Review: St. Vincent (2014)

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Bill Murray is by far the stand-out performer in St. Vincent, infusing Theodore Melfi’s schmaltzy and predictable comedy drama with some much-needed spunk. Bullied-kid-next-door Olivier (Jaeden Lieberher) develops an unlikely bond with curmudgeon old man Vincent (Murray) when he reluctantly concedes to babysit for struggling single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy). Continue reading “Review: St. Vincent (2014)”

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Review: Diana (2013)

Diana

Diana, Princess of Wales was an icon, adored by the public and renowned for her high-profile charity work. Yet there was a darker, more manipulative side to her that constantly threatened to burst that innocent, bighearted bubble. It’s a shame, then, that Diana, acclaimed director Olivier Hirschbiegel’s biopic, abandons those intriguing suggestions altogether, instead producing a miscalculated, cringe-inducing and ultimately banal film that’s far too buttoned up for its own good. Continue reading “Review: Diana (2013)”

Review: The Impossible (2012)

The Impossible

Five years after making a powerful impression with terrifying ghost story, Spanish writer and director Juan Antonio Bayona turns his attention to the tsunami that wreaked havoc on thousands of unsuspecting victims on December 26, 2004. Though not an immediate horror, shares several similarities with The Orphanage, most prominently in the deep-rooted terror that pervades its entirety. Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts) take their three Continue reading “Review: The Impossible (2012)”

Review: Dream House (2011)

Fortuitous publisher Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) relocates his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two children (Taylor and Claire Geare) to a seemingly idyllic house in a picturesque New England town. As they adjust to their environment, they discover that their new house is actually the scene of an old murder. Attempting to piece together exactly what happened, Will, with the aid of his amiable neighbour (Naomi Watts), uncovers the unsettling truth behind the deplorable events.

What begins as an unnerving, rousing thriller, hits an altogether sour note once the – quite frankly outrageous – midway plot twist is revealed. From Continue reading “Review: Dream House (2011)”

Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, writer/director Woody Allen’s fortieth feature film, is tale of chicanery, infatuation and disappointment, and reunites one of the world’s best directors with the beautiful city of London.

The film follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller.

Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.

Though not Allen’s strongest material, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger still has a solid story, blending the ups and downs of each relationship, and highlighting the hypocrisies of marriage. Allen clearly still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

Through the unstable characters’ troubled relationships, Allen not only examines how people deal with mortality but also how we cope with life, love and existence in general.

The film, however many life-altering questions it brings up, ends just when complications set in, which not only makes you wonder how invested Allen really is with the characters’ lives, but also makes it harder to empathise with their troubled being.

The characters, from Jones’ Helena neurotic to Brolin’s anguished Roy, feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts, human emotions and comprehensible senses. They all come over as extremely egocentric and have little to offer in the way of benevolence to their counterparts.

Jones leads the cast perfectly with her portrayal of Helena. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins fail to break free of their limited dialogue and uncoloured characters, and, the shamefully wasted trio of Punch, Friel and Banderas who, despite having the most interesting on-screen personaes, are not given enough time to thrive amongst their equally underused counterparts.

While the acting isn’t up to the heights of Vicky Christina Barcelona, Annie Hall or even Match Point, it’s impressively low key enough to be a joy to watch.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is by no means Allen’s best film, but it’s also not his worst. It’s well-plotted, beautifully directed, contains some mildy humorous moments and isn’t short of talented actors.

It’s irritating, then, that it’s let down so wrongly by glorified scenery, under-developed characters and a script that seems to foolishly avoid dramatic impact.

Review: Fair Game (2010)

Fair Game is a new political conspiracy-thriller from The Bourne Identity and Jumper director Doug Liman.

The film is based on the autobiography of real-life undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), whose career was destroyed and marriage strained to its limits when her covert identity was exposed by a politically motivated press leak.

As a covert officer in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Valerie leads an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Valerie’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), is drawn into the investigation to substantiate an alleged sale of enriched uranium from Niger. But when the administration ignores his findings and uses the issue to support the call to war, Joe writes a New York Times editorial outlining his conclusions and ignites a firestorm of controversy.

Liman keeps things moving at a tight and efficient pace, but the overall aesthetic is quite dull – mostly existing in subdued shades and dulled environments – and he uses the handheld, shaky camera technique far too much.

The visuals and direction aren’t necessarily are bad, but they are bland and don’t engage with the viewer enough to maintain our attention – Liman was clearly going for a realistic tone but instead misses the mark and creates something fake in the way he overplays the solemnity of the source material.

The script, from John-Henry and Jez Butterworth, feels too convulted, moving from engaging political thriller to uncomfortable and uninteresting family melodrama in a clumsy and equivocal manner.

The performances are uneven. Watts steps into Valerie’s shoes accurately enough, but the material doesn’t have enough depth or emotional heart for her to show her true talent and diversity.

Penn, on the other hand, wonderfully depicts Joe’s inner turmoil, torn between two acts that both seem right in their own way; to protect his family or to expose a political scandal that’s torn his family to pieces.

These characters are are all too simple caricatures of what the filmmakers think these people are really like. They aren’t fleshed out enough for you to feel much sympathy for their personal and career downfalls.

Fair Game asks some interesting questions, but never quite reaches the heights it should, especially considering the powerful source material, renowned direction and world-class acting talent on hand.