DVD Releases: November 14, 2011

Bridesmaids

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Rose Byrne Continue reading “DVD Releases: November 14, 2011”

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US Box Office: July 15 – 17, 2011

1. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – $168.6M

2. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon – $21.2M

3. Horrible Bosses – $17.6M

4. Zookeeper – $12.3M

5. Cars 2 – $8.3M

6. Winnie The Pooh – $8M

7. Bad Teacher – $5.2M

8. Larry Crowne – $2.5M

9. Super 8 – $1.9M

10. Midnight In Paris – $1.8M

Feature: Top Ten Films Of 2011: January – June

So far, 2011 has been a fantastic year for film. Below, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favourites from the last six months, with a few honourable mentions that just missed out on a place. Finally, I’ve listed some somewhat less honourable mentions that you should probably avoid at all costs.

10. Never Let Me Go (February 2011)

Mark Romanek’s shamefully overlooked adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s momentous novel Never Let Me Go wasn’t exactly the hit Fox Searchlight were banking on, but that didn’t stop it being a beautifully explorative, acted and directed piece of cinema.

9. Animal Kingdom (February 2011)

This Australian crime-thriller rose from the underbelly, picking up momentum thick and fact for its astoundingly honest portrayal of a fully functional crime family. Striking direction, raw performances and compelling source material have made well worth seeking out.

8. Archipelago (March 2011)

Joanna Hogg’s stark look at family turmoil is beautifully captured and carefully paced to provide a deeply resonant and affecting glimpse into the highs and lows of family life and what makes people tick.

7. Heartbeats (May 2011)

Multi-faceted Xavier Dolan follows in the footsteps of acclaimed filmmakers Gus Van Sant, Pedro Almodóvar and Wong Kar Wai to write and direct Heartbeats, a film of true beauty, wisdom and depth beyond its years.

6. Arrietty (June 2011 – EIFF)

Studio Ghibli’s sprightly interpretation of Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book The Borrowers is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, under the watchful eye of filmmaker extraordinaire Hayao Miyazaki. Arrietty boasts some truly illustrious animation and a score by French musician Cecile Corbel that made me go weak at the knees.

5. Bridesmaids (June 2011)

Kristen Wiig, well known for her long-standing stint on Saturday Night Live, was launched to stardom with hit comedy Bridesmaids. Directed by Paul Feig, the film features an array of flawless comedic performances, unforgettable gags and the goddess-like figure Rose Bryne.

4. Albatross (June 2011 – EIFF)

Niall McCormick’s British coming-of-age film premiered at the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival to rave reviews. Written by burgeoning writer Tamzin Refn, Albatross is a fully realised and thought-provoking piece of cinema, chock full of heart, depth and humour to boot. If Jessica Findlay-Brown doesn’t become a star, then there’s something seriously wrong with the world.

3. Black Swan (January 2011)

Granted, this film opened last year in America, but due to different release schedules it was early January before I had a chance to see Natalie Portman give an Academy Award winning performance in Darren Aronofsky’s daringly dark psychological ballet thriller. Hauntingly brilliant.

2. Submarine (March 2011)

Former IT Crowd actor Richard Ayoade made his directorial debut with the mesmerising, outlandish and warm-hearted indie comedy Submarine. The entire cast, not least relative newcomer Craig Roberts, delivered remarkable performances.

1. Blue Valentine (January 2011)

This emotionally crippling insight into one couple’s turbulent relationship shot Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams back into the limelight, and earned them a few dozen award nominations in the process. After years of suffering various unfortunate setbacks, Derek Cianfrance’s passion project came to fruition with such intensity that it was hard to ignore. From the offset I was hooked, so it’d be impossible for Blue Valentine not to be my top film of the year so far.

Films of notable interest: Hobo With A Shotgun, Trust, Project Nim, Attack The Block, Rango, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Rubber, Pina 3D, Scream 4, Winnie The Pooh, Meek’s Cutoff, X-Men: First Class, The Silent House, 13 Assassins, Perfect Sense, Thor and Cave Of Forgotten Dreams.

Films to think no more of: Mars Needs Moms, Larry Crowne, Ghosted, I Am Number Four, The Rite, Faster, Chalet Girl, Red Riding Hood and Battle: Los Angeles.

UK Box Office: July 1 – 3, 2011

1. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon – £10.7M

2. Bridesmaids – £2.1M

3. Kung Fu Panda 2 – £728,000

4. Bad Teacher – £512,000

5. Larry Crowne – £346,000

6. The Hangover Part II – £301,000

7. Green Lantern – £279,000

8. X-Men: First Class – £215,000

9. Delhi Belly – £155,000

10. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – £148,000

US Box Office: July 1 – 3, 2011

1. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon – $97.4M

2. Cars 2 – $25.1M

3. Bad Teacher – $14.1M

4. Larry Crowne – $13M

5. Monte Carlo – $7.6M

6. Super 8 – $7.5M

7. Green Lantern – $6.3M

8. Mr. Popper’s Penguins – $5.1M

9. Bridesmaids – $3.5M

10. Midnight In Paris – $3.4M

Review: Larry Crowne (2011)

Synopsis: When appealing everyman Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) is inexplicably fired from his job as a big box store clerk, he realizes it’s time for some meaningful change in his life. Deeply in debt and without direction he returns to college, where he befriends a group of scooter-riding students and eventually develops a real affection for the beautiful Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts), the instructor of his Speech class.

The premise is an interesting one which highlights some genuinely valid and thought provoking questions, relating to the credit crunch, middle aged dating and returning to education. While intriguing at first, the main problem with Larry Crowne is that it simply abandons every interesting aspect and point of intrigue, leaving whole plot strands unresolved. This can mainly be attributed to the flawed screenplay, co-written by Nia Vardalos (recipient of an Academy Award for the screenplay of My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Hanks himself. More often than not, it resorts to modern rom-com cliché, rendering the narrative implausible when it does manage to touch upon more relevant and thought-provoking ideas.

In this respect, coupled with the feeling that when plot strands are tied up, they are done so in such a relaxed manner as to make them feel unnecessary and completely artificial, it’s evident that there’s not much at stake within the narrative. The audience is left feeling nothing towards any of the characters – especially Larry and Mercedes. Vardalos and Hanks are evidently more interested in tying their romance up in a neat little digestible bow, losing it’s inherent uniqueness along the way. It descends into a nondescript, pointless bore. The only character arc that sees some genuine development is that of Larry’s wacky friend Talia, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who follows her passion and helps Larry become less inhibited.

Hanks’ direction is much the same as his narrative: artificial and almost entirely blasé. He opts for a grainy tint that clouds the film in a subdued and depressing air. Hanks’ intention may have been to make the story and its characters seem more lifelike and relatable, but it ultimately doesn’t work, often making everything seem overly drab and ugly. It’s almost as if the director himself doesn’t know the best way to present the story and characters.

In terms of his acting, Hanks embodies Larry with a honest and likeable nature. It’s in his relationships with his co-stars that he falters. The burgeoning “will-they, won’t-they” relationship between Larry and Mercedes, though believable, never feels entirely sincere. The chemistry comes across as more an unlikely friendship than a full blown, predestined love. Similarly, his awkward father-daughter companionship with Talia comes across as well intended and slightly humorous, especially in the way she butters him up in an attempt to release his charming side – but it’s all too flat and unexplored to have any particular meaning.

Roberts doesn’t fare much better than Hanks. In all her years as an actress, she’s played characters like Mercedes many times – all to much better effect than is on display here. Sure, she’s attractive, easy enough to watch and brings an alluring warmth to any character she plays, but she doesn’t make a full enough transition from Roberts the A-list actress to Mercedes the college professor that warrants any significant emotional investment or interest in her backstory. She simply exists as herself trying to play someone else, in an overly obvious fashion that become distracting as the film wears on. It’s a shame, as it’s simply more evidence that her career isn’t as inspiring and award winning as it once was.

The supporting cast is made up of a zany collection of weird and wonderful actors and actresses, from the respected and well cast (Taraji P. Henson and Bryan Cranston) to the nondescript and uncomfortable background commodities (Cedric the Entertainer and George Takei). Takei in particular feels completely unsure what the hell he’s doing there – much like how the audience will react when he first appears on screen.

That said, despite the fact it plods along at a snail’s pace and doesn’t reward its audience’s investment, Larry Crowne’s saving grace is that it’s inoffensive, easy to watch, and subtly charming. In other words, it exists for easy consumption, mindless romantic entanglements, and its attractive, mass-audience grabbing stars.

Cinema Releases: July 1, 2011

Larry Crowne

Director: Tom Hanks

Starring: Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Bryan Cranston

The Conspirator

Director: Robert Redford

Starring: James McAvoy, Robin Wright and Tom Wilkinson

A Separation

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat