Posted in Movie Reviews

Labor Day

Labor DayLabor Day
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet
Rated: PG

Adele (Kate Winslet) is a single mother, whose divorce from her husband has left her a depressed and lonely woman. On a visit to the supermarket with her son Henry, escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) takes the family hostage over the Labor Day weekend before he can make his escape to freedom.

The news is full of women who, for whatever reason, depression, loneliness, gullibility, just plain crazy, fall in love with criminals while they’re behind bars. It takes a ‘special’ kind of woman to form such an emotional attachment, with a man capable of a hideous crime. Labor Day is one of those stories, and to watch it requires a small suspension of reality.

For those of us not in the emotional states listed above, you’re asked to believe someone could be so charismatic that over the course of three days, could have a woman and her son fall so deeply in love with them that they’re willing to forgo all reason and their life as they know it.

My suggestions is suspend that reality and go with the flow of Labor Day, because what you watch will be a truly wonderful story about the bonds we can form with one another, when kindness, care,  love and understanding are part of our lives.

Part of why this scenario works so well is Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Their relationship, whilst moving quickly from kidnapper/hostage to something else entirely, is heartfelt and to be honest…hot!

Kate Winslet portrays perfectly, a woman who so desperately wants to feel what it’s like to be loved again. From her shaky hands to her slow breathing to her pensive yet calculated movements, Winslet will have you wanting Adele to give in to her emotions like nothing you’ve ever felt before.

Josh Brolin also brings the heat. He is charismatic and soulful, but not in that creepy, brainwashing criminal way, more as a man conflicted with his past, yet determined not to let his convict status, change the person he is at his core.

Whilst, Labor day isn’t perfect, at its heart it is a tender story about how regardless of the mistakes a person makes in their life, showing compassion and resisting judgement, can open up a world you never thought possible.

– Suzanna Parisi, DB Magazine

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Posted in Movie Reviews

Top 5 Movies of 2013

Now I should stress, that these are the Top 5 Movies of 2013 that I’ve seen. There are still about 50 movies I haven’t seen but I’ve heard were fantastic, and the years not over yet, so we could have some rippers in the next 3 weeks for example Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

brick-tamland-photo

Nevertheless, I was asked to submit my Top 5 to DB Magazine for their last issue of 2013, with a short sentence as to why the film was in my Top 5. So, as per Rob Gordon (John Cusack) in High Fidelity here are my Top 5 Movies of 2013.

1.    The Way Way Back – A slow burner, but emotional and clever, with a stellar cast, including Steve Carell like you’ve never seen him before.
2.    Gravity – The performances are mesmerising and the film itself is visually stunning, I have a new respect for Sandra Bullock.
3.    The Great Gatsby – Was a great homage to the book, with Baz Luhrmann capturing all the decadence and delight of the era and Leo DiCaprio doing what he does best, F. Scott Fitzgerald would be proud.
4.    This is The End – It’s stupid, over the top and utterly ridiculous, but it’s absolute fun! “Hermoine, just stole all of our shit”…enough said!
5.    Star Trek into Darkness – A fitting sequel that was equally as funny, action packed and lived up to its legacy.

A special bonus for you The Worst Movie of 2013 goes to Movie 43, if you haven’t seen it don’t bother and don’t let the star studded cast fool you either. How they got people like Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslett, Uma Thurman, Emma Stone, Richard Gere and so many more great actors, to be in quite possibly the worst movie of all time, is beyond me and totally incomprehensible.

Feel free to comment below and tell me your best/worst movie of 2013.

Posted in Movie Reviews

About Time

about-time1Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Rated: M

We all have those moments in life where we think: Why did I say that? Why did I do that? I am so embarrassing. I am never going out in public again….anyone? …Maybe it’s just me.

Personally, being given the gift of time travel would be a massive help to fix some of my own social blunders, and for Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), that’s exactly what happens. After turning 21, Tim’s dad (Bill Nighy) lets him in on the family secret that he and the rest of the men in his family can travel in time. But can the power of time travel really change what happens in your life? Tim decides a good place to start would be to see if it helps him get a girlfriend.

I think I may have mentioned it before that I’m not the type of chick who likes to watch a romantic comedy, with the exception of the Notting Hill and Love Actually. What seems to be transpiring, however, is not a love for romantic movies, but in fact a love for the brilliant and touching writing style of Richard Curtis.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis, About Time is a beautiful blend of some good old fashion “courting” rituals and mishaps, with a message on the importance of living each day to its full potential and seeing the beauty we often miss as we rush past with our lattes on the way to another meeting or picking up the kids, but all without the preachy side that often comes with these types of films.

Don’t get me wrong About Time has its flaws. For starters, some of the dating scenarios have been done and dusted, a million times over, for example the dreaded meeting the parents and talking about sex with their daughter, but for some reason theses scenes don’t diminish the sweetness of this loved up rom com. It’s also a little too long, probably symptomatic of having the writer as the director. You feel as if Curtis was just too in love with his own work that, sending some scenes to the cutting room floor, was akin to a really bad breakup. The lull in the middle of the film leaves you wondering as to where the films going and how it could possibly end.

Rachel McAdams is as expected in a rom-com. There’s no deviation here from the same character she’s done again and again, although the chemistry between her and Domhnall Gleeson is adorable, and can be attributed to you watching past the middle lull right to the end. As usual, Bill Nighy puts in a great performance. He is a brilliant mix of English humour, charm and poignancy as the dad trying to steer his son into love and family, with his new powers, rather than money and fame.

At its heart though, About Time it is a sweet and funny, sometimes a little too mushy, but overall a touching film about the importance of love and family. Expect the tears to flow you won’t be able to avoid it.

– Suzanna Parisi, DB Magazine

 

 

Posted in Movie Reviews

Runner Runner

runner-runner-film (2)Director: Brad Furman
Starring: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton
Rated: MA 15+

I like to approach watching Ben Affleck films as if they’re all going to be Gigli, that way I’m never really disappointed and, if it turns out to be The Town or Argo, then my mind is suitably blown. With Runner Runner though, taking this stance is probably a good one, because although it’s not mind blowing, it’s no Gigli either, it’s just…average.

Burdened with constantly rising student loans and the prospect of expulsion from Princeton University for his role in an online gaming site, college student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) risks his entire life saving on the site which could have him expelled, in order to win his college tuition. When Richie realises the site has cheated him of his winnings, he arranges a face-to-face with the man behind the site, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), but Ivan’s money and charm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

This is a solid film, but that’s all it is…solid. It has little pockets of laughter, the action is ok, the suspense is ok, the acting is ok…it’s just all ok. There’s just nothing stand out about this film at all and the ending, whilst predictable and typically Hollywood will leave you suitably satisfied that everything’s been rounded up nice and neatly.

Justin Timberlake, is surprisingly good, obviously working with legend Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve, worked well for him. His role as financial whiz kid Richie Furst is likable, and almost makes me forget he’s awkward sex scene with Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, although he still has leagues to go to prove his acting chops. However, he is believable as a naïve kid, who just wants to get rich quick, and believes his boss is the nurturing mentor he’s always wanted.

Seasoned pro Ben Affleck though, holds back a little. You get the feeling he just wants to let Ivan Block go from Mr Nice Guy to complete psychopath, but he is restrained, in an uptight way. You hoping Ivan just goes completely nuts, so the at least with a simple, predictable ending you’re left saying…well you did deserve it you crazy bastard…but no it falls very short.

Even Gemma Arterton, usually a stand out in the likes of Tamara Drewe and Quantum of Solace, who plays Richie’s “love” interest, is neither outstanding nor terrible. She plays the ‘is she or isn’t she’ trustworthy role with effortlessness, perhaps maybe just a little too much effortlessness. Like Affleck, she misses the mark of truly making you wonder whether she’s in it for the cash or the love of a good man.

Like I said this is solid. It will probably be one of those films you’ll watch on DVD one quiet Saturday night and you’ll be satisfied it was a good choice in the end.

– Suzanna Parisi, DB Magazine

Posted in Movie Reviews

The World’s End

The-Worlds-End-2

Ok so DB Magazine, are not the best in updating their website and considering I went to the preview of this film and it’s still not on their website, I thought you’d better have it before 2014 rolled around. So here is my review for The World’s End.

The World’s End
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman
Rated: MA 15+

From the creators of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz comes what some are calling the final film of the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy.

In an effort to reunite his childhood mates, Gary King takes his friends back to their home town to try to top the best pub crawl they ever had as teenagers, only to realise it’s not just each other that has changed in 20 years, but the entire town and its citizens too.

As a massive fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, liking this film was always going to be the final outcome for me, it’s highly entertaining and funny. However, it is in no way as funny, clever or creative as the previous two films.

Whilst Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright clearly make a formidable movie making team, the downside is they’ve now made two films that take a Quentin Tarantino-esque turn, as in From Dusk Till Dawn, and for the audience it means that quirky and spontaneous twist of the story is no longer as much of a surprise as it has been in the past.

It’s possible even they realised that, trading their usual witty and well written script, for one too many ‘dad’ jokes, a bit of Hollywood predictability and extended action scenes that are just that little bit too long, leaving the audience waiting for the inevitable over the top conclusion.

The upside though is that once again Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are stand outs, this time getting to show off their true emotional chops, as the storyline enters into quite serious and dark subject matters, which to their credit are dealt with sensitively and seamlessly, in what is ultimately a comedy action film.

With cameos from Pierce Brosnan, The League of Gentleman’s Reece Shearsmith, No Heroics’ Nicholas Burns, otherwise known as The Hotness to fans of the TV show, this is an enjoyable and easy to watch film. If anything, watch it just to get your final flavour of the three cornetto trilogy.

– Suzanna Parisi

Posted in Movie Reviews

The Five Year Engagement

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt have been hard to fault of late. Between them they’ve been involved in an amazing amount of top quality films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, I Love You Man, Devil Wears Prada, Sunshine Cleaning and the Adjustment Bureau. Basically, they’re like gold, butThe Five-Year Engagement, seems likely to tarnish their winning streak.

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) were meant for each other. Love at first site at a New Year’s Eve party, leads to the couple’s quick courtship and a proposal one year later. But, like any new relationship, after the honeymoon phase is over, life keeps throwing a spanner in the works, upending their whirlwind relationship and potentially their trip down the aisle.

The Five-Year Engagement is one of those films that is everywhere at the moment – press ads, billboards, TV and radio interviews – you really can’t escape it. It’s like some weird subliminal message that compels you to see the film, because all this hype can’t be for nothing, right? Wrong.

This story is average, it’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not great either. Although Segel and Blunt’s performances are both amiable, the source material lets them down. If you wade through the romantic sweetness, the one liners and the eccentric characters that are dotted throughout this film, you’re left with a dragging plot that’s obvious from start to finish and feels a lot longer than its 2 hour running time. This film starts out with the potential to be unique and interesting, as it explores the inner workings of a relationship, where a couple put the career of one person first, before each other, but this just ends up as the same old formulaic Hollywood romantic movie, where everything is nice and neatly rounded off in the end, like all fairy tale romances.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an enjoyable film, you won’t necessarily have wasted your time going to see it, but it really isn’t anything too special. It has some great quirky characters, butit’s just a shame that the uniqueness of each character didn’t exactly fit together to make a genuinely good all rounded film. The big laughs definitely go to bit players Lauren Weedman(Chef Sally), the always brilliant Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation’s Andy) as Alex, and Chris Parnell (30 Rocks Dr. Leo Spaceman), these three alone are worth the watch.

But hey, I love a trashy Hollywood movie that ends nice and neatly every now and then, just like everyone else, I guess with The Five-Year Engagement though, I was just expecting a little more.

Issue #544 http://www.dbmagazine.com.au/

Posted in Movie Reviews

The Vow

Director: Michael Sucsy
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neil, Jessica Lange
Rated: PG
Date:  26 February 2012

Dear Ryan Gosling, our relationship is over, I won’t lie to you, there’s a new man in my life and his name is Channing Tatum. Love always Suzanna.

After a car accident puts free spirited Paige (Rachel McAdams) in a coma, she wakes up with severe memory loss. Paige’s condition means her last memories are from before she met her husband Leo (Channing Tatum). Distraught at the prospect of losing his wife (who can’t remember him in anyway), Leo sets about working to win her heart all over again.

I think I’ve said this before but I’m not into romantic films. The Notebook is about the only film I will acknowledge is worth my time and effort, but this film has totally renewed my faith in romantic movies. This could have quite easily become one of those mushy, Hollywood clichés that has you reaching for the vomit bucket every 10 seconds, but writers Jason Katims and Abby Kohn have managed to avoid any of the usual unrealistic dialogue and contrived situations. Instead what they created is an intelligent and sensitive story about heartbreak, loss and the true nature of destiny. Although slow at times and with some predictable plot elements (enter Scott Speedman as the ex-fiancé), the writers still manage to underplay this drama and instead focus on how the couple deals with the unexpected, and how these situations change the nature of their relationship.

Adding to the brilliance of this love fest is the fact the films leads deliver an outstanding performance. Tatum and McAdams have fantastic chemistry from start to finish resulting in quite an emotional journey for the audience, as we get to feel, as if first-hand, what the couple are experiencing. McAdams as usual delivers a perfect performance, slipping effortlessly into the broken woman persona, but it’s Channing Tatum who proves the stand out in this film. Delivering a performance well beyond his action movie persona, he might look like he’s built for a boxing ring, but Tatum plays Leo with great courage and emotion, showing us a man who has the courage to fight for the woman he loves, even if that means her happiness comes at the cost of his own – the man is also super good looking and does charm with ease – a definite plus for the ladies.

Based on a true story, this really is one of those films that will have you believing that when two people are truly meant for each other, the universe will find a way – now, there’s the mushy Hollywood cliché for you.

– Suzanna Parisi

http://www.dbmagazine.com.au/539/fr-TheVow-430.shtml

Posted in Movie Reviews

Shame

Director:  Steve McQueen
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Rated: R
Date: 24 January 2012

What to say about Shame? Perhaps the phrase…Porn anyone?…is the most appropriate explanation for you, just so you know what to expect.

Brandon (Fassbender) is a successful 30-something guy with a seemingly perfect existence, a good job, great apartment, living in one of the best cities in the world (New York), but with a horrific sex addiction. Brandon spends his days and nights trawling for random women to take out his childhood angst on via meaningless and confronting sexual acts. The arrival of sister Sissy (Mulligan), who’s equally as messed up in her own right, propels Brandon even further into New York’s dark underbelly and the height of his sexual addiction.

This is an extremely graphic film. It’s filled with loads of full on nudity, awkward and uncomfortable sex scenes and just a tiny hint at the possibility of incest. This is not the first film I’ve seen to tackle such taboo topics in a graphic manner either, it is however, the first film I’ve seen that’s completely failed to deliver a point in anyway shape or form. According to Shame’s press kit this film “is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us” – the only problem is this film doesn’t do that. Instead we just see endless and pointless confronting sex scenes – we get it, he’s addicted to sex. 

Director and writer, Steve McQueen, fails to make any of his characters likeable or generate a feeling of empathy for what Brandon is going through. We don’t know what has happened in his life to make him act this way or what his sister has to do with who he’s become, he just is that way. This is fine for the first half an hour of the film, so we can grasp the full extent of his addiction, but then the audience needs substance, needs to feel they can understand why he’s so personally destructive, why he doesn’t seek help, why he can’t have a normal relationship with a healthy sex life, and that just isn’t delivered…this film is why, why, why, with no answers…totally frustrating.

The only upside to this film, if there is one, is that Michael Fassbender is amazing as Brandon. With barely any dialogue, he effortlessly shows a man spiralling out of control and unable to face what his addiction has made him, it’s just a shame (no pun intended), that the source material didn’t live up to his talent. Not even the brilliant Carey Mulligan can save a film this horrible, even she provides one of the most excruciating scenes, and it doesn’t involve sex, it’s just a horrendously slow version of My Way by Frank Sinatra that will make you shift in your seat uncomfortably, one man in the cinema actually yelled out “good God make her stop” and that’s without a word of a lie.

This film is not for everyone, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s not for anyone, but maybe I just didn’t get this film, maybe there was a point and I’m just not cultured enough to see it. I’m happy to be proven wrong though, but for now I’m calling a stinker a stinker.

– Suzanna Parisi

http://www.dbmagazine.com.au/538/fr-Shame-521.shtml

Posted in Movie Reviews

Attack The Block

Director:  Joe Cornish
Stars: Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway
Rated: Still awaiting
Date: 9 November 2011

If Ripley and Dizzy Rascal had a baby, their creation would be Attack the Block. Full of action, suspense, terrifying aliens and of course dialogue straight out of a South London housing block, this film will have you laughing, jumping out of your seat and wishing, (if only for a moment), you had an awesome cockney accent – I guaran’ee i’ bruvver…know what I mean?

When a gang of thugs mug one of their own Sam (Jodie Whittaker) the result is the death of a mysterious creature. The gang of South London teens, their victim Sam and their drug dealer Ron (Nick Frost) must now band together and defend their block from an alien invasion, and learn in the process, that actions have consequences.

The brilliance of this film is that, it knows the concept is outlandish and the action is equally as ridiculous,  but it uses it’s absurdity to its advantage to create a great comedy full of suspense and action, almost as if channelling Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, and what you get is a fantastic English tongue-in-cheek comedy.

There really are no down sides to this film, if you leave your critiquing at the door, you’ll see this film is brilliantly cast, with a group of teens seemingly straight out of the South London Housing Block this film is set in. It’s quick to the action and full of amazing suspense filled moments, which will have you rooting for the kids you despised at the start of the film, and screaming for them to run bruvver, run faster. The way the kids start out as heartless thugs trying to prove their manliness is one of the best parts of the film, their transition from petty criminals wanting to be in the big league to having to become the men they were supposed to be and coming to the realisation that actions have consequences, is the heart and soul of the film even if it is done in a comical and outlandish way….somehow this works.

The Aliens, although not up to the standard of Hollywood blockbuster special effects we’re used to, are crude, but their effect on the screen only serves to enhance the comedy and absurd nature of the script.

Special mention to the wonderful Nick Frost, who although has a small part in the film as the mentor to this misfit group of teens, provides some hilarious “Frost” moments we’ve come to expect and love.

I know this is a big call, but this is probably one of the best comedies I’ve seen for a long time, it’s a fresh take on the alien genre and nails the casting to create a hilariously believable film with endless amount of fun…proving once again that not everything amazing comes out of the US.

– Suzanna Parisi

http://www.dbmagazine.com.au/534/a-film.shtml

Posted in Movie Reviews

Anonymous (unpublished)

Director:  Roland Emmerich
Stars: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis
Rated: M
Date: 31 October 2011 

What if the world’s greatest playwright was a fraud? This is the conspiracy theory tackled by director Roland Emmerich in his new film Anonymous. 

Set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the political drama of her succession, Anonymous poses the theory that Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) is the real writer of all the Shakespearean plays we’ve come to know and love. Forced to live with the manipulating William Cecil, a trusted advisor to Queen Elizabeth, the Earl of Oxford is forced to give up his talent as a playwright, (considered to be a sin), to help ensure the smooth succession plan of Queen Elizabeth, and stop the Essex Rebellion against her. Unable to just throw his talent away, the Earl decides to deliver his writings to someone he knows will ensure they are seen by the world…and keep his name secret…enter big Will.

Anonymous poses a lot of theoretical questions about Shakespeare and his work. The film keeps you totally engrossed from start to finish, and will have you thinking…yeah, how did someone who was supposedly illiterate, write such fantastic plays, and therein lies the brilliance of this film. Although it’s hard to believe that someone who gave the world Universal Soldiers, would have the ability to tackle such a tough conspiracy theory, Roland Emmerich has indeed succeeded in getting his audience walking out thinking…maybe, just maybe. But credit, where credit is due, Emmerich, (better known for giving us Hollywood blockbusters such as Independence Day and Godzilla), manages to create an absolutely, entirely believable world where William Shakespeare is nothing but an uneducated, womanising buffoon, who takes credit for someone else’s work…telling that story to the world, had to be hard going. 

Anonymous also boasts a stellar line up of actors such as Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis to help plant the seed of doubt.  Ifans is brilliant as the tortured Earl of Oxford whose creativity is stifled by an equally brilliant David Thewlis as the power hungry, manipulating Cecil. Both men are so engrossed in their character and selling the theory of this story, that their passion is obvious with every word spoken, lending itself more and more to making the theory that much more believable. An honourable mention goes to Raffe Spall, so convincing as the dim witted, sex mad William Shakespeare, who not only provides some much needed comic relief to the drama heavy script, but does an outstanding job convincing the audience that the theory is entirely possible, once we get a load of Shakespeare in full action.

Perhaps the only let down of this film is its length. At just over two hours, the film often gets caught up in the political drama between Queen Liz and the rebellion, rather than the compelling nature of the theory behind who is the real playwright. Had the script stuck purely to the controversial conspiracy, it would have been a tad more punchier and to the point, and made the film a little more accessible to those uneducated about the Elizabethian history.

Nevertheless, whether you believe the theory or not, Anonymous is still a great watch and will forever plant the seed of doubt to the history we all know as William Shakespeare.

– Suzanna Parisi