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Irrational Man

The small college campus in Newport, Rhode Island, goes along pretty much as usual – until the day a new philosophy Professor starts. His reputation arrives before he does – he’s a brilliant thinker, but a womaniser and an alcoholic. He’s Abe Lucas (played by Joaquin Phoenix). His arrival is much heralded, but the reality is a little different. In class, Abe is as expected – a reliable, fascinating teacher. But in his personal life, he’s jaded, burnt out, negative, drinking too much and seeking something more. A fellow professor, Rita Richards (by Parker Posey) is fascinated by him and doesn’t hide the fact she’s attracted to him, but this washes over him. However, his student, Jill Pollard (by Emma Stone) sparks his interest. She’s smart and unknowingly beautiful – a relationship starts and Jill quickly gets serious about it, but Abe is not committed. One day they are out having coffee when they overhear a conversation in the diner. Abe is captivated and suddenly decides this is a sign, it’s why he was put on the planet in the first place – he must take some action. But what he’s set on doing, whilst straightforward and obvious to him, will change the course of many people’s lives …

This movie promises much, but leaves me a little cold. As usual with Woody Allen movies, you never quite know what you’re going to get – sometimes they are delightfully entertaining, other times they’re a bit drab and uninspiring. This is one of the latter types, but I’m not sure why – the plot has interesting points and both Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone are good, but that’s it. Parker Posey’s role is underdone and I get the feeling nobody is really trying too hard in this movie. Wait for this to come on television – and then only if you’ve got nothing better to do.

Made in 2015. Directed by Woody Allen

 

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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Movies

 

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Birdman

Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton) rules … as superhero “Birdman” everyone loves him. His movie franchise draws huge audiences and he dominates the cinema. Now … fifteen years later … Birdman’s long gone and Riggan’s almost forgotten. He’s hard at work getting the finishing touches done to a modern version of the classic Raymond Carver story he’s re-written. Everything’s on the verge of success … if only he could get it all happening at the same time. He’s trying hard to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Sam (by Emma Stone), he’s still friends with Sam’s mother, his ex-wife Sylvia (by Amy Ryan), but their relationship’s fraught – thanks to his erratic behaviour during their marriage. But the production needs a lot of work – his leading lady, Lesley (by Naomi Watts), is getting there, but the leading man was recently replaced after an accident on stage. The last minute stand-in, Mike (by Edward Norton) is already a big name on Broadway, so he should pull some good crowds – trouble is, he’s got a big ego to match, which causes friction with Riggan. Open night is speeding towards the cast and they’re struggling to get the show ready. Riggan starts to freak out and listens to his “internal voice”, even though he doesn’t want to. He worries that he’s never going to regain the fame he once had, nor is he going to mend all the broken relationships he’s left in his wake over the years …

This movie has huge peaks and troughs. In some places it has flashes of utter brilliance – as Riggan Thomson, Michael Keaton is really great. His emotions are palpable, the production gives the audience a close-up look at him and his random superhero tendencies – even today he believes he’s got so much more to offer than he’s ever given to his audience. His heart’s in this play and Keaton gives blood, sweat and tears to the performance just to show that – it’s great. What I had trouble with is the turbulence of the production. As Mike, Edward Norton somehow seems “too much” for the screen – he dominates everything, both physically and spiritually. I usually like his work, but in some scene’s here he’s too much – but in others he’s really fabulous. I found Naomi Watts’ portrayal of Lesley a little too distant, but as Riggan’s daughter, Sam, Emma Stone is really great. It’s a shame that as Annie, the production director, Merritt Wever doesn’t get enough to do – I’d love to have seen more of her here. It’s certainly a unique piece and most definitely earns the accolades afforded to it by the Screen Actors Guild and other awards programs in the 2015 season.The special effects are pretty good, but there are a few patches that really disengaged me. I didn’t enjoy the original musical score which is mainly percussion but I am probably on my own with many of these views. Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton do very well. His work has already won Michael Keaton a Golden Globe for Best Actor and Screenplay; the Screen Actors Guild Awards have given it Best Acting for the entire Cast and it has achieved an AFI Award for Movie of the Year. In the upcoming Academy Award (Oscar) presentations it has nominations for Motion Picture of the Year, Leading Actor (Michael Keaton), Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Director, Screenplay, Cinematography and Sound Editing. It’s well deserved I’d say. The alternative title for this is “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”

Made in 2014. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Magic in the Moonlight

In 1920’s France, Wei Ling Soo is a hit amongst his hoards of adoring fans and his notoriety spreads far and wide. He’s a masterful magician who can make the impossible happen, right before our eyes! Actually, Wei Ling Soo is really only Stanley (played by Colin Firth), a veteran illusionist dressed as a Chinese Imperial Master, who stuns audiences with his amazing, well practised feats and tricks. One day, Stanley’s friend, fellow magician Howard Burkan (by Simon McBurney) tells him of a new sensation doing the rounds of the social set in France. She, Madam Sophie, claims she can read people accurately, tell fortunes, observe the spirit world and bring messages from those passed to people still on the side of the living. Stanley instantly dismisses any notion of her being authentic and is invited to France to check her out and prove she’s a fraud. Once in France, Stanley views Sophie (by Emma Stone) with complete suspicion, but slowly, as he gets to know her he starts to think perhaps he’s wrong after all … how could she possibly know the things she does about him and his life? He finds himself strangely drawn to her … but surely she’s a fake, isn’t she?

This movie is sweet, but not quite entertaining. The French scenery is divine and a wonderful backdrop to the story, so in parts it has its moments, but overall Colin Firth’s performance renders the piece a little unbalanced and tedious. I can only hope that Director Woody Allen instructed him to perform in this weirdly wooden and robotic fashion as I’ve never seen Colin Firth act like this in any other work. Emma Stone is good and it’s great to see Jackie Weaver here as one of Sophie’s “clients”, Mrs Grace Catledge. Others are okay and the story has nice twists, but overall is only average. I may have just missed the point, I guess.

Made in 2014. Directed by Woody Allen.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Movies

 

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Crazy Stupid Love

Cal Weaver (by Steve Carell) met his sweetheart, Emily (by Julianne Moore) when they were both only 15 years old. They married two years later and have been together ever since. Lately, Emily has been feeling a bit “jaded”, she confesses to Cal that she’s had an affair and they are heartbroken as they face their imminent divorce. Cal leave’s the family home and sets up a home on his own. He is distraught at this new life and drowns his sorrows at a “hip” bar, where he encounters Jacob Palmer (by Ryan Gosling), a handsome “man about town” who advises him in the art of style and dating in today’s world. Presently he learns to pick up women and his social life starts to get a bit busier. He stills pines for Emily and wishes he could see his family so much more.  Meanwhile, Emily is trying to move forward also. She is dealing with a love-struck teenage son, an affectionate work colleague and a group of friends who are supportive but silently judgemental. Suddenly, Jacob becomes hard to contact and Cal discovers that Jacob has succumbed to the very thing he has worked his whole life to avoid … he has fallen in love with Hannah (by Emma Stone).  This might turn the entire world of Cal and Jacob on its head … will Cal ever find happiness again?

This movie is all that … crazy, stupid and … well .. yes … lovely.  Even though it really is a straightforward rom com, it leaves the viewer with quite a warm feeling.  The comedy has a very quirky edge which makes it very entertaining. Steve Carrell brings a “little boy lost” effect to Cal, which could have the potential for utter irritation, but is actually quite endearing. Ryan Gosling is unashamedly there for “eye candy” and he totally delivers. His ‘womanising” character is almost believable actually, but of course we do learn that he is a real guy when he starts to open up to his love interest Hannah.  He and Carell make a great pair – their on screen partnership is effective.  I would like to see more of that. Emma Stone is better here than other performances I’ve seen.  There are great snippets – Marissa Tomei is very strong as one of Cal’s love interests. Kevin Bacon is also very good as Emily’s colleague, David. There is a good twist before the end, which I didn’t see coming.

They are all experienced and it shows. The timing of the comedy is great, it’s a smart and talented effort that only falters slightly at the end with some tedious comedy, but overall vey good and entertaining, well done.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Help

“The Help” deals with some very important issues. It explores the lives of African American maids in Jackson Mississippi in the early 1960’s – an important time during the turbulence of the Civil Rights Movement in America.

Skeeter (played by Emma Stone) is a fledgling writer/reporter who, although raised with the standard “white” culture and ideologies of the time, does not align herself with these ideas and she is an isolate in her peer group. Her fellow young women are all married, aspiring well-to-do women about town who hire maids, “do lunch”, produce children and attend charity functions, whereas Skeeter has a job and chats with the “coloured people”. Skeeter wants to fix the wrongs of her society, so she decides to tell the individual stories of the maids’ treatment by their white employers. But this means she will need to persuade the maids to talk openly with her. Aibileen (by Viola Davis) is the first one she approaches, but at first she declines as she doesn’t want to make trouble but then she decides that she does want to talk so she secretly starts to tell Skeeter her stories. Soon her friend and fellow domestic, Minny (by Octavia Spencer) also decides to talk, so together they tell Skeeter of their experiences. The women gradually produce a book which is successfully published using pseudonyms to save identification and the risk of trouble.

The drama of the time, the fear the maids held for their lives, livelihoods and wellbeing with regard to the reactions of their employers, the bigotry and the violence of the changing times are all dramatised well. However, the characters in the peer group of the developing “southern belle” women are not explored well.

Unfortunately, the movie plays more like a soap opera television mini-series, than a dramatic movie and this dilutes its impact to the point of trivializing the experiences of the maids and creating a farce. The characters are really caricatures and this turns the personal experiences into almost comedy. Also, the movie is very long – over 2.5 hours – I recommend you get the DVD and watch it over a couple of sessions. The life experiences are worth seeing (I am not sure whether this is based on a true story) and the story of peer group ostracision tugs your emotions, but the way the movie is made does not serve the important key issues in the best way it could have.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Movies

 

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