Tag Archives: Ewan McGregor

Son of a Gun

In Perth, Australia, 19 year old JR (played by Brenton Thwaites) has just been convicted and sent behind bars for six months. In prison he tries to stay out of trouble, but trouble seems to find him – until Brendan Lynch (by Ewan McGregor) takes an interest in him and protects him. From the inside, Brendan arranges for JR to meet some of his contacts after his release so JR naively seeks out Sam (by Jacek Koman). Brendan and Sam have a plan and JR’s got a starring role. Sam’s been around and you don’t muck around with him – so JR is not quite sure what he’s getting into. JR stages a prison break to get Brendan out, then as a reward he’s invited to join in on the big heist. He meets Tasha (by Alicia Vikander) and they all travel to an outback Kalgoorlie gold refinery to put the plan into action. But there’s a few hiccups. JR gets caught up in the mess and things get deadly. Can he still trust Brendan? Will he come out of this alive?

This movie is reasonable, but not outstanding. To me, it’s just not convincing – although I’m a great fan of Ewan McGregor’s work, even he can’t save this one. The characters are not explored well and we don’t really learn anything about JR or what motivates him. The other characters are depicted as people you’d rather not get to know, so the whole thing is a little unco-ordinated really. As Tasha, Alicia Vikander is fine, but her character could have been far more interesting.  Even the twist in the plot is a bit pedestrian. It’s good to see a movie shot in Western Australia and that is done well. The action scenes are done well also, but the characters are flat. I wouldn’t really bother with this one.

Made in 2014. Directed by Julius Avery.

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Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Movies


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The Impossible

A busy Australian family are living in Tokyo and plan to spend their Christmas holidays in Thailand – they look forward to sharing a happy holiday season together. In Tokyo, husband and father, Henry (by Ewen McGregor) has an important job and his wife, Maria (performed by Naomi Watts) is an Australian doctor caring for her growing boys – Lucas (by Tom Holland), Thomas (by Samuel Joslin) and Simon (by Oaklee Pendergast). The family doesn’t get back to Australia as much as they want to, but Maria hopes to relocate there soon so she can re-join the medical profession.  The family arrive at their Thai beach resort ready for a holiday and they all start to relax. Christmas Day passes with much happiness and the family begin to settle in to their leisure time. On Boxing Day, a strong earthquake off the coast of Sumatra causes the Earth’s crust to surge upward and displaces a massive body of water. Two hours later, a 30 metre tsunami hits coastal Thailand at 800km/hr. Along with all the other holidaymakers and residents, the family at the beach resort have no defence against this force of nature and it devastates the entire region. The casualties and destruction are cataclysmic and human survival becomes a matter of sheer instinct. This is the family’s story of their time and the effect the tsunami has on them and the surrounding area.

This is the true and extraordinary story of a Spanish family (written as Australian in the movie) who were involved in the devastation of the Boxing Day Tsunami that hit the entire Indian Ocean region in 2004. I had expected more of a “holiday from hell” lightweight drama, but this movie is much better than that. The effect of the incident on this family and the area is an eye-opener. The hopelessness and drama of the situation is presented very well on screen and I often found myself thinking “yes, this is such an impossible situation to be in”. In that respect, the movie is well named. Often shown through the eyes of each of the family members in their own way, the scenario is horrendous. As Maria, Naomi Watts is very good and in 2013 she was nominated for both an Academy Award (Oscar) and a Golden Globe for her work. Ewen McGregor’s performance is real and highly emotional, even jaw-dropping in places. He is very strong. As teenage son Lucas, Tom Holland is excellent – probably the shining light here. The smaller boys, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast) do very well too for such young children. Director, J.A. Bayona has really done a good job with this – he doesn’t sensationalise anything and although in one or two places the pacing is a little slow, overall it’s great. He includes special effects occasionally and very well, particularly when he depicts Maria’s experience. For the viewers, some may find this topical, others deeply emotional, and still others may see a gritty and “in your face” drama, but whichever way you experience it, it’s worth seeing. Well done.

Made in 2012. Directed by J.A. Bayona

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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in Movies


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August: Osage County

It’s August in Osage County, Oklahoma – and it’s hot … really hot. Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep) is doing her best to endure the heat. She’s dying of cancer and the heat makes the wig she wears unbearable. Her husband, Beverly (by Sam Shepard) has just hired a new nurse and live-in housekeeper to see to Violet’s needs and he is introducing her to the ways of the household. Violet introduces herself as only she can … she staggers into the room, drug addled, slurring her words and belligerent. The new home-help, Johnna (by Misty Upham) does her best to accept the situation and the person now in her care. Knowing she is in capable hands, Beverly takes himself out fishing – but disappears. Violet alerts her family that Beverly is missing and they gradually all arrive to search for him and make sure their mother is okay. Violet’s daughter, Ivy (by Julianne Nicholson) lives nearby so she arrives quickly, she calls her sister Barbara (by Julia Roberts) who comes with her husband Bill (by Ewan McGregor) and their teenage daughter Jean (by Abigail Breslin). Then comes Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae (by Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (by Chris Cooper), followed by their son Little Charles (by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the third sister, Karen (by Juliette Lewis) and her fiancé Steve (by Dermot Mulroney). Everyone is here … now to unravel the mystery of Beverly’s disappearance … and of course uncover family tensions and secrets that should have been long buried ….

This movie is dark – both in its presentation and its mood. Violet lives in a house where the shades are down all the time – she does this with parts of her life too. Her daughters don’t see eye to eye with each other, nor with their mother. Violet is unpredictable, prone to outbursts of violence and can be sharp-tongued – her daughters, particularly Barbara, have learned this too. They bring all their family troubles back to the house and churn them all up again in this drama. As you would expect from such a strong cast, the performances are all good. I’ve never seen Meryl Streep in such a confronting role – she is fabulous. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper support her well. The tension between Barbara and Bill portrayed by Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor is clear, but a bit pedestrian. Add to this the flighty Karen, again performed well, but just going through the motions really, by Juliette Lewis but her sleaze-ball fiancé Steve, Dermot Mulroney seems to do with ease. The roles of Little Charles, Ivy and Jean all have potential, but are never really explored. It’s a good combination – but the movie is probably a bit too long for its superficiality. Okay … we get the point – these people don’t get on, don’t trust each other and don’t really like each other, the family secrets will come out – truths will hurt and nobody will be happy. It’s the dramatization of the play by Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2008. Both Meryl Street and Julia Roberts were nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for their performances here.

Made in 2013. Directed by John Wells

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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Movies


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Perfect Sense

Susan (played by Eva Green) is a scientist – her specialty is the identification and management of community disease, particularly epidemiology. Michael (by Ewan McGregor) is a chef – he leads a relatively solitary life, but is engrossed in his work and takes pride in the enjoyment others get from his food. One day, he takes a break from his kitchen to have a cigarette in the back laneway. He sees Susan at her window and they exchange a couple of words. But she is in no mood to chat as a strange new disease has afflicted several people in the city and she’s trying to identify it, so she can help them. As the days go by and the mystery illness continues to perplex Susan, the number of afflicted grows … symptoms include a loss of the sense of smell. Michael’s friendship with Susan progresses, as does the disease – it spreads around the world and the symptoms worsen – people start to lose their taste, then their hearing …. it’s clear this epidemic is out of control, societies are losing their governance and the world as we know it will come to a grisly, tortuous end. Susan and Michael face the last days of the world with the mystery illness progressing, they are powerless to stop it – just as they are powerless to stop the love that is developing between them …..

Wow, what a movie this is … it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It starts out as a normal romance drama – two people with totally different lives go about their days without love – one feeling they’ll never find love, the other never wanting to be involved again … they meet … etc. Yes, this does that, but then the wrap-around story is intriguing – the notion that with all things known and familiar to people being lost, somehow the human spirit prevails to find something that still confirms the “joie de vie” … the joy of life. When smell is lost, then taste is lost… will people still want to eat out? What’s in memories and a relationship once people can’t detect scent and remember aroma (good and bad) from past experiences? how would each of us face knowing we’ll slowly lose our ability to taste? hear? and see? In this movie the actors are all challenged and I’m sure they would have found this immensely satisfying to work on. Eva Green and Ewan McGregor must portray the full gamut of emotions from joy through confusion and anger to violence and sheer hysteria and mindless mania. The performances by several of the cast are excellent – particularly McGregor and Green, but also Ewen Bremner, who I hadn’t seen since “Trainspotting” – he was great. No surprise that this movie was nominated for Best Movie awards in the 2011 Bratislava, Edinburgh and Philadelphia Film Festivals and won awards at both Edinburgh and Philadelphia. It’s great – the chaotic hand held camerawork in parts, adds to the sense of helplessness – it’s a very compelling movie. The ending is appropriate and well executed …there’s no sugary sweet “happily ever after” here … Very well done.

Made in 2011. Directed by David Mackenzie

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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Movies


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Cassandra’s Dream

Ian (played by Ewan McGregor) is an ambitious cockney lad-about-town with a yearn for big business and big profits, but he only has a small bank balance. His best mate is his brother Terry (by Colin Farrell). Terry’s the same … loves money, works hard, but is a really bad gambler. They are close in age and have virtually spent their entire lives as best friends. One day, after a happy reminiscence of their boyhood days, they decide to pool their money and buy a boat. Terry’s just had a huge win at the track, so they name her “Cassandra’s Dream” after the racehorse. Unfortunately, both boys get a taste for the high life and things get a bit hard when they must find more cash to fund their lavish ways and continue to please their girlfriends Angela (by Hayley Atwell) and Kate (by Sally Hawkins). Then out of the blue their rich Uncle Howard (by Tom Wilkinson) asks for their help on a job with his business colleague Martin Burns (by Philip Davis), which promises a huge payday for the boys … easy money! … problem solved! So the boys agree to do the job, but soon things start to take a turn for the worse ….

This is a solid but unremarkable movie. You could forget that it’s a Woody Allen piece as it doesn’t seem to have the quirky hallmarks or comedy edge that most of his do. It’s more of a television style movie really, but it’s quite easy to watch. The comedy is there, but this as more moral fibre to it – the dynamics of family loyalties, ambition and love. It’s fine, but I’d suggest you wait for it on television.

Made in 2007. Directed by Woody Allen.

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Movies


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Lenny (played by Nicholas Greaves) has a very happy life. He loves his football team – Arsenal – loves his best friend, Rabbit, and loves having fun with his Mum and Dad (by Michelle Williams and Ed Hughes). Lenny’s just four years old and the family live a basic existence in an ex-Council flat in a London tower block. One night Lenny’s dad, a policeman, goes out to work – he’s part of Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Bomb Disposal squad. As Lenny’s already in bed and sleeping, his Mum goes to the pub for a drink. She meets smart-mouthed young journalist, Jasper Black (by Ewan McGregor) and they get chatting. She ends up going home with him and against her better judgement, she sleeps with him. He’s well off and lives in a very tidy, Georgian terrace right opposite her block of flats. She is racked with guilt, but inexplicably attracted to him. They bump into each other a few times in the neighbourhood and then on May Day Lenny and his dad go to see Arsenal play at home in North London, so they get it together once again. But this time it’s different … a terrorist attack strikes the Arsenal football ground during the game, resulting in hundreds of casualties. Lenny and his dad are never seen again and his mum must try to piece her devastated life back together ….

This is a interesting movie – it puts the viewer right in the midst of this family and their daily challenges, just to live. Their life is tough, they struggle to make ends meet and the only joy in their life comes from their son Lenny. Michelle Williams is excellent as the grief stricken young Mum (we never find out her name) and she really makes you believe she is experiencing the whole range of emotions that come with grief. It’s excellent. Ewan McGregor plays that same real character he does so well – here he is a scruffy, smart, rich guy with a super cool, fast car – so that would have been fun. There are twists and turns, emotional ups and downs and some challenging moral issues to think about as you watch. It’s good. Sharon Maguire has done well – the footage surrounding the terrorist attack would have been difficult, given the recent real life events in London at the time the movie was made. This is a dramatisation of the novel of the same name by Chris Cleave.

Made in 2008. Directed by Sharon Maguire

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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Movies


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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Dr. Alfred Jones (played by Ewan McGregor) is a mild-mannered scientist and academic in the British Department of Fisheries who is passionate about fly fishing, specifically salmon fishing. He is a published researcher who spends his days with his books, his fly-tying and his fishing paraphernalia. He is approached by Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (by Emily Blunt) whose client Sheik Mohammed of Yemen (by Amr Waked) is a keen salmon fisherman with several estates in Scotland where he fly-fishes reularly.  He has the strong desire (and financial wherewithal) to introduce salmon fishing into his home country of Yemen and he has engaged Harriet to investigate the feasibility of such a scheme. At first, Alfred is dismissive of the “hair-brained” notion, but due to political and public relations pressures, the British Prime Minister soon decides this project should have top priority so he puts his most senior PR Executive Patricia Maxwell (by Kristin Scott Thomas) onto the job to make sure it happens, with all the accompanying positive media exposure, Alfred finds himself reluctantly involved. Both he and Harriet are forced together to make this project work and each is also happy for the distraction as things in their personal lives are not running smoothly. As the project begins to take shape and seem like it may actually be possible, Alfred discovers he has a passion for it – and for Harriet. But, as expected, the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly and neither does the establishment of a salmon run in Yemen …..

This is a sweet movie with wonderful cinematography that showcases the stunning Scottish countryside as well as the stark beauty of Yemen.  As always, Ewan is wonderful as the timid Dr Alfred Jones and his deadpan humour is exquisite. Emily Blunt is perfect as Harriet – she is beautiful, intelligent, worldly-wise and also a little vulnerable so her world can seem steady one minute and rocky the next. They are a good balance here. The devillishly handsome Egyptian actor Amr Waked does a fine job – he is totally authentic and believable as a realistic but super rich Sheik. Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance as Patricia Maxwell is delicious and she brings a welcome edge to this story.  It’s entertaining and does leave you with a warm feeling in the end.

The movie is an adaptation of the satirical novel by Paul Torday.

Made in 2012. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Movies


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