The Fundamentals of Caring – Review

The Fundamentals of Caring is an indie comedy-drama that was distributed on Netflix. It’s one of those feel-good, feel-bad, feel-good-again movies, nice to just sit down and watch some time.

The film follows Ben (played by Paul Rudd), a retired writer who completes a course to become a caregiver. He gets a job looking after Trevor (Craig Roberts), and eighteen-year-old who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Ben and Trevor go on a road-trip to see the worlds deepest pit. During the road-trip they meet many people and learn about each other, you know the usual.

Rob Burnett, the writer and director of this film adapted his script from a novel by Jonathan Evison titled ‘The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving’ and he did a good job too. It’s a fun film, the dialogue is tight and everything plot point is tied up either in an emotional or humourous way.

Joining Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts in the film is Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle and Megan Ferguson. All of these actors do a decent job. Megan Feguson plays a slightly weird pregnant woman who has some funny lines but it’s Rudd and Roberts that breath the most life in to the film.

This film isn’t anything amazing but it short sweet and enjoyable. Its something you can chill out and watch on Netflix when ever, but it is worth a watch.

3 Stars

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Review

I hadn’t seen this Pirates of the Caribbean movie until last week, the day before I saw Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Please note, this review was written before seeing the fifth film, due to other reviews I already had scheduled, this is being released afterwards.

To preface, I’ve only really liked the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl. The other two were good from a production value point of view, but story line wise they go off in all sorts of directions and the overacting became a staple of the franchise. That being said, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides also features the overacting. When I think about it though, what I really want from a blockbuster pirate movie, is actors acting like pirates. I want the ‘argh me-hearty’s’, swash-buckling, stereotype of pirates that I’ve grown up with. That is what I’ve come to expect when I hear Hans Zimmer’s epic theme, and that’s what I buy a ticket for.

On Stranger Tides, seemed to have a more streamlined story, while there are three ‘teams’ all racing to one goal, as well as a shopping list for ‘the ritual’. The important thing is that the protagonists and antagonists are all heading following a simple story and not all heading off on convoluted journeys for complicated reasons.

As usual, the film looks pretty good, pretty blockbuster-y but again, that’s the point right? The scenes on the water, at night especially, look like they’re shot on a sound stage but some of the location shots were pretty so you forgive it. While there wasn’t much in the line of CGI on characters, mostly enchanted ropes, water and backgrounds, there is a CGI frog that I wasn’t a huge fan of, a far cry from Davy Jones. On the plus side though, the mermaid effects weren’t too bad. I’m just about to get to the acting in this film, but I’m going to mention this now, there’s a clergyman and a mermaid who fall in love or what ever, it was a story tread to get the mermaid to cry because a mermaid’s tear was needed for the ritual – other than that, reasonably unnecessary.

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns along with the first trilogy’s Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin McNally) in a one-shot of sorts having very little (if nothing) to do with the films that came before. Barbossa and Gibbs’ style of pirate-y-ness is what I was talking about earlier on. It’s nothing too amazing, but in this film, its fun, it fits the theme. It reminds me of what I liked about The Curse of the Black Pearl. Straight up pirates followin’ maps and findin’ treasure. Depp’s Jack Sparrow felt a little toned down in this film. Not to say he wasn’t overtly Sparrow, but it didnt feel as overdone as it did in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End.

Penelope Cruz plays Angelica, a former flame of Jack’s whose motives and intentions are all over the place. I get the feeling that Cruz was performing each line at a time, because her character tells a lot of ‘lies’ that are actually ‘truths’, ‘truths’ that are ‘lies’, and ‘lies’ that are actually ‘lies’. In a blockbuster like this, a film for the masses, surely there should be a small tell or a subtlety or something that gets you thinking about what she is saying, questioning it’s validity. Either that or she would be killer at ‘two truths and a lie’.

Now we get to Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. While McNally and Rush play your typical pirates who’s allegiances can change with the wind, Ian McShane plays straight up bad pirate with Blackbeard. He’s on a mission to live forever but despite coming up against the film’s ticking clock, a foretelling of his death, he seems to have all the time in the world to kill crew members, threaten Sparrow and even play Russian roulette with his daughter’s life. That minor motive issue aside, the character was great and I would say is the reason I continued to have interest in the movie til the end.

Speaking of the end, its time to wrap this up. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun popcorn flick. It isn’t bogged down by the narrative of Will Turner like the first three films were, which gives it a lighter tone. It’s a modern version of the classic pirate films, stereotypes and over-acting a plenty. Still though – enjoyable.

3 Stars

This Is 40 – Review

A Judd Apatow movie that I actually liked.

This Is 40 claims to be a sort of sequel to Knocked Up. If it is a sequel it is definitely better than it predecessor.

The film follows husband an wife, Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) in the week that they both turn 40 (or 38 if you believe Debbie). They go through a lot of things you’d expect to happen over a few months rather than a week. Financial trouble, rebellious children, fights with each other, fights with parents at their children’s school (just one of the highlights in this film and a reason to stick around for the credits) and issues with their parents who both have second families.

Filled with heaps of pop-culture references including digs at John Goodman and J.J. Abrams, This Is 40 had me laughing for most of the film (and like I usually say, there is only one good rom-com a year… Shame this one was so early on).

3 Stars

This Is 40 is in cinemas now.

Gangster Squad – Review

The last good gangster movie that made much success in recent years was Public Enemies, set in Chicago, the traditional gangster setting. But Gangster Squad adds the Hollywood Flare in more ways than one. Set in LA in the 1940’s Gangster Squad is based on the real-life story of the secret task force of LAPD cops who formed the Gangster Squad Unit to take down Mickey Cohen and his stranglehold on the city.

The gangster squad unit is started by John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and is subsequently joined by four other detectives (played by Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Peña and Robert Patrick) the squad gains it’s final reluctant member after a hit on Mickey Cohen’s illegal casino goes wrong in Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling). Throw in Emma Stone as the typical female character in these sorts of films, the bad girl, turned damsel in distress when she gets caught up in the cross-fire between the two sides and you’ve got your stereotypical story that doesn’t do all that much to enrich the mind.

In saying that, the visuals are appealing and it is a nicely shot film. There’s a lot of colour that gangster films tend to leave out. This can probably be attributed to this film being set in LA, where the life was a little more glamourous than the windy city. Perfect example of the appealing and colourful visuals can be seen when Emma Stone is on the screen… y’know… just as a reference.

Overall the movie has a somewhat interesting story line but you only really feel connections to some of the minor characters when their lives are in danger (a young boy and a pregnant woman), you don’t feel much for the main characters… even the ones they spend time on making sure you realise that they have a family and that they are putting them in danger as well. It just didn’t do it for me. But it looked pretty.

3 Stars

Gangster Squad is in cinemas Now.

The Amazing Spider-Man – Review

In these current times nothing is more common than a movie sequel, adaptation or reboot. Yep franchises are the only way to fly in the film industry, in most cases, its a safe and sure bet. Enter the Amazing Spider-Man, Sony’s new version of their not so amazing trilogy that went out with a very underwhelming finale. But I have to say… This time, they got it right!

Peter Parker is a young man living with his aunt and uncle in New York City, this much you already knew… What we didn’t know is why or how our young Spidey-To-Be is the way he is. In this film, Richard and Mary Parker leave Peter with Aunt May and Uncle Ben after their home was ransacked. Richard is a geneticist with some dark secrets and very dangerous research. Peter’s parents leave that night and never return.

Fast forward to present day and Peter (Andrew Garfield) is a senior at High School. He’s a photographer, very smart but not a nerd just a little awkward. Completely different and refreshing personality. There’s a girl (there always is) but not who the typical audience would expect, this time its back to the comics with Peter’s first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (played by a blonde Emma Stone).

Becoming Spider-Man is a little “Second ‘verse, same as the first”… There isn’t really a way around it but it is nice the skip over the sort of things we’ve seen before. This change is much more interesting and sped up. Which gives the story more flow. The story, while people would think that they’ve seen it before, “why see it again?”, is very different to the 2002 Spider-Man it almost feels like its a more realistic story yet it sticks to the comic books. So pretty much… It’s Awesome! If I’m going to criticise this film, it would be that Spidey takes off his mask way too much! And people’s sections to Peter being Spider-Man is a little underwhelming.

The comedy and timing of the dialogue is great and it just feels like they weren’t trying as hard as the original. That’s not a bad thing by the way, it’s great to have Marc Webb at the helm. You’ll remember Marc Webb as the director of one of my favourite films, 500 Days of Summer. He once again provides us with a very good film that never feels to epic but somehow seems to pull if off anyway.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone play Peter and Gwen very well, their romance seemed to skip a few stages at times but I’m fine with them being on the cutting room floor, because it still worked. Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Curt Connors, an Oscorp geneticist who worked with Peter’s father before he disappeared. Connors lost his arm before the story begins and attempts to find a way to regrow it with lizard gene tissue. This goes horribly wrong and the villain of the film, The Lizard is born.

Ben and May Parker are played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field, they portray a younger couple than the ones in the original films. But they are still a very nice couple instilling their kindness and sense of responsibility in Peter. Irrfan Khan plays Dr. Rajit Ratha, a devoted Oscorp employee and Denis Leary rounds out the key cast as NYPD Captain and Gwen’s father, George Stacy. Stan Lee also cameos in one of his best yet! Keep an eye out for that!

Bottom Line: Some would say that this reboot is purely for Sony to keep the rights to make Spider-Man films… In my opinion they can keep them. The Amazing Spider-Man was made with care and a level head. I hope this film franchise doesn’t go the way of the last because this honestly felt and looked so much better. I really enjoyed this movie, it has brought Spider-Man back to life.

3 Stars

The Amazing Spider-Man is in cinemas in NT and QLD now and swings in to cinemas other states tomorrow.

Brave – Review

Disney and Pixar create a new Disney Princess in the new movie, Brave.

Its a different take on Pixar films – similar to Up, its set in a slightly more real world than Toy Story, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. with Humans being (mostly) the only talking, intelligent creatures.

In Brave, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a princess of the DunBroch clan, daughter of Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Elinor (Emma Thompson). She is a bit of a tomboy growing up. Preferring riding, exploring and archery to more ‘princess worthy’ pastimes. She and her mother have never really seen eye to eye, but the final straw for Merida is to be married off to one of the sons of the other three clans. What to do? Follow the Disney rule… “Got a Problem? Go see a witch!”

The animation is, as always, beautiful. Merida’s wild red hair and the fur of the bears (I know there are no bears in Scotland but it all makes sense in the film) flows and moves as if it was real. Pixar just make things one step more beautiful every film they make. Only flaws in this film I could point out is that the story seems a little forced at some points or even sped up for very little reason. It can sometimes seen a little obvious at points.

Bottom Line: Brave is a really nice take on Scottish legend and is a great film for the whole family. It provides a strong female role model for young girls as well as some very good comedic moments usually from Fergus or Merida’s three younger brothers.

3 Stars

 

La Luna

La Luna is the Pixar short that is attached to Brave. It is a lovely little film perfectly executed with very little dialogue that isn’t even dialogue it’s mumbling gibberish. The film is about Bambino and his first outing with his father, Papa and grandfather, Nonno as they go to clean up stars that fall on the moon.

Bottom Line: La Luna is Sweet and Mesmerising.

4.5 Stars

Brave is in cinemas now. La Luna appears before the main feature.

The Hunger Games – Review

The film has taken the third highest Opening Weekend in history. The book series has sold over 26 Million copies. It’s no wonder the words “The Hunger Games” are on everyone’s lips right now.

The Hunger Games takes place about 100 years in the future, around 75 years after a vicious uprising in the United States (now known as the country of Panem). Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. As punishment for the civil war (and to ensure it never happens again) the Capitol forces the twelve districts to ‘tribute’ one young male and one young female each year for the Hunger Games. A deadly competition, between the 24 tributes, where only one comes out alive.

And so the 74th annual Hunger Games are upon us and it’s time to select the tributes… District 12 (the coal mining district) holds it’s ‘reaping’ an event where children’s names (aged between 12 and 18) are drawn out at random… Ladies first (as usual)… Primrose Everdeen (12 Years Old). Enter Katniss Everdeen, Primrose’s 16 year old sister who volunteer’s in order to save her sister. Katniss, along with the other District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are taken to the Capitol to compete in the deadly Games.

The storyline would not be one you would automatically aim at the Twilight audience, considering it’s strong political undertones and death of over twenty children, not to mention the ones committing the murders are the same age. It’s something you would make a youtube video out of and rally the world against. Unfortunately, what I consider to be a good and engaging storyline seems to be wasted on the young. The fast-movements of the camera during a lot of the fighting and death scenes almost makes you feel like you are one of the competitors, the camera seems to brush over the crucial killing blows. In my opinion, I would say this was to keep to an M rating and allow the target demographic to enjoy the film adaptation of the book series they loved so much. I have not read the books. Although I intend to (having just bought the first book today). I would have loved to see a story like (Scratch that… THIS STORY) this aimed at an older demographic. Then they could turn it into a TV series a la Game of Thrones.

But enough about the tween/teenage demographic who do not deserve such a story. Lets talk about the rest of the film. While the camera movements made me feel apart of the Games, it also alienated me a little… I go to a film to enjoy it… not have a seizure. However annoying it was, (and having not read the books, knowing very little about the story) I found my self interested in the story, worried about Katniss, not whether she’d come out alive (… she can’t die… right?) but more how she’d come out alive. I was on the edge of my seat for some parts. Now, acting… Jennifer Lawrence is a very talented (…hot) woman, she played the role of Katniss Everdeen (the name is starting to grow on me) perfectly. I got the feelings she was experiencing and her overall fear and courage through out the whole film. Lenny Kravitz did pretty well as one of the District 12 (I could have the wrong terminology) advisors. Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta quite well, although there were a couple of times I thought his character was acting kind of strangely (but again, I haven’t read the book… maybe it’s normal?). Woody Harrelson plays a fantastic drunkard yet caring ex-Hunger Games champ. And Liam Hemsworth… our guy, (’cause he’s an Aussie) despite his quite high billing on the film, is in it for about seven to ten minutes on whole. He received a collective “awwwww” from the cinema in a scene where he is watching the coverage of the Games and pulls of a better ‘Jacob (Why didn’t she pick me) Face’ then Taylor Lautner himself. I assume he plays a larger role in the later films.

All in all, I was impressed with the film. It was a good film… not worthy of any super-duper awards, but a great adaptation and I’d say also a good avenue fro people to get in to the books (it’s what has happened to me). The Hunger Games universe is a great one and one you could create stories for anywhere in its 75+ year history and beyond, in to the future. I am actually trying to wrap up writing this blog so I can start reading the book.

I wouldn’t recommend this film for anyone under the age of 12-13 and even then the 12-year-old would probably have to be a little more mature than a regular 12-year-old. There are some pretty confronting images of dead children that are not for the younger kids. Parents, watch it first before you decide on your kids seeing it.

To Wrap up…

  • The Hunger Games
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Fantastic storyline
  • Sometimes annoying camera movements
  • Not suitable for the young ones
  • I’d see it again!

3 Stars

The Hunger Games is in cinemas around the country now.

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) – Review

Based on the Russian novel series by Sergei Lukyanenko, Night Watch was adapted by Timur Bekmambetov, a Russian Writer/Producer/Director in 2004.

The film follows Anton Gorodetsky, an ‘Other’ who has found himself mixed up in a secret war between other ‘Others’… A battle between Light and Dark. Light ‘Others’ are the Night Watch, sworn to keep the Dark ‘Others’ in check. Likewise, the Dark ‘Others’ are the Day Watch keeping tabs on the Light ‘Others’. Siding with the Night Watch, Anton works as a ‘supernatural police man’ taking down Dark ‘Others’ who defy an ancient truce that keeps the world from falling in to chaos. When he sees a woman on a train with the vortex (an omen that spells the end of the truce and the apocalypse) over her head, he and the others of the Night Watch must stop the Vortex before the truce falls apart and the world plunges in to darkness.

Night Watch is seen as the first Russian Blockbuster since the collapse of the Soviet Film Industry in the late 80’s/early 90’s. With a budget of $4.2 million it was considered high concept until a few years later… now some budgets are over $20 million! Russia’s film industry is expanding greatly since the fall of the iron curtain and it’s directors like Timur Bekmambetov that are helping it along. He is now working in the US as well as Russia, currently directing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and in 2008, Wanted.

Bekmambetov is a very strong sci-fi/fantasy director. In Night Watch it is clear that he draws his ideas and styles of filming from Hollywood productions like The Matrix series. The film felt more hollywood-y rather than a international film but it still felt quite Russian in its culture and character. If you like The Matrix or The Underworld series and don’t mind reading subtitles, (There is a dubbed version, however I do recommend the Russian with Subtitles) definitely see this film.

3 Stars

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) and it’s sequel Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozor) are available in most DVD stores.

In Time – Review

Who wants to live forever? What if living forever came at a cost? Like, someone else’s life?

Thats the issue facing Justin Timberlake’s Will Salace in New Zealand born writer-director, Andrew Niccol’s In Time.

In time starts out like many sci-fi films, an almost blatant set up of the world the film is set in. In this dystopian future, time is litterally money, spend it wisely or watch as it runs out before your eyes. On top of that, in what i’m assuming is a ploy to have a cast of young, attractive actors, you stop aging at 25. Thats when your 1 year clock starts.

Justin Timberlake is Will, a 28 year old who lives in the ghetto with his yummy mummy played by Olivia Wilde. He and his best friend, Borel, Johnny Galeki (Leonard from the Big Bang Theory), work every day in order to get enough time to make it to the next… With a little on the side for the bar in Borel’s case. The major threat in the Ghetto is not the police (known here as Timekeepers), it is the mobsters known as Minutemen (yes, they really worked hard on names), led by Fortis, played by a ridiculously old looking Alex Pettyfer. Amanda Seyfried plays Sylvia Weis, daughter of one of the big wigs in New Greenwich (again, these names must have been so hard to come up with), Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser). The only other character worth talking about is the head Timekeeper who is investigating a suicide that is thought to be a murder, committed by Will… Cillian (I can’t believe he doesn’t have a bag on his head) Murphy, who plays the highlight of the film as Timekeeper Raymond Leon.

Niccol is obviously a big fan of the dystopian, having written and directed Gattaca and S1m0ne, and in In Time he looks at the classic Metropolistion* concept of those down below serving those up above. The film also looks at themes of greed and selflessness and how they can become the exact opposite of what was intended. JT’s character realises that he can give all the time in the world but the higher-ups can never truly lose. His take on the value of time is an interesting one and it got me hooked when I first heard about the concept. The acting was average with as I said before, Cillian Murphy being the stand out for me. I question Sylvia’s character motives as she quickly shifts from the rich and well off to the Bonnie to Will’s Clyde. And yes, there is a resonating Bonnie and Clyde reference throughout the whole movie and Amanda Seyfried looks sexy with a gun.

With some funny one-liners and some nice sort of action In Time is a good fun movie… don’t go to see it if you want a super meaningful movie but if your up for a bit of ‘on the run fun’… in a similar vein as The Island, this is definitely a movie worth going to see.

3 Stars

In Time is now showing in cinemas.

*Metropolistion – Reminiscent of the German Expressionism great, Metropolis… A Nicholas Linde New Word.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Review

“Get your paws off me you dirty ape!”  “You finally made a monkey out of me.”  These, to whom it may concern, are two lines dreadfully sung by Troy McClure featured in The Simpsons episode ‘A Fish Called Selma.’  It also represents the breadth of my knowledge about The Planet of the Apes before my voyage to its prequel.  To the uninitiated, fear not.  You don’t need to have seen the original to understand the storyline.

James Franco plays Will, a determined scientist developing a substance that potentially serves as a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.  Sticking to the good-old-fashion laboratory formula, the team continually test the serum on assorted apes throughout its development, one of which begins to show a marked improvement in mental capacity.  Jumping the gun, Franco and his stereotypically greedy boss (I swear you can almost see the oversized dollar signs in his pupils), present said primate to investors, however things go disastrously and the project is left in ruins.  Out of the chaos, Franco stumbles upon a baby chimp whose green flecked eyes (a side effect of the serum) indicate that this ape’s got potential.  Therefore Franco decides to play daddy and names him Caesar.

Overall, meh.  Performance wise, Franco strikes me hot and cold.  Yes, we feel him connect with the animal that he’s raised essentially as a human (teaching him sign language, clothing him), yet the first time they’re torn apart, it just didn’t feel like it HURTS Will enough.  They built it up as a father son relationship.  Care a little more dammit!  Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto plays Will’s love interest, who serves little more purpose than to run, offer the occasional titbit of opinion and stare in a concerned manner.  Forgettable.   John Lithgow solidly plays Will’s Alzheimer’s riddled father, a role in which he is allowed two opposite elements of mental stability.  You can tell he enjoyed the challenge.

However this is Caesar’s movie.  The visual effects crew at WETA Digital have again shown the fruits of motion capture done right.  Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without the extraordinary talent of Andy Serkis, king of the funny dots on your face.  It’s the eyes that have it in this film.  At one point I felt quite apprehensive at the impending presence of the monkeys, even though they aren’t even real!  A testament to the successful collaboration of the physical and digital.  One of the most fascinating elements of the film is the progression of Caesar’s character, from innocent baby to a somewhat malicious leader of a revolution.  Special mention: when Caesar speaks English.  Perfectly timed and quite affecting.

However a lot of the film feels like a giant cliché.  Sometimes it feels like the writers got stuck trying to represent CHIMP DOMINATION, resorting to the ridiculous.  The majority of the characters seem a bit one dimensional, the stereotypical villains in particular, so you don’t really give a rats when the inevitable happens.

Overall, predictable, but has its moments.  Go for the chimps, not the people.

P.S. This movie is a giant spoiler for Planet of the Apes.  Just sayin’.

3 Stars

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is currently in cinemas now.

This review was by Danielle Muir.