Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Guardians Of The Galaxy

With a line of successful franchises already set up, Marvel take a risk with their latest, Guardians Of The Galaxy, a largely unknown comic book property. It’s safe to say their bet has paid off, with director James Gunn delivering a ludicrously entertaining space-set adventure that fizzles with humour, rat-a-tat interplay and marvellous action set pieces. Continue reading “Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)”

Review: American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle

The third part in his own self-proclaimed reinvention (one that’s so far brought with it The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, two Academy Award winners), American Hustle finds David O. Russell at his most playful, tackling the infamous ABSCAM scandal – a hugely publicised FBI sting into political corruption – with a tremendous amount of wit, vigour and vibrancy. While certainly not without its faults, it’s a film that’s more often than not massively entertaining, and a constant platform for spectacular performances and outlandish 70s fashion. Continue reading “Review: American Hustle (2013)”

Review: The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part 3

With every third part in a successful trilogy comes the different question: Do you stay with the same winning structure that has proved so lucrative with the previous instalments, or do you shake things up in a bid to present the audience with something fresh? Director Todd Phillips and screenwriter Craig Mazin have opted for the latter with The Hangover Part III, though it’s not executed in a particularly memorable or laudable fashion. Continue reading “Review: The Hangover Part III”

Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

After spending the past eight months undergoing therapy in a mental institution, former high school teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) returns to suburban Philadelphia and into the lives of his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver). Wasting no time in attempting to straighten himself up and win back his wife, Pat comes to a deal with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a troubled widow and force of nature, that sees him become her partner for a Continue reading “Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)”

Sally Hawkins In Talks For Woody Allen’s Next Film

Sally Hawkins (Submarine) is in talks to star in Woody Allen’s next, as-yet-untitled film, Variety are reporting.

Hawkins, who picked up a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, will play one of the two female leads in Allen’s follow-up to this summer’s To Rome With Love.

Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Bradley Cooper Continue reading “Sally Hawkins In Talks For Woody Allen’s Next Film”

Review: The Hangover Part II (2011)

In 2008, an R-rated comedy about three groomsmen – Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – who lose their about-to-be-wed friend, Doug (Justin Bartha), during their drunken adventures became a surprise hit for director Todd Phillips and took the box office by storm.

Now, two years later, the inevitable sequel has arrived. The Hangover Part II finds Phil, Alan and Doug setting off to Thailand for Stu’s supposedly safe, subdued wedding. However, things don’t go as planned after they lose the 16-year-old brother (Mason Lee) of Stu’s fiancee (Jamie Chung) and somehow wake up in Bangkok.

Once again, Phil, Stu and Alan try to piece together the previous night and find their  missing friend. It’s not an easy task though, as they encounter a number of ludicrous complications – from a silent monk to an international arms deal.

Unlike last time, when the scenarios felt fresh, exciting and wholly comical, the spark of originality has dissipated, leaving a uneven narrative that relies all too heavily on both sight gags – Stu’s tattoo and Teddy’s missing finger – and shock value – Stu’s encounter with a transexual prostitute – to score some of its bigger laughs.

Similarly, the obstacles feel staid in comparison to the freewheeling nature and ridiculousness that made the first one so unexpectedly brilliant. The fact that nothing new is offered to shake up the formula feels like a massive mistake, and the film falls flat on its face from the off.

It’s a relief, then, to see that the chemistry between the leads is still fully intact. It’s an achievement in itself to get all the actors to agree to a sequel, all the more so when they gel together as successfully as Cooper, Galifianakis and Helms. The only problem is, due to the irregular structure of the narrative, their characters have been dialled up to an almost unbearable level. After half an hour, this stops being entertaining and begins to vex.

While Galifianakis’ Alan was the prized star of the first instalment, he appears to have since regressed, becoming borderline mentally challenged. Of course, his haphazardness raises a few smirks along the way, but he never hits the same highs he did in the first.

Helms, on the other hand, takes the film from under Galifianakis’ feet and runs with it. He strikes the perfect balance between madcap lunacy and straightforwardness that makes Stu so appeasing and ultimately relatable. Cooper’s Phil is basically the brains of the pack – an averagely realised counterpart to their absurdity.

The first films absentee, Doug, adds nothing but a sense of relief to the Bangkok craziness, while Ken Jeong, whose Mr Chow is back in a more predominant role, doesn’t have the intermittent flavour he achieved so well the first time around. His camp and mischievous personality is too eccentric, and ultimately jarring, to warrant his increased presence.

There were also two cameo performances – one that wonderfully re-energised the sagging middle segment and another that could result in eyes being clawed out.

Phillips directs with a slick, loose attitude that’s perfectly in sync with the vicarious complications the trio encounter, but without the workably unhinged script of the first film to back it up, it never feels as pleasing or imaginative as it thinks it does.

As enjoyable a viewing experience as it is, The Hangover Part II doesn’t have the substance or breezy nature that made the first film so accidentally brilliant, and ultimately feels like a inadequately executed rehash.

But hey, at least it’s better than Due Date…

Review: Limitless (2011)

Directed by Neil Burger, Limitless is a techno-thriller based on the Alan Glynn novel: The Dark Fields.

A copywriter, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super-human abilities. As his usage begins to change his life, he starts to consider the drugs shadowy origins. Meanwhile, a group of killers follow his every move.

This premise is very interesting and, while far-fetched, touches upon some pretty serious issues – the most important being drug usage and addiction. This helps keep the somewhat implausible scenario grounded.

However, despite effectively letting the audience bring their own experiences to the table, none of the issues are wrapped up in a clear and dignified manner, and are often skimmed over with an irritating level of disregard.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as, along with Cooper’s tongue-in-cheek performance, the narrative manages to remain simplistic enough throughout, never taking itself too seriously. It’s only in the final act, where all the loose ends are being haphazardly pieced together, that the cracks are exposed.

Similarly, characters are introduced left, right and centre – and disposed of almost as quickly. Understandably, the film is too short to explore everyone’s backstories, but certain people – such as Anna Friel’s Melissa and Abbie Cornish’s Lindy – are too fascinating to be so brazenly wasted.

Burger is clearly an extremely talented filmmaker. He creates a very stylized, visually intriguing world: a dimension that wonderfully emphasizes what the characters experience when ingesting the harmless-looking NZT-48 pill.

Cooper embodies Eddie perfectly, continuing his growth as a very adept actor. There’s something enthralling in his impoverished style that makes him wholly appealing, and the ideal choice for the role.

Eddie’s first-person narration, with its deliriously fast pace, not only compliments the visual side effects of the pill, but also offers a smart insight into the serious impacts drug-taking can have on an individuals lifecycle.

Robert De Niro delivers a solid turn as businessman Carl Van Loon, but feels an odd fit for such a under-developed and audacious character.

Abbie Cornish and Johnny Whitworth are believable enough in their respective roles, and Anna Friel brings an oddly likable, honest and raw nature to Eddie’s ex-wife. Nevertheless, none are employed as much as their talents demand.

Limitless, on the whole, is harmless entertainment and, at 105 minutes, offers a pleasant enough distraction, even managing to pose some meaningful, thought-provoking questions along the way.