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St Vincent

Life could’ve been a whole lot different for Vincent (played by Bill Murray). He might have managed things a lot better and had a good job, been financially secure, been in good health and enjoyed life a lot. But … he isn’t. He’s made a few bad choices during his life, he’s got heavily into debt with a loan shark and spent most of his money on prostitutes, gambling and drinking … and now his future isn’t looking all that great. One day, he arrives home to find his new neighbour, Maggie (by Melissa McCarthy), moving in. Her removalists have damaged his property and while he grumpily listens to her apology he has little interest in her or her son, Oliver (by Jaeden Lieberher). Within a few days though, Oliver turns up on Vincent’s doorstep – locked out of his own house after being bullied at his new school. With nowhere else to go, Vincent allows Oliver inside his unkempt place until Maggie gets home. He sees an opportunity to make some extra cash, so Vincent agrees to ‘babysit’ Oliver each day after school – for a fee of course. This is the beginnings of a unique relationship between these two males – Oliver needs a father-figure and whilst Vincent struggles with this, it’s clear that Oliver needs to learn a few things about real life and Vincent’s happy to have him tag along. As the weeks pass, Oliver sees there’s much more to Vincent than just a “grumpy old man next door”.

This movie is a surprise – and it’s marvellous. It begins quite unassumingly, but as is often the case Bill Murray’s style is so understated that his appearance demands attention, and he deserves it. His performance as Vincent – a man with some very bad habits – seems to come very easily for him. But Vincent’s also a multi-faceted, caring and predominantly good human being and Bill Murray can do that so well too – he makes it look effortless. The chemistry between Oliver and Vincent is beautifully portrayed and the development of their relationship is authentic. Other characters add useful texture to the story too – Naomi Watts, weirdly cast as Russian escort, Daka – does okay in this role. As Maggie, Melissa McCarthy is great and Chris O’Dowd is perfect as Oliver’s school teacher, Brother Geraghty. This is a good movie – very entertaining. Well done.

Made in 2014. Directed by Theodore Melfi.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2015 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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Adore (Adoration)

Ros and Lil are life-long best friends. They met as schoolgirls and have grown up on the coast of Australia. Now they are adults and their lives are still centred here on the stunning New South Wales coast. Lil (played by Naomi Watts) recently lost her husband and she is grieving deeply. Her teenage son, Ian (by Xavier Samuel) lives at the beach with her, so he is a welcome comfort. Ros (by Robin Wright) lives nearby and she’s married to Harold (by Ben Mendelsohn). Their son, Tom (by James Frecheville) is best mates with Ian and they’ve grown up here. Theirs is a very close extended family and they are all very happy in this idyllic location. Out of the blue, one day Harold decides to take his “job of a lifetime” in Sydney and the families prepare for their inevitable separation when Harold, Ros and Tom shortly relocate. Tom, now almost in his twenties, just can’t bring himself to leave the beachside lifestyle – Ros realises that she can’t either. In their shared desperation for a solution they each reach out to the other family – but in new ways. Ros finds a connection with young Ian, in a most passionate and emotional encounter. When Tom finds out by accident, in a childish pay-back he connects similarly with Lil. Trouble is … now they’ve started, none of them can stop. They all know it’s wrong, but their new bonds are passionate and deep. They must do what’s necessary and act to stop the relationships – but will the price be too high?

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the stunning Australian coast. The cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne is wonderful and the area is clearly a paradise. However, apart from this, my opinion of the movie is rather uncharitable. I found the rest of the piece quite tedious and irritating. It’s not really the morality of the situation that gets to me, although it’s not ideal – it’s more the underlying principles by which these characters choose to live and the terrible movie production overall. The performances are all dreadful – Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn should know better – particularly Mendelsohn. His portrayal of Harold is totally wooden, superficial and adds little depth to the story. As Lil, Naomi Watts is okay – she actually won a “Best Actress” award for this role.  She and Robin Wright as Ros have some difficult issues to deal with, but in my opinion they don’t present well. The teenage boys are driven by hormones, as expected, so they can be excused for not thinking with the brain inside their heads. However, I can’t forgive the two women for this behaviour – disappointingly, they both come off as selfish, self-indulgent and driven by physical need. Gary Sweet’s character, Saul, is supposed to be a bit of a hopeless misfit – so he does that well, but even he can’t save this movie. Other reviewers have raved over the whole movie, but not me, sorry.

The story is adapted from “The Grandmothers”, a short story by Doris Lessing.

Made in 2013. Directed by Anne Fontaine.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 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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Diana

In 1995, Princess Diana (played by Naomi Watts) is the most famous woman in the world. Once married to the heir of the British throne, Prince Charles, she is the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. She and Charles are now divorced and she is trying to continue her life, mostly apart from the British Royal Family and her sons. In apparent disregard for this situation, the world continues to be totally entranced and fascinated with her every move. She carries on with her caring ways and her humanitarian work. One day in London, while visiting a friend in a major hospital, she meets Pakistan-born heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (by Naveen Andrews). She is instantly attracted to him and a love affair develops between them. Hasnat is equally attracted to her, but things get difficult when he, a very private man, realises the full impact of the public life Diana leads. Their romance plays out over what becomes the final two years of Diana’s life …

This movie is based on a book by journalist Kate Snell “Diana: Her Last Love” which depicts Diana as a deeply sad and lonely woman, who lives for her sons and yearns for happiness in deep, meaningful, love. Unfortunately. I avoided this movie for some time because most of the media seriously derided Naomi Watts’ performance here – but I wouldn’t do that. I guess it probably hasn’t stretched her acting skills terribly much, but as an interesting biopic and a romance, it’s quite enjoyable. It’s a bit irritating that given her notoriety at the time (and perhaps since), lots of assumptions are made by the director about what’s known about Diana, her life, her issues and the incident that caused her death – and I think as a result there may not be enough information for some viewers to get a full appreciation of the story (perhaps this is how the book is written also). Additionally, of course, as a viewer I did wonder how much of the story is based on fact and how much is fabricated for effect, but given that we will never know and it’s not important anyway, as a movie I enjoyed it.

Made in 2013. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Movies

 

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J. Edgar

J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) has been described as “the most powerful man in the world”  and this movie shows he was certainly one of the most powerful public figures in America. It is a very classy bopic of Hoover’s professional life, which depicts his first love “The Bureau”, his utter determination and passion for his work, his preparedness to do almost anything to achieve justice and his tenacious work to promote the importance and establishment the first forensic investigations and central collections of criminal records (including the significance of fingerprinting). His personal life is also explored – he is an enigma and most fascinating are his significant relationships – primarily with his mother (by Judi Dench) and his two closest associates Clyde Tolson (by Armie Hammer) and his loyal personal assistant Helen Gandy (by Naomi Watts).

Clint Eastwood has done an excellent job with this. He is one great director!  The camerawork is clean, the atmosphere he creates is excellent – he has blended archival footage with movie pieces very well to present a very moody story. I wasn’t a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio for quite some time, but his most recent works have all been very good and this is no exception – his is a superb portrayal of this complex but flawed man. Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer are also very good – my only concern is the “aged” make up – Dench’s has no problems, Di Caprio’s is good, Watts’ is acceptable … but Hammer’s is just not quite right. Is the movie too long?  I’m not sure – but I thought it was a great movie anyway – well done.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Movies

 

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Fair Game

Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts) is a covert high-powered CIA agent investigating the biological and weapons program in Iraq soon after 9/11. Her husband is former diplomat Joe Wilson (by Sean Penn) who has expertise in Africa, was asked to investigate the possibility of Niger supplying yellowcake to Iraq. After his (government arranged) work about the basis for Iraq building weapons of mass destruction, he realises that the results were ignored and he exposes this in the media.  This movie tells the story of how (as a result of Joe’s actions) Valerie was “outed” in the media  It provides a compellling insight into this true story (based on the memoirs of both the Wilsons).

I liked this movie and really wanted to find out what happens in the end – I hadn’t realised it was based on facts until the end. The performances are excellent – Sean Penn is fabulous in this bombastic role and the news footage at the end of the movie shows that Naomi Watts made a good job of playing Valerie. A good movie.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Movies

 

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