their brothers in arms to frequently witness them as they sacrifice themselves for their greater cause as highlighted by the conflicted path travelled by Nux (Hoult). At the same time Miller this time doesn’t just settle with one gang, as this cross desert chase also sees several other clans also joining in the fight, each with their own distinct styles including one who seem to be paying a direct homage to Peter Weir’s “The Cars Which Ate Paris” in particular its spiked beetle which is again replicated here.

Unquestionably the cars though are the star of the show with Miller this time crafting a film which is essentially one big car chase, with over 150 vehicles being created for the film of which over half were destroyed throughout filming. It is of course refreshing to see a director insisting on practical effects with CGI here only being used to highlight or cover for sequences which would otherwise be impossible, while the film more than delivers on its promises of a world of fire and blood as cars explode and crash in ever more spectacular ways with Miller seemingly setting out to top the already spectacular carnage he crafted with the original trilogy, a mission he more than achieves here. At the same time his eye for detail only adds to these sequences as he gives us such delights as a war drum truck complete with its own flamethrower welding guitar player or the tank treaded Mopar which makes for the ride of choice for the Bullet Farmer (Carter) it almost demand a repeat viewing just to take in the wide selection of instantly iconic vehicles featured. At the same time the cinematography by John Seale who was tempted out of retirement for this film, only emphasises the carnage with his use of crash cams and slow motion footage, for if car crash porn didn't exist before here he certainly gives us it. 

If there is any flaw in this film it could mainly be in the fact that this really doesn’t feel like Max’s film as like we saw with the recent "Godzilla" here the marquee name is pushed frequently to the background with Furiosa taking the lead, even though he is once again essentially doing the same thing he did with the previous two films by entering a community and helping them resolve their issues. Unsurprisingly this has led to several critics referring to this as being a feminist action movie, even though Miller has frequently featured strong women in the series from Mad Max 2’s “Warrior Woman” through to Thunderdome’s “Aunty Entity”. Equally the plotting is paper thin with much more of the focus on the chase which forms the real meat of the film, but honestly it’s so much fun let alone fast paced that you really won’t care.

Ultimately this is easily the film of the summer, while here's hoping that audiences also feel the same way as the critics, especially with Miller already having the next to films in this new trilogy planned out and currently awaiting the studio green light, which will no doubt happen if the box office matches the current excitement levels for this film. But if your an established fan then you will no doubt devour this latest entry while at the same time it still provides a nitro fuelled introduction for the uninitiated. This is one wild ride you don't want to miss!!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Dredd



Title: Dredd
Director: Pete Travis
Released: 2012
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, Warrick Grier

Plot: In the future the United states has been turned into a irradiated wasteland known as the Cursed Earth, while on the east coast lies Mega-City One, a violent metropolis with a crime rate spiralling out of control. To restore order the Judges were introduced with the power to act as judge, jury and executioner. The most famed and feared of these judges is Dredd (Urban) who has now been tasted with evaluating potential judge Cassandra Anderson (Thirlby) who also is a powerful psychic. However Things take a turn for the worst when the judges find themselves trapped in the 200-storey slum tower block run by drug lord Ma-Ma (Headey), leaving them with no choice but to battle their way out, while being hunted by Ma-Ma’s legion of armed thugs who are now all hunting for the judges.


 

Review: Growing up in the UK we didn’t get a regular stream of DC / Marvel comics, more so if you lived out in the country like myself were the nearest comic book store like the nearest decent store to buy films was an hour train ride away. What we did have though was “2000 AD” a weekly comic whose pages were packed with colourful characters, exciting stories and most importantly lashings of violence that you’d never get in those other comics. While the comic itself has more recently been the subject of the documentary “Future Shock! Thee Story of 2000AD” it’s leading man Judge Dredd has already had one prior adaptation with the 95 Stallone movie "Judge Dread", which was largely (let alone unfairly) mauled by critics and fans alike. Needless to say the news of this latest attempt to adapt the long running series was met with almost universal scepticism.

Directed by Pete Travis who is probably best known for his UK TV work other than a sole feature credit for "Vantage Point" and a script written by Alex Garland, this latest adaptation has a distinctly British feel let alone one closer to the source material than its American counterpart. At the same time they wisely don’t attempt to adapt any of the major storylines or characters that would require prior knowledge of the series though Ma-Ma perfectly fits into this world. The downside though is that the plot is scarily similar to that of “The Raid”, which is more a case of coincidence rather any kind of sneak remake as only confirmed by the directors of both films.

Right from the start Travis perfectly sets up this dystopian vision of the future while providing the viewer with all the information to allow them to hit the ground running, which of course he does with Dredd engaging in a high speed pursuit with a trio of drug dealers, which ends true to the source material in bloody violence, here shown in voyeuristic slow motion. While perhaps a more sparse vision of the metropolis than fans of the series have come to expect the world inside the Peach Trees tower block is unquestionably more truer to the source material.

Karl Urban, an actor I can never place being in any film gets the honour of doning (and yes Dredd fans he doesn’t take it off) the iconic helmet as he plays the emotionless and by the book Judge in a great performance which truly brings to life the character while managing to avoid any traces of humanity or emotion which is no easy feat especially when placed in a situation which would in normal people see them making decisions based on their emotions. At the same time though Judge Anderson covers for a lot of these moments, as here she is far from the veteran judge of the comics and instead introduced as a rookie, hinting that perhaps in the sequels we would get to see her develop her skills as a judge. Sequels which at the time of writing still remain in development hell sadly, especially when this film sets up so much potential to build upon this world especially with the plans being for a trilogy of films in a similar vein to how Nolan crafted his batverse.

The real standout here though is Lena Headey playing with obvious relish the role of Ma-Ma, a psychotic and heavily scared creation who is very much sitting comfortably at the top of the pile, largely thanks to having having butchered her competition in order to claim the block for herself, which she has turned into her own personal fortress, while she solely controls the production of the highly addictive drug Slo-Mo which reduces the user’s perception time to 1% of normal and which generally seems to have been included so that Travis can get away with gratuitous use of slow motion footage, which make for some of the worst moments of the film, while not being helped by the cheap looking CGI which has been used to enhance these sequences.  

The main issues I had though with the film other than the worrying similarities to “The Raid” which left me with the feeling that I was watching a film I’d already seen before, while at the same time it lacks pacing with so that it often feels like a number of impressive set pieces largely strung together under the pretence of climbing floors in the tower block as the judges head ever closer to the inevitable confrontation with Ma-Ma. This being said the action sequences make this film worth giving it a watch alone, with enough blood and gore to keep things interesting with exploding limbs being torn off in frenzied firefights let alone with Ma-Ma’s personal love of skinning those who displease her before tossing them over the balcony in one of the early standout moments.

While this might be a slightly more truer adaptation of the source material than 1995’s “Judge Dredd” it not without its issues with the stop start pacing really stopping me from liking it more along with the excessive use of slow motion footage which has none of the style that Zack Snyder brings with his use of the same technique. This of course is only made the more frustrating when so many aspects such as the character design and casting work so well. For now though this might be the truest vision of the world of “Judge Dredd” and I can only hope that Urban is still able to don the helmet once more when the studios finally decide the future of the franchise.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Last Stand



Title: The Last Stand
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Released: 2013
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez.

Plot: Having escaped from his prison convoy, drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Noriega) now plans to jump the border into Mexico via the sleepy border town Sommerton Junction, leaving Sheriff Owens (Schwarzenegger) and his ragtag band of deputies to stop him.

 

Review: Seemingly not content with having reinvented the Western once already with “The Good, The Bad and The Weird” in his native South Korea, here director Kim Jee-woon attempts to do the same thing once more for his English language debut with this modern western, which is equally noteworthy for being Arnie’s first lead role in ten years since the disappointing “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”.

It is of course only fitting that the aging action hero Arnie here essentially takes the role of the retired gunslinger that having put his guns to earth is now enjoying the quiet life in this sleepy desert town, free from the violence and ghosts of the bungled drugs bust which caused him to leave his post in the LAPD. It’s a role which needless to say works perfectly for Arnie who here truly is believable in this role as he shuffles around the town dealing with minor crimes like the occasional cat being stuck in a tree. Infact the crime rate is so low the deputies are early on found slacking off shooting guns at slabs of meat with local vintage arms collector Lewis (Knoxville). Unsurprisingly the FBI is quick to write of these local lawman, especially considering the lack of experience most of them have dealing with any kind of major criminal threat. Of course after one of their own is killed during a firefight with Cortez’s thugs, Owens is quick to put together a plan to take revenge by stopping Cortez, as deputises former marine Frank (Santoro) and even Lewis, aswell as raiding his extensive arms collection which he has written off as being a museum.

Encase you haven’t guessed already the plot is as bonkers as it sounds and a real throwback to the films of Arnie’s golden period as the violence and jokes come in spades, especially Noriega’s drug lord is such an over the top creation, whose only becomes only the more ludicrous the more layers which are added, for what starts off as a drug lord in a superfast sports car, soon turns into a drug lord who apparently also has a side line as a professional race car driver!! It’s really almost as if Jee-woon is trying to see just how far he can push things, especially when the film already has a certain amount of leeway being an Arnie action vehicle and somehow me manages to not only make it work somehow but more importantly do it in such a way that you don’t mind putting plausibility to one side while you’re watching the plot reach ever new heights of randomness.

For those already familiar with Jee-woon’s previous films it will come as little surprise that he once again manages to craft some memorable action sequences, including a great rolling shootout, let alone crafting a wonderful high noon centrepiece on the deserted main street, which sees Owens and his team making full use of Lewis’s extensive arms collection which gives us such great moments as Luis Guzman in a cowboy hat mowing down bad guys with a tommy gun, aswell as the now stand out scene involving Arnie moving down villains with a Vickers machine gun from the back of a school bus. Arnie equally shows he’s still capable of pulling off a half decent brawl for the final showdown with Cortez which sees him matching his MMA style with some powerhouse wrestling moves, however it is also one of the few scenes in which Arnie’s does appear to be creaking slightly. At the same time it’s a smart decision to have him playing the role as more of an everyman than his usual terminator style, something which only seems the more fitting for his current status as the elder statesman of action heroes.

While the film is largely business as usual for Arnie, the film is sadly not without its flaws especially when it takes its time getting going, while Forest Whitaker is essentially squandered as he’s left generally reacting to the situation as it unfolds from the FBI headquarters. Equally an attempt at comedy involving residents of the town refusing to help because of waiting for their omelettes falls flat.

Compared to the films which made up his Bronze period such as “Collateral Damage” and “End of Days” this really is a return to form, even if its not quite at the same level as his Gold period films like “Commando” or “Predator” it’s still a fun ride that does exactly what you need it to do while never taking itself seriously. True this might not be high art film making, but really what are you expecting from this kind of movie?

Looking at the current state of his work slate it would seem that this film with Arnie as the everyman might be more the direction he’s wishing to take things especially when we look ahead to films like “Maggie”, with this film in that respect perhaps serving as a sign of things to come and honestly I’d like to see him do more films like this than trying to cash in on his previous glories, not that I don’t enjoy him pulling out the old tricks for his appearances in “The Expendables” franchise, it’s just makes more sense especially with him being now in his advanced years seeing him playing more characters like Owens which could be a really interesting new chapter for him. For now though we have to wait and see, more so with the lacking box office returns for this film it remains to be seen if audiences could buy him in a more toned down form.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist



Title: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Director: Peter Sollett
Released: 2008
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Alexis Dziena, Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Jay Baruchel, Jonathan B. Wright

Plot: Nick (Cera) the sole straight member of the Queercore band “The Jerk Offs”, still pining for his ex-girfriend Tris (Dziena), finds himself thrown together with fellow indie music fan Norah as they embark on a quest to find a secret gig being held by their favourite band “Where’s Fluffy?”.


 
Review: One of a spate of indie comedies which for one reason or another managed to transcend themselves into the mainstream conscious. Perhaps slightly less surprising for this film seeing how its based around the love of indie music, let alone the fact it stars Michael Cera who at the time was coming in hot off “Arrested Development” were he’d perfected his now trademark softly spoken awkwardness and which he brings here as the Heartbroken Nick, who spends his time obsessively making Breakup mixtapes unaware that his ex is just tossing them in the trash. At the same time these mixtapes are being collected by Norah who also dislikes Tris for her own reasons yet can’t escape her due to them sharing a friend in Caroline (Graynor).

While Cera might be playing his usual role, Kat Dennings on the other hand as Norah here is essentially the polar opposite to the sort of character we have become accustomed to seeing her playing, starting out quiet and retiring and slowly over the course of the night her character morphs into a more confident and essentially closer to the character we expect her to being playing. Even though she’s not playing her usual confronting and sarcastic style, she like Cera still makes for an engaging lead and doesn’t lose anything by playing against type, even if it as times strange to see her frequently acting so vulnerable in situations when you’d expect her to be tearing that person down in any other role.

Taking in a twilight tour of New York’s indie hotspots as the pair attempt to find the location of the secret gig, all the while having to deal with obstacles such as their problem ex’s, Nick’s crazed bandmates and a bunch of frenzied drag queens determined to celebrate Christmas all year round. The film in many ways playing like a more mobile version of “Clerks” with Nick’s yellow Yugo which constantly gets mistaken by drunken clubbers for being a Taxi cab.  However while the setup might be about them getting together from the start, you really couldn’t tell this was ever the plan seeing how the pair don’t spend the whole time making cliché moves on each other or engaging in quasi cool conversations. Only occasionally do we get a longing look or some indication that this pair could be something more, infact it seems that Nick’s friends see the potential in their relationship long before they do, with Norah getting a quick make over from his friends even though she’s essentially just met them.

As a result of events not playing out as traditionally as expected, we instead get akward moments of Nick and Norah facing their ex’s for which they both seemingly hold some residual feels yet unsure how to proceed as they both have feelings for each other while unsure how the other feels about them, leaving them stranded in a relationship no man’s land. For Nick he has to face Tris’s sudden increase of interest in him, due to the fact that she believes that he has moved on with Norah, even attempting to seduce him via an impromptus seductive dance to Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing”. A moment which really only highlights just how different Tris and Nick are, especially going off their musical tastes as also highlighted by how casually they disregards the break up mixtapes he’s been obsessively making for her. Norah on the other hand has to deal with her own ex / friend with benefits Tal (Baruchel) whose interest is seemingly more grounded in getting his band demo tape to her record producer father.

The other main obstacle standing in their way is the disappearing act pulled by Caroline which serves mainly to enable some of the cities more random nightlight spots to be showcased including a drag queen revue which generally adds some colour to the film rather than just being a series of identikit indie clubs. At the same time these club sequences ensure that the soundtrack is kept packed with some cool sounds, even if I’d be pressed to

While this twilight journey through New York is largely a fun one and both Dennings and Cera share some great on screen chemistry, especially with Cera’s awkwardness really working with his character. It is however let down by the wet fart of an ending which lacks and of the required payoff you’d want, especially after the journey you have been through with these characters, more so when they so casually write off the goal they have been chasing, which it seems that director Sollett feels has more significance, but here it mainly makes you wonder why they put so much importance on finding the band in the first place.

A flawed yet still enjoyable indie romcom that hits enough of the right notes to make it still a worthwhile watch, even if it doesn’t really much in the way of surprises along the way.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Up In The Air



Title: Up In The Air
Director: Jason Reitman
Released: 2009
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Danny McBride, Zach Galifianakis

Plot: Ryan Bingham (Clooney) makes his living traveling around the United States firing people when their employers are unwilling to do it themselves. It’s  life he is content living until his company threaten to take it away with the introduction of videoconferencing, an idea he is quick to oppose leading to him taking new hire and the instigator of this new process Natalie (Kendrick) out with him in the field.

 

Review: Director Reitman first burst onto the scene with “Thank You For Smoking” a film which followed a lobbyist for Tobacco actively trying to encourage more people to smoke and here again he gives another character with an usual job that they actually enjoy doing. So is the case with Ryan, who enjoys his job so much that he sees it as a burden to have to go home on those few days every year when he hasn’t got an assignment.

A creature of habit, Ryan has lived this life for so long he now has his routine down to almost a science, even crafting his personal philosophies into motivational speeches he gives at conferences under the heading of “What’s In Your Backpack?”, all while working towards his target of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines, a goal which he is set to be only the seventh person to achieve. Of course he’s none too pleased to have this work cocoon being threatened by what Natalie is trying to put in place, while his stubbornness to change sees him embarking on a mission to prove her wrong as the pair embarks on their highly unique road trip.

While Ryan might seem like a solitary character, especially with his sparsely decorated apartment, which he seems to have set out to make seem like any of the many hotel rooms he stays in, judging by the stolen hotel towels and fridge full of mini bar spirit bottles. However he has a causal relationship with Alex (Farmiga) a seeming kindred spirit and fellow frequent flyers, with the two hooking up whenever their paths cross. But while it might not be a traditional lifestyle it is one that Ryan is happy living. Clooney really embraces this character, especially in how he handles his day to day work which is not so much with the cold and calculating nature you’d expect him to approach this task with, but rather he relies on a tried and tested quotes, while seemingly knowing how to handle any reaction the people he’s firing.

As with “Thank you For Smoking” the journey the film takes us on is once again one were we have a character of fixed motivation, who slowly comes to realise that his world view might not be as true as they thought. So is the case for Ryan as his relationship with Alex grows closer than its original casual roots, while his sisters impending wedding for which he has to take pictures of the happy couple’s cut out next to tourist spots only further sees him questioning if he is missing something.

A film truly carried by Clooney’s Cary Grant esc charms, especially with his way with dialogue which is only emphasised by the narration he provides and which frequently provides the best insight into his character, especially when he is so often on the defensive to those around him. At the same time he gets equally strong support from both Farmiga and Kendrick who while both playing feisty ladies each bring their own approach to playing this sort of character, especially with Farmiga who effortless manages to switch between aggressiveness and femininity, making her the perfect match for Ryan especially when their lifestyles mirror each other, as highlighted during their initial meeting which soon descends into a game of perk card one upmanship. Their relationship frequently providing a source of fascination as they work around their situation, rerouting appointments to create connecting cities and sending flirty texts when apart and while it might have started casual they soon find things unintentionally getting closer.

Equally fascinating are the segments involving people being fired which not only features a standout appearance by J.K. Simmons, while  Reitman also works in interviews with real people who responded to an advert he placed looking for people to appear in a documentary about job loss in an attempt to avoid actors responding. Each of these interviews also saw the participant being fired on camera, while being asked to respond either how they responded originally or how they wished they had responded to the situation. Of these interviews twenty two would be used in the film, which certainly adds a level of realism to the situation, with some of the responses being truly heart breaking, making you wonder how Ryan actually manages to do this job.

A film which manages to walk the tightrope between humour and real emotion perfectly, even if the journey by the end does have the feeling that we have spent going in a circle. Still the film is funny and smart enough to make the journey an enjoyable one, while finally providing a much needed companion piece to "Thank You For Smoking".
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