Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Trumbo

If you love history and cinema, Trumbo is an entertaining and fascinating combination. In the 1940s, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was one of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters until he and several others were jailed and then blacklisted by studios due to their suspected sympathies for, or membership of, the Communist party. Thus, Trumbo decides to keep working under a pseudonym and causes even more of a fuss. Trumbo's daughters gave some advice on the biopic, which suggests the film is fairly accurate for what is still ultimately a work of fiction. Cranston does a fantastic job of embodying Trumbo's quirks and deserves the Oscar nomination, while Helen Mirren is wonderful as powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Louis C.K. is also impressive playing a character who is a combination of several real life people. It is an effective way of simplifying the story while still getting the key points across. Diane Lane also features as Trumbo's stoic wife but she has so few chances to do anything interesting. The costumes and set design are very good and the film is a solid effort by director Jay Roach, who is perhaps better known for comedies. Like any biopic, Trumbo can be easily criticised for minor flaws in precision. But importantly, it shines a light on an artist who was forced into the darkness for a long time.  


Monday, 22 February 2016

Hail, Caesar

This latest offering from writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen is not as funny as it could have been, but it is still a very quirky and enjoyable film. The cinematography and mise-en-scene are also beautiful and memorable. A strong cast elevates the film further, led by Josh Brolin as Hollywood studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix (very loosely inspired by the real life studio executive of the 1950s) who tries to keep all the actors in line and cover up their scandals, and George Clooney as the silly blockbuster star who gets kidnapped by Communists. But it is the supporting cast who are most impressive, including Channing Tatum (I am as surprised as you) in a pivotal role as a Gene Kelly type of Hollywood actor, Alden Ehrenreich as the cowboy actor struggling to transition to more dramatic roles, and Tilda Swinton playing comical twin sisters who are competing as journalists for a scoop. Hail, Caesar pokes fun at the old studio system of the 1950s in a clever way, but it is not really a laugh-out-loud comedy.  


Thursday, 18 February 2016

How To Be Single

Finally, a romantic comedy that provides something different! How To Be Single certainly has its flaws, but at least it does not fall into too many cliché traps like other films of its genre. The film follows several characters as they navigate life in New York while dating, breaking up, having one-night stands, partying and having babies. Rebel Wilson is hilarious as the woman refusing to settle down, Dakota Johnson is an endearing protagonist trying to figure out what she wants, Leslie Mann has fun with her role as the career-driven big sister and Alison Brie is quirky as someone desperate to find “the one” via online dating. The men, played by Damon Wayans Jr, Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun and Jake Lacy, are also given fuller personalities. Interestingly, the film does not follow typical Hollywood rules of tying all the stories up and suggesting everyone lives happily ever after. Some people ended up in relationships, but others were HAPPILY SINGLE. It is refreshing to see a romantic comedy provide such a positive message that being alone can be just as fulfilling as being in a relationship.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Son of Saul

I loved the concept of this film but the final product felt too long despite a running time under two hours. Set during World War Two, the film takes place at the Auschwitz concentration camp where Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig) is a Hungarian prisoner forced to burn the bodies of his own people. But when Saul finds a young boy among the dead, he decides to take on the responsibility of ensuring the child is buried following a rabbi blessing. It is an interesting tale that provides a new perspective on the tragic holocaust story. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film is the cinematography. Director/co-writer Laszlo Nemes literally has the camera follow Saul around so the audience sees what he sees as everything unfolds in front of him. People interested in history should find Son of Saul interesting, but note, it is a foreign film with subtitles.  


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Zoolander 2

The original film was absurd but had some fun moments. Unfortunately, the sequel takes the silliness even further and by the third act reaches peak nonsense levels. It seems like there is an endless slew of cameos in Zoolander 2 and while some are fantastic, others are very bizarre. The film does a great job of summing up what happened in the first instalment for those who have not seen it or need a refresher after 15 years. Male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) has become a recluse since the death of his wife, but soon decides to make a comeback with Hansel (Owen Wilson) so he can get custody of his son. Stiller and Wilson know their strengths as comedians but the script, which has too many writers, fails them. Meanwhile, poor Penelope Cruz does nothing except be really, really ridiculously good looking. I am sure there is an audience out there for Zoolander 2, I am just not one of those people.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Deadpool

As soon as the hilarious opening credits begin to roll, it is clear Deadpool is going to be a refreshing superhero film, and it maintains the momentum throughout. While the plot follows a fairly standard formula and predictable ending, the non-stop humour gives it zest. Deadpool is very rude and lewd, but it is also clever, including several Marvel references and inside jokes for comic fans. The film also has some graphic fight scenes and a fantastic soundtrack. Former special forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). But when Wade learns he is dying from cancer, he volunteers for a rogue experiment led by Ajax (Ed Skrein) that leaves him severely scarred. So, Wade becomes Deadpool and aims to hunt down the man responsible. It is hard to imagine anyone else being as convincing in the lead role as Reynolds. The supporting cast is also solid and the film has one of the best Stan Lee cameos. Deadpool is perhaps at its best when Reynolds is able to break the fourth wall and have some brilliant meta moments. I hope we get a sequel.  


Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Choice

I'm almost embarrassed at how much I liked this film. There are some far too sappy moments that are sure to make most people cringe, but the sweet romance at the heart of the tale makes this latest Nicholas Sparks book adaptation an appropriate addition to a Valentine’s Day date. Travis (Benjamin Walker) and Gabby (Teresa Palmer) are new neighbours who immediately get on each other's nerves but quickly realise there is an undeniable attraction between them too. The only problem is Gabby already has a boyfriend and Travis is hardly in a rush to settle down either. The leads have decent chemistry and Tom Welling is also a welcome addition as Gabby's alternative love interest. Tom Wilkinson plays Travis' dad and his sub-plot is also endearing. The Choice is not as moving as The Notebook, but it is not as lame as Safe Haven either. It sits comfortably alongside last year's The Longest Ride as a cute love story.