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Galore (2013)
Where there's smoke, there's fire
7 August 2014
If you live in London, Los Angles or New York you probably get used to seeing your home city up in front of you when you sit down in the dark, but if you live in Canberra, Australia, this doesn't happen too often. That is until Galore, an impressive teenage drama set here in the nation's capital. I still haven't quite got over seeing our local branch of Crust Pizza up on the big screen; our weekly pizza night feels slightly more Hollywood now.

Galore is ambitious, confident and bursts from the screen with the intensity of it's subject matter. Played out in the preceding days before the tragic bush fires that swept through Canberra in 2003, writer director Rhys Graham beautifully captures the overpowering nature of adolescent emotions, their all-consuming nature and dangerous potential to burn out of control. The sparks in the centre of this fire are Canberran teenagers Billie (Ashleigh Cummings) and Laura (Lily Sullivan), two inseparable best friends, bonded together by the shared experience of teenage dreams. However, these dreams have the potential to turn into nightmares, as unbeknown to Laura, Billie also shares Laura's boyfriend Danny (Toby Wallace).

When you are a teenager everything is intense, immediate and inviting, with little thought given to potential consequences; you live in the now and deal with the future when or if it comes. These feelings seem to epitomize Billie who is entirely centered on the now while also craving acceptance and validation from her friends and family. She is trapped in a doomed relationship triangle between Laura and the slightly unconvincing Danny, while also having to compete for her mother's attention, a social worker who occasionally brings her work home, this time in the form of Isaac (Aliki Matangi). Billie acts as any teenager would by rebelling, taking rash decisions and leaving others to pick up the pieces.

This level of intensity is difficult to sustain and empathise with, but you genuinely feel for the struggles faced by Billie. Cummings brings an impressive level of reality and realism, which invites the audience to not condone her actions, but simply to validate her emotions and the hold they have over her. Billie's central relationship with Laura is affecting and feels grounded in truth with Sullivan blending just the right amount of naivety and curiousness to Laura. The wider cast members do not quite reach these standards with Wallace in particular seeming too young and inexperienced for both the role and also to be the subject of such affection.

What makes Galore glorious though is Stefan Dusico's at times really quite breathtaking cinematography. Dusico's extensive use of natural light accentuates the drama, and strips further away at a script that already feels raw and refined. Dusico captures the natural beauty of Canberra through his depiction of the impeding firewall, portrayed as plumes of smoke amongst the surrounding hills, which edges closer to the action as the narrative, and indeed Billie, slowly unravels. The relentless march of the smoke seems to portray the inevitability of the consequences of Billie's actions and serves as a potent and stark reminder of what is to come.

From a young and relatively inexperienced cast and crew, Galore is an impressive and ambitious Australian teen drama, which captures the intensity of those formative teenage years in an effective and engaging manner. Galore also showcases that Canberra is more than just a temporary home for politicians, it is a rich, vibrant community, in which teenagers experience the same trials and tribulations as in any other city in the world.


Review by Will Malone
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Lockout (2012)
Die Hard in Space
12 September 2012
OK, so lets begin with the plot, as much as it is. It is the year 2079 and criminals from all nationalities (however still under the watchful eye of the USA) are now being locked up in space on board vessels such as Maximum Security 1 (M.S.1). The most serious criminals are kept in stasis for the length of their sentence. For some inexplicable reason the US Secret Service lets the President's daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) visit M.S.1 as part of a research project into the potential adverse affects of stasis. During her visit the prisoners escape and she gets Taken (see what I did there…..) hostage. In swoops Guy Pearce, a CIA agent who has been wrongly accused of espionage and given the opportunity to break into M.S.1, free Ms Warnock and clear his name all in one fowl swoop. Game on.

Lets not beat around the bush here, Lockout is great fun. It is clearly not trying to take itself too seriously and right from the outset is filled with nods towards Tony Scott's Last Boy Scout, Die Hard and even later on in the film The West Wing and Star Wars. Whilst this may sound like a strange combination, in fact Besson (who was credited with the original "idea") dishes up one hell of a ride with a script full of clinical one liners, some impressive fight scenes and just huge amounts of fun.

Guy Pearce channels his inner Bruce Willis to good effect and appears to be having a great time along the way. The opening scene which is cribbed almost directly from The Last Boy Scout sets the scene for what is to come. Pearce is one brutal, unflinching and sarcastic SOB, but importantly he is also convincing. There was danger here of Pearce coming across as a cheap imitation of John McClane or Joe Hallenback, however Pearce genuinely stakes his own claim as a credible fast talking, wise cracking action hero. Some of Pearce's best moments are in that opening scene, but there are also some wickedly sharp exchanges with Maggie Grace who plays the President's daughter and the two work off each other well. Grace who appears to be making a career out of getting taken hostage is a little two dimensional at the start but quickly finds her feet once the bullets start flying.

The sleepy prisoners who all appear to be from Glasgow are led by a convincing Vincent Reegan who plays the Hans Gruber role to good effect without getting too hung up on missing detonators. He is ably supported (and hindered) by a slightly unhinged Joseph Gilgun and it is worth warning any regular viewers of Emmerdale that they are in for a bit of a surprise once the figure out who he is. A slight departure from Dingle household to say the least.

The direction is a little dodgy at the start with a poorly executed first act and a motorbike chase seen which looks something akin to a cheap batman video game and perhaps suggests the level of budget they were working on. I would however beg some patience as once the action moves to space and the close confines of M.S.1 things improve dramatically.

Lockout is perfect Friday night beer and pizza fodder. It's not trying to be anything its not, and it does what it does really quite well. If you ignore the gaping plot holes and the dodgy script but keep a tally for all the cameos you spot and drink a shot for every time there is a nod towards another film you'll be in for a great evening. In fact that sounds like a fun night; can I come round?
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Sandler shines in this unexpected gem
8 September 2012
They say that every one has a book in them. If that is true then I reckon every movie star has at least one good film in them and Punch-Drunk Love is Adam Sandler's one good film. I remember listening to UK film critic Mark Kermode before he planned to watch Sandler's horrendously double-acted Jack and Jill, he stated that as low as Sandler has sunk of late he still goes into each of his new releases remembering that Sandler was in Punch-Drunk Love. This gives him hope, for a short time anyway.

Punch-Drunk Love tells that story of Barry Egan (Sandler) a slightly beleaguered small businessman who has been so mollycoddled and henpecked by his seven sisters that he seems to have developed borderline psychiatric issues as well as an occasional fearsome rage. Egan clearly craves peace, happiness and above all else stability to the chaos that he feels he lives in. Early one morning whilst opening his toilet plunger business help arrives from two quarters; firstly a mysterious harmonium is delivered outside his premises followed swiftly by an inquisitive woman named Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) who appears keen to make his acquaintance . Through both Egan learns to channel his inner rage towards a more productive outcome.

I have not seen any of Paul Thomas Anderson's previous work but anyone that can conjure up this kind of performance out of Adam Sadler deserves some critical attention. Sandler is simply outstanding in this career high role. Through him you feel Egan's unease, his confusion, his sadness and indeed his feelings of love. Sometimes these feelings come through in such deep measures that it felt quite overpowering; I simply cannot remember being quite so invested in an on-screen character before. Sandler's performance was so unexpected that it reminded me of Jim Carrey's in Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind.

Emily Watson as Lena is equally impressive as she carefully, respectfully and at times apprehensively tip toes her way into Egan's life. She is clearly carrying some baggage of her own as well which is never really explored, but you get the strong feeling she understands what's going on in Egan's head. The chemistry between them is evident and they seem to flow off each other well. In one particular scene where Lena channels Egan's aggressive side into a more intimate setting, you can clearly see the influence this film had on Sarah Polly's recent drama Take This Waltz. In fact these two films would work well as a double bill.

There are some entertaining cameos thrown in for good measure, with the lead credit given to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here he stars as as the owner of a mattress store which doubles as a sex phone line centre called by Egan during a moment of introspection, which leads to unexpected consequences. Out of Egan's seven sisters we only really spend time with Elisabeth, played by 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub, who is convincing but perhaps a little too CTU, however my favourite cameo has to go to Robert Smigel as Walter the Dentist. A conversation between Egan and Walter had me laughing out loud and reaching for the rewind button to watch it again.

Anderson's direction is short, snappy and incredibly visually attractive. Colour is every where and each frame is beautifully shot. Anderson uses the screen to demonstrate Egan's confusion and in one particularly telling scene, he shows Egan running through the maze of corridors trying to find Lena's apartment. This is a powerful and effective demonstration of Egan's state of mind. I suspect that on return viewings (which are inevitable) I will discover more hidden gems which passed me by on this first viewing.

Whilst I was expecting this film to be good, I was still surprised at just how good it was. Sandler is a revelation, I wonder if he knows just how good he and this film was? I really hope he does.

Review by Will Malone
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Chatroom (2010)
This should have been better
24 July 2012
A group of jaded teenagers meet online in an internet chatroom called Chelsea Teens! The group led by William a clever and manipulative adolescent, form a quick and tight bond via sharing their most intimate secrets with each other. However as they bond tighter together it is apparent some members of the chatroom have more sinister agendas.

Director Hideo Nakata is best well known for Ringu, a chilling tale of a mysterious video which kills anyone who watches it, was in many ways the catalyst for Hollywood remaking Japanese horror. Ringu was remade as The Ring, with Naomi Watts, quickly followed by Ju-on, remade as The Grudge starring Buffy. In both cases the Hollywood remake is not a patch on the original. And this is what Chatroom feels like, a cheap and rushed Hollywood remake. However this time there is no precursor.

Let's start with the good stuff though. At the heart of Chatroom there is an interesting and potentially compelling premise. The internet is the one place which offers true anonymity and Nakata portrays this via an innovative physical visualisation of the online world, focusing on the chatroom arena. You watch the characters make their way down long corridors filled with stereotypical internet users deep in conversation with each other. You see couples getting busy who clearly don't match the physical description they are giving each other, alongside the more sinister picture of grown adults talking with young children.

Along the corridors there are a number of different doors, each the gateway into a different chatroom. Once inside Nakata films the interactions as physical encounters, with each character sat on a chair facing the others, in something akin to a group counseling session. The occasional flashbacks to the users sat at their computers keeps us grounded in the real world and works well in demonstrating how some characters, but not all, portray themselves in a very different light online.

However this interesting premise is let down by a poorly constructed script and distinct lack of character development. The dialogue between the group at their first encounter feels incredibly forced and the ease with which William (Aaron Johnson - post Kick Ass) leads the group into sharing their most intimate secrets is far too rushed. The secrets which each member chooses to share are clichéd at best and ill thought through and borderline offensive at worst.

In a film with effectively only 5 characters there should be enough scope within the script to bring each character to a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately this is not the case here, with the film quickly focusing on the relationship between William and Jim (Matthew Beard) so leaving the other three characters floating in the wind. There is simply no effort made to resolve their sub plots and all three feel significantly short changed.

I was left sorely disappointed by Chatroom. Through its clichéd characters and lack plot development you are left with what feels like a hollow shell of a film. You have to give it credit for attempting to deal with the dangers associated with the internet such as sexual predators and teen suicide, but it does so in such a clumsy and misjudged manner that whatever message it is trying to portray is simply lost.

With a director with the pedigree of Nakata and a premise of real potential this should have been better. In fact it needs remake.
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Hugo (2011)
A simply glorious ode to early cinema
23 July 2012
It has taken me a long time to get round to watching Hugo, but I am so glad that I did. This is a wonderful and simply glorious ode to early cinema told through the eyes of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan who after the death of his clockmaker father (Jude Law) ends up living in the walls of a Parisian train station charged with winding the station's numerous clocks.

Hugo's only link back to his late father is through a majestic mechanical automaton, a sort of tin man which his father had been restoring in his spare time. As appears to be the way with all tin men this one is also missing a heart, but this time it is a heart shaped key which Hugo is convinced if he can find will unlock the secrets inside. This leads young Hugo on a dangerous but adventurous search which often lands him in the clutches of either the local shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) or the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Help is at hand though from the shopkeeper's god daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) and as the two join forces they soon discover they have more in common than they thought.

In Hugo, Scorsese has produced a truly magical tale which sucks the viewer into the screen via the innovative use of 3D so immersing us within the dynamics of Parisian life and the wonders that take place within the walls of the station. Butterfield is perfectly cast as young Hugo, a curious young boy determined to survive in a hard and cold world which constantly seems to deal him a bad hand; you simply can't help but love him. Moretz after a slightly shaky start soon finds her feet (and her accent), Kingsley is excellent, especially as the story develops and there is strength in depth from a top notch supporting cast including Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone and Christopher Lee to name but a few.

Hugo's strength however is in its story, which effortlessly unfolds in front of you with real grace and elegance. Scorsese's love for the history of his craft and his desire to share this tale of early cinema is evident in every frame. Whilst it may not be the most historically accurate portrayal of cinematic history it has a true and good heart which beautifully captures the essence of what is cinema.

Some people have criticised Scorsese for creating a children's movie that is inaccessible for most children. I strongly disagree on this point. To me Hugo is a classic children's movie which works across all age spectrums, much in a similar vain to Spielberg's ET. In a world of Woody, Buzz, Jessie and meatballs that fall from the sky (which don't get me wrong are all fabulous in their own right), it is refreshing to see a children's movie of old. It feels like a magical Christmas movie to me, perfectly accessible and enjoyed by all.

Hugo is fully deserving of the many accolades that it picked up during the awards season. It is a wonderful and engaging film which I will show my children when they are a little older and I am certain they will fall in love with cinema in the same way their father need did so many years ago.

Review by Will Malone
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Undercooked and half-baked idea of a film
9 May 2012
As I have learnt from the multitude of reality TV cooking shows which make regular appearances in the Malone household, the secret to a good dish is carefully selecting fresh ingredients and balancing the different flavors together in order for them to all work in harmony on the plate. However in Love's Kitchen they do things in a different way. Essentially chucking a bunch of old, out of date and re-heated ideas into the mixing bowl, bunging it in the oven and after 90 mins they have produced an under-cooked, half-baked idea of film, devoid of any real flavour or substance.

Love's Kitchen tells the lukewarm tale of successful chef and restaurateur Rob Haley (Dougray Scott) who looses all passion for food after the tragic death of his wife in a car accident. A scathing review of his restaurant leads to a cringe worthy intervention by Gordon Ramsey, before our Rob heads off to the countryside and buys The Boot, an old country pub which his late wife fell in love with before her untimely demise and is now frequented by an American food critic (Claire Forlani). Here Rob proceeds to try and recapture his love for food and turn around both the culinary and fiscal fortunes of The Boot. So it appears as if Love's Kitchen is essentially a 90 minute episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, which just in case you were wondering, that's not a good thing.

Most rom-coms are predictable, so much so that you can sketch out the plot within the first 5 mins or so of meeting the characters. Why some work and others don't is how much the audience grows to like and invest in the two leads. I am big rom-com fan and a huge admirer of a happy ending. I don't mind it being telegraphed, but I want to enjoy the journey. I need to want the couple to be together at the end of the film. Within 5 mins of watching Love's Kitchen I wanted to take a spatula and start slapping people around the face.

Everything about the film felt forced. It felt as if they had studied what had worked in Four Weddings or Notting Hill and tried to recreate it piece by piece. Bringing together a British chap and an American lass has always worked well in the past, but this time the main leads are simply unconvincing with precious little chemistry together. They didn't seem suited to each other at all, so you just didn't care what happens to them.

The supporting cast fared little better and appeared to be the dregs of out of work British soap opera actors. Eastenders was well represented and I almost fell of my chair when Nigel from Brookside turned up. I am sure if I had looked hard enough I probably would have found an extra from Crossroads somewhere in the background. There were moments when I couldn't believe what I was watching and hearing. The script sounded like it had come from a Carry On film and some of the characters felt like a cross between caricatures of English country folk and characters from Viz (get ooorffff my land!!) . At times I felt embarrassed for the cast, but mostly I just wanted it to stop.

First time writer/director James Hacking did learn one good thing from Four Weddings though and that was Simon Callow. He is star of this film and simply delightful as a boozed up food critic, quite reminiscent of Keith Floyd. I could have happily have watched a film just about him.

Apparently when then film opened to a small select 5 screens, it only took 121 GBP in its opening weekend, making it one of the lowest UK openings of all time. You can see why.
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Confusing, unless you have read the book first.
4 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
OK, so here is a quick question for you. Is there anyone out there who has seen either version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo without having read the book first? If so, did you actually understand what was going on? My adventures with Lisbeth Salander started with the original book, I then moved onto Fincher's screen version before finally finishing with the original Swedish film. I loved the book and devoured it in only a few sittings. I loved the raw power and determination of Lisbeth, which when coupled with the sheer single bloodymindness of Mikael Blomkvist was a potent, unstoppable force. I admit I found the plot reasonably complicated in parts mainly due to the complexities (for want of a better word) of the Vanger family tree, Lisbeth's back story and just what the hell had actually happened to to poor Harriet. However Steig Larsson guided the reader through this maze in comfortable fashion and when you got to the inevitable 'what Vanger are we talking about now' you could always flip back a couple of pages and catch up.

Therefore, it was with some excitement that I sat back to watch Fincher's version. By the end of the film, I was slightly uncertain about what I thought. At first I thought I had I really enjoyed it, but there was a nagging doubt at the back of my mind. It wasn't the actors performances as Rooney Mara was simply astonishing as Lisbeth, fully deserving of her Oscar nod and Daniel Craig brought a certain ruggedness and depth to Mikael that proved again that there is more to him than simply Bond. It wasn't the direction as whilst not Fincher at his best, it was still visually very appealing. So what was left? To ponder this some more I turned to the script and it was here that my nagging doubt found a home. There is no doubt that Larssons's story is a complicated one and hard to fit into a comfortable viewing time. Screenwriters just simply don't have the luxury of open ended time that novelists do. And a lack of time is clearly evident in the screenplay. The complications within the story which had been so deftly handled by Larsson, are simply not given the time they deserve or arguably need, so leaving the audience struggling to keep up. Great swathes of the back story and the history of each character seem to go by in a blink of an eye and vitally important plot points feel extremely rushed, occasionally crow-barred in and often delivered through pretty forced sounding dialogue. However when I watched the film the first time, none of this really bothered me. Why was this? Had my previous knowledge of the plot smoothed over these writing issues without my knowledge, so actually giving a false level of enjoyment? It was with this thought firmly in mind that Mrs Malone and I snuggled up on the couch on Saturday night with Fincher's version, for the good lady's first ever introduction to Lisbeth. It took less than 2 minutes into the film for my suspicions to be proved correct. Mrs Malone (who has five degrees so is pretty good at figuring stuff out) reached out for the pause button to ask the first of many questions. This happened nigh on ten times throughout the film before eventually arriving at 'which bloody Vanger are they talking about now'? Suffice to say this spoilt the show somewhat. We couldn't simply go back a few pages and read it again, as the information on the screen was so slight, it wouldn't have mattered how many times you repeated it.

Therefore at the end we walked away with two distinct different experiences. Mrs Malone was confused, cheated and even a little bit cross whilst I still found myself fully caught up in Lisbeth's world, despite what had been on the screen. I realised I was experiencing and enjoying the combination of the book and the film together, Mrs Malone was just stuck with the film.
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50/50 (2011)
Laughter is the best medicine.
29 April 2012
A comedy about cancer? That can't be right. Surely cancer is about as serious as it gets. The simple mention of the C-word normally fills people with dread; no one really knows how to react to it or what to say when they meet real life sufferers. However the one thing that has been clear to date is that people know not to laugh at it. That is until now.

50/50 is a semi-biographical comedy/drama penned by Will Resier, based on his own personal battle against cancer. It is the sort of script that you feel could only have been written by someone who has been there themselves and boy does it show. In a film with subject matter as dark as this, delivering the right tone is essential. Too dark and you lose the film, too light and you lose the audience sympathies. It is with this in mind that Resier's script is something of a masterpiece. The tone is perfectly judged, delivering moments of genuine emotional turmoil, punctuated with relief bringing humour delivered via snappily written dialogue. This is perfectly highlighted in the moments that Adam is told he has cancer - 'I have cancer? I don't drink, I don't smoke, I exercise....I recycle....'. The whole tone of the film just feels real. You can imagine this is very close to how it was.

The story begins with Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as a healthy 27 year old working in a local radio station alongside best mate Kyle (Seth Rogan). After a period of back pain, Adam consults his doctor who after an MRI scan, diagnoses Adam with a rare form of spinal cancer with a survival rate of 50%. Supported (to various degrees) by his best mate(Rogan), girlfriend Rachael (Bryce Dallas-Howard) and mother (Anjelica Huston), Adam embarks on a period of chemo and mental therapy, the latter delivered by the newly qualified Dr Katie (Anna Kendrick), in a bid to beat the cancer.

Right from the off it is worth saying that this is Joseph Gorden-Levitt's film. Levitt as Adam delivers another hugely impressive performance, and one that had me fully engaged and rooting for him from the opening scene. He plays Adam with sensitivity and honesty, and you genuinely feel for him throughout the film. Adam is the perfect counter-balance to Seth Rogan's Kyle, whose idea of support appears to be predominately based on taking advantage of the situation to elicit Adam (and indeed himself) as much sympathy sex as possible. This brings some amusing moments, but it is later in the film as Kyle struggles to deal with the emotional aspects of the situation that Rogan really shines. Subsequent to watching the film I discovered the close friendship and history between the script writer Reiser and Rogan. This is quite astonishing and puts Rogan's performance firmly into perspective; he may well not have been acting at all.

As Adam embarks on breaking the news to those close to him and indeed work colleagues (including the strangest work party I have ever seen), rather than gathering the required support base for Adam, you get the strong feeling that it is Adam who is leading everyone through this process; a bit like a support group but in reverse. Everyone struggles in situations like this and it is painful watching his relationships with his best friend, girlfriend and parents slowly unravel under the weight of uncertainty. At times Adam appears extremely lonely, and never forget lonely with a potentially fatal disease; this is heartbreaking to watch. Thankfully Adam finds solace in his newly familiar medical surroundings through fellow chemotherapy patients (played wonderfully by Philip Baker-Hall + Matt Frewer) and his therapist Dr Katie (Kendrick).

It is with these two new groups that Adam begins to understand and importantly accept what is happening to him. Kendrick delivers another top class performance as Dr Katie, who as a newly qualified therapist with Adam as only her 3rd patient, is clearly still learning the ropes. The chemistry between the two of them is wonderfully awkward at times, but also very genuine. They are both new at this, but somehow Katie is able to lead Adam through his emotional roller-coaster so helping him concentrate on what is important. It is with this in mind, that one of the most powerful scenes in the film is between Adam and his mum. This genuinely emotional scene beautifully portrays the importance of the mother child relationship. It had me in floods of tears and I suspect I am not alone here.

50/50 is a remarkably well judged, uplifting and strangely amusing film of which all involved should take a well deserved bow. It deals with a difficult subject matter sensitively, respectively but also I suspect from reading some other reactions to the film, very genuinely. It challenges the way we should look at difficult situations and importantly how we react to them, and with the people involved. Whilst I was initially concerned it would be a tough watch, it was one of the most genuine comedies that I have seen for some time. Highly recommended.
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A timelessly magical Parisian love story
29 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Woody Allen's recent tour of Europe has taken in London (Match Point) and Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona), producing two of his finest films for some time. The third stop on the European tour is Paris, with the wonderful Midnight in Paris. Will it be third time lucky? It is, very much indeed.

Right from the beginning of the film we can see the affection that Allen holds for Paris. The opening scenes are full of picture postcard moments depicting every day Parisian life and almost all of Allen's lead roles spend the film espousing the joys of living in the city of lights. There are of course some dissenting voices, but these are lost amongst the chorus. A word of warning; even if you have been to Paris 20 times, or never visited at all, this film will make you want to go back and soon.

Allen's lead Paris champion is Owen Wilson who plays Gil, a commercially successful, but clearly disillusioned Hollywood script writer/doctor who before selling his literary soul to Hollywood, spent time in Paris trying to write his first novel. Now he is back and wishing he had never left, but this time he is accompanied by his materialistic wife to be Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her overbearing parents(Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy).

As soon as Gil touches down in Paris, his love affair is rekindled. He is a true romantic at heart, who wants nothing more than to walk the streets, sit in the cafes and dream of living in Paris in the 1920s, a time he perceives as the Parisian golden years. Paris is the place Gil has decided he needs to be to make the break from Hollywood and finish his book. Inez, clearly horrified at this thought finds solace in a pretentious American couple Paul (wonderfully played by Michael Sheen) a cringe-worthy pseudo-intellectual in Paris for a conference and his wife Carol (Nina Arianda). Paul whips Inez and Gil of on a whirlwind tour of Paris, primarily it appears to allow Paul to spout intellectual rubbish in a bid to impress Inez, until put firmly in his place by a museum guide played delightfully by Carla Bruni.

Gil can take it no more and after a red wine fuelled dinner declines the invitation to go dancing preferring to walk back to the hotel. After losing his way, Gil is picked up by a mysterious car that appears at midnight, and transported back to Paris in 1920s. Over a series of nights, Gil gets to experience what he has so long desired, that is Paris in the roaring 20s. He also picks up some literary inspiration and critiquing from none other than F Scott Fitzgerald (Todd Hiddleston), Earnest Hemmingway (Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and experiences romantic distraction from the majestic Marion Cottiard as Adrianda, a model and girlfriend to the stars, who simply and elegantly steals every scene that she is in.

Wilson as Gil, displays a deft and charming touch, not often seen in his career to date. He channels, rather than imitates, Allen's quirkiness and seems to spend the entire film in a slightly confused but happy state; seemingly quite content to sit back and let Paris roar over him. His scenes with Gottiard are quite superb and the highlight of the film. The supporting cast all play their characters with energy and aplomb; how historically accurate they are I do not know, but boy are they watchable.

Allen's screenplay is fully deserving of its Oscar triumph, delivering crisp, refreshing dialogue which manages to stay light and airy, without getting dragged down into literary swampness. Allen throws in a lot of historical and literary references, which (thankfully) you do not need a degree in English Lit to follow. Allen does ask you to take a few liberties and not to question certain aspects of the story, the time travel for instance, but when the story is as engrossing as this one, the audience will be happy to just sit back and accept what is being shown.

This is a film of many love stories, straddling different eras, time zones and perceptions. The film ultimately raises the question of what are the benefits of looking back, compared to focusing on the future. This can equally be applied to Allen's career. We seem to spend an awful lot of time looking at his back catalogue and reminiscing over Annie Hall, Manhattan and such like; maybe we should be concentrating on what he is doing now, as it is pretty darn good.
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Back for one final slice of nostalgia
29 April 2012
Once a franchise is onto its 4th film we are normally in trouble. We are either doomed to watch the final death throws of a once great film (both Jaws 4 and Superman IV spring horrifically to mind) or we are into reboot territory, which lets face it never normally ends well (Phantom Menace anyone....). Therefore I wasn't sure what to expect walking into American Reunion. My first slice of Pie was a good experience, however subsequent courses went considerably down hill. A fourth order seemed a little unwise. I needn't have worried though as right from the opening scene it is clear that the original Pie Maker is back. They may be a little older, a little wiser, but they're still just as tasty.

The story picks up 13 years since the gang were all at High School, with Jim, Michelle, Oz, Kevin, Finch and Stifler all heading back to East Coast Falls, for their 13th year High School Reunion. Jim and Michelle are now well passed the honeymoon period with a two year old son, Oz is a big time sports presenter with an empty LA lifestyle, Kevin is a struggling architect and house husband, Finch aimlessly travels the world, whilst Stifler is still Stifler but now slightly stifled by working as a temp in the city. Once the boys are back in town the reminiscing begins leading to one last weekend of East Coast Falls escapism and nostalgia.

And nostalgia is what we get and we get it in spades. The script feels warm and familiar with some typically amusing and cringe worthy Pie moments, which still feel mange to feel just the right side of fresh (the writers of The Hangover II please take note). The cast are are all on good form and uniformly reprise their roles well. Outside of the main five, all (and I mean all) previous case members are back for one more shot. Some have simply walk on roles, others more substantial, whilst the odd one feels slightly shoe-horned in. At one point there were so many of them showing up that I thought there is probably a good drinking game in the making here. Special mention needs to be made though of Eugene Levy (Jim's Dad) and Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's Mum) who were both stand out excellent. In fact Levy has never been better, especially in the last act.

The majority of the audience in the screening I attended were in their mid thirties, so would have been late teenagers when the first slice of Pie was served up. There is a lot here that the audience could relate to. We have all attended (or avoided) high school reunions, we have all stalked ex-partners on Facebook (admit it of course you have) and all ultimately been forced to face up to the reality and responsibilities of adult life. There was a strong sense of empathy in the air during certain scenes.

I had fun with American Reunion, and if I am to be honest, more than I was expecting. It was by no means perfect and occasionally the script felt slightly forced and lacking in focus, but these were brief moments and forgivable considering the company we are in. Whilst it was nice to spend a couple of hours with these characters again, I did come away with a slight nagging concern. This franchise will be the high water mark for 90% of this cast and whilst Jason Biggs, Alison Hannigan and Sean William Scott are doing OK, you must wonder about the others. If no more Pie is to be served, then what will be their next course?
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Surprisingly enjoyable
29 April 2012
At some point Hollywood is going to run out of 80's movies or TV shows to remake. I often wonder what will happen when they have all gone twice around the track? Third time's the charm? Let's hope not, this has to end at some point, doesn't it?

It was with this feeling that I cautiously approached the latest 80s remake. This time it was the turn of 21 Jump Street, apparently a popular US TV show from 1987, which famously gave Johnny Depp his big break, but strangely I don't recall ever seeing it growing up. This time around we see Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), playing an ex-high school nerd and jock, who are forced into an unlikely pairing after enrolling in Police Academy and using their combination of brawn and brains to get through basic training. After an enthusiastic and somewhat optimistic drugs bust goes amusingly array the two are shipped out to 21 Jump Street, an undercover unit run by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), set up to infiltrate high school drug networks.

It is here that the film and indeed the Hill and Tatum double act finds its feet. High school has clearly changed since these two last attended. Schmidt and Jenko are still at opposite ends of the high school cool spectrum but this time there is some role reversal. Grades and the environment are the new barometers of cool, so Schmidt gets to experience the kind of high school experience he always dreamt of, whilst Jenko's quickly turns into nightmare. Can Schmidt and Jenko manage to bridge the social divide in the name of law enforcement?

I genuinely liked 21 Jump Street. Apparently it only bears a passing resemblance to the 80s show, which maybe is why it stands up so well on its own? Hill and Tatum worked well together and both seemed completely at ease as a double act. They deliver the requisite six laughs for a comedy before the first half hour is done. The following hour is well paced, entertaining and really quite watchable. Who knew Tatumn could crack a joke as well as bust a move? Probably not even him. The supporting cast are universally good, with a standout performance from an angry Ice Cube. Its good to have him back in an angry role for a change. There is also a notable cameo or two worth keeping your eyes peeled for.

Hill and Tatum are both at similar stages in their career. They are making commercially and occasionally critically successful films, but you get the feeling they are both still some distance from being able to carry a film on their own. The decision to team them up and share the load was a sensible one. Whilst it is no Starsky and Hutch, 21 Jump Street is head and shoulders above some of the turgid 80s remakes we have been subjected to recently and significantly better than some of the tired frat boy films which have been churned out of late.
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The Rebound (2009)
A rebound in all senses
21 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Never has a title so accurately summed up a film. I saw The Rebound immediately (and probably too quickly) after the crushing disappointment of a previous film that I had such high hopes for. I knew going into it that it wasn't really for me, that I wasn't really ready for another film, but I felt the need for something familiar, something soothing. I wasn't looking for the 'right' film, just a film 'right now'.

So I got what I deserved. An experience which started far too quickly, that wasn't really thought through and not grounded in any kind of reality. All my friends told me that it could simply never last and apart from a few brief moments when I thought we might have a future, I knew they were right. Luckily I came to my senses and realised that we were simply not meant to be and the inevitable unsatisfying ending played out in front of my eyes.

I realise now looking back at the whole experience that I have a lot to thank The Rebound for, as it helped me move on from that earlier crushing disappointment. It is true that we had some fun and it made me feel slightly better for a short period of time, but it ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied and realising that I could, and indeed deserved, something better. A true rebound indeed.
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