Sunday, 27 October 2013

289, Blue Jasmine

Sadly - I've never really been a Woody Allen fan.  I know this will probably cause uproar from some of my readers but I'm just not.

I understand the man stands close to genius when it comes to previous movies and his work is highly regarded by many but I find them a little slow and meaningless.  Whimsical romantic stories with stunning and notable casts but just aimed at an entirely different audience that that of myself.

So - when I sat down to Blue Jasmine and having no actual clue what it was about my heart sank when I saw it was written and directed by the man above.

This movie is a 50/50 mix between present day and flashbacks of a life led by Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) having to rebuild her life after hubby Hal (Alec Baldwin) is outed as a fraud and subsequently banged up. 

Now homeless and seeking refuge from her far less wealthy sister who she's ignored for years to the point of actually losing them a lottery fortune when she advised her sister and hubby to invest in a hotel of Hal's that went 'unexpectedly' under but refusing to take any blame - Jasmine plods through life supposedly unaware of her wandering hubby and his dodgy dealings and their life together makes up half the story with the other half coming to terms with having to work and find new love.

Basically - that's covered it.  Jasmine's fear of being alone and not looked after means she falsifies her life story to impress new weatlhy suitors in a bid to gain back her 'Gucci' lifestyle, to the point of even convincing her sister she can do far better than new beau - who she paired up with after the hubby left as a result of the lottery loss.

On the whole - Jasmine comes across as a deluded wannabee - expecting everything to be handed to her without lifting a finger to help anyone and by the time the movie ends - she gets her just desserts.

That's it for this blog - Woody Allen fans will love it I'm sure but sadly, I'm not one of them.

288, Filth

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this new movie starring James McAvoy. 

The trailer plays out like a fast paced hallucinogen - bouncing from scene to scene in seconds and portraying an 80's themed Trainspotting revival (after all - it is written by the same Author - Irvine Welsh) but what you end up with is something completely unique.

McAvoy stars as Bruce Robertson, a drinking, drug taking dirty cop who starts the movie dreaming of promotion but pitted against a handful of other officers in his department needs to make sure he does what's needed to secure the much sought after job.  You're also introduced to Robertson's wife Carole, although she's only seen in apparent dream sequences and sultry seductive images - and never with Bruce - instantly opening up the question of is she alive or not?

If ever a movie was hard to explain on paper then this is truly it!  Although I loved the film - being able to come away and write about it proved extremely difficult as I've never seen anything like it before.  Its rude, crude, funny, explicit, weird, confusing, sickening and in some elements, sexy but when I found it difficult to actually place the movie in any kind of time frame i.e 80's dial phones paired with flat screen TV's, Cars with 'S' reg plates but suits and sideburns from the 60's I felt it was in a limbo on genres, making it even more confusing but enthralling at the same time.

McAvoy spends the whole movie dealing with his tortured past and misdirected future.  The story of his wife plays throughout and culminates with an amazing twist that I worked out about 15 minutes before it made apparent.  McAvoy's betrayal of everyone he knows - from his colleagues (that include Jamie Bell) to sleeping with another's officers wife, causing conflict amongst the ranks in a bid to secure his own promotional successes and his 'Freemasons' connections and apparent best pal Bladesey (Eddie Marsdon) who he not only bullies constantly but also makes a play on his wife but in a far darker sense of the word.

Then there is the Jim Broadbent character who as the shrink, comes across in an almost freakish capacity with hallucination's playing a massive part as a result of all the drugs.

Then there is the violence, sex and language that accompany the dirty cop side of the movie and a disturbing scene involving a 15 years old girl and McAvoy's relentless disregard to for decency.

There is so much more to this movie that would take me hours to write down but basically - its everything the trailer promises it to be with an unexpected ending that does eventually tug on the heartstrings.

To sum up - with everything said and done (to the best of my ability) I totally loved this movie.  Completely unique & totally questionable in every way I promise you wont have seen anything like it before and wont do for a while to come.

If you want a movie that will most definitely take you way outside your own comfort zone  - then Filth is for you.

287, Runner Runner

Runner Runner is a quirky little no brainer that sees University student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) as a broke student - desperate to get through to graduation but with funds causing a problem - and the Dean looking to bring an abrupt halt to his dodgy casino referral business on campus he has no choice but to gamble his remaining few thousand dollars on a bid to secure enough cash to finish his degree.

With a flair for numbers - Furst is confused when his early winning streak on a certain on-line gambling blackjack site takes a turn for the worst and after being outplayed at every hand - decides to look a bit deeper into the website, only to discover a fix in the program - cheating him out of his college fund.

In a weird plan to seek out the site's owner and resident multi millionaire Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), residing in Cuba and basically ask for his money back, Furst (after discovering the supposed 'bug' in the software) ends up being offered a 7 figure salary to work with Block as the local numbers guru and cash runner between Block and the authorities that allow him to keep his under the table operation running but wanting to have his cake and eat it - Block has his own plan to swindle the local authorities and make off to another non extradition country, leaving Furst as the fall guy for the whole operation.

Affleck and Timberlake are just standard in this movie although the supporting cast of Gemma Arterton as Block's right hand lady and object of Timerlake's desires Rebecca Shafran and the FBI lead agent on the Block case, Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) do manage to shine. 

I'm not sure if I was just expecting more from the two male leads but this movie just comes across as a time filler.  A quick pay check for those involved as they all gear up for bigger and better things over the next few years.

This film does have a lot of good things about it though - Arterton for one just keeps getting better and better and as expected - dazzles on the glamour front, furthering her own career I'm sure in the process, as well as breaking even more hearts along the way.

The story is fast paced and punchy and Timberlakes character is soon faced with the imminent threat of danger - forcing him to make his own plans to ensure he's not left holding the baby when it all goes tits up!

The only thing I have an issue with in this movie was the ending, which is sad as it takes the entire pace out of the film.  Block - an international gambling entrepreneur and general Mr Nasty just seemingly appears to give up in a very much - "Oh blast, you got me" scene that you expect so much more from and it just doesn't come.

That aside - getting there was fun enough so lets forgive the lame finale.  On the whole, an enjoyable and unexpected film that crept up on me with no real prior knowledge and one I'd recommend if you're after a no brainer, light hearted thriller with a few smiles along the way.

286, Prisoners

Prisoners is the chilling story of two young girls who go missing after walking between their two houses literally within 100 yards of each other during Thanksgiving in a leafy American town.

The families, celebrating at the time believe all is well, knowing the neighbours, living so close and once reality kicks in that they've potentially been abducted you can feel the panic set in and the movie plays out with a real conflict between two types of parents - those who want to let the authorities do their job and those who want to take matters into their own hands.

Hugh Jackman plays the latter - Keller and once the police quickly arrest a potential suspect who was seen lurking around at the time it doesn't take long for the story to unravel but with a lack of evidence and no sign of the girls he's released on bail - something Jackman protests greatly and deciding to take matters into his own hands, seeks to imprison the oddly behaved and seemingly guilty suspect Alex (played by Paul Dano) much to the disbelief of best friend and other parent Franklin Birch - played by Terrence Howard.

The involvement of Jake Gyllenhaaal as Detective Loki is a fantastic casting as the overworked and seemingly lonely officer assigned to the case and his determination to help the families sees him having to question if Keller's involvement is one step too far, in a way - making the victim a suspect in his own right.

This movie will leave most who watch it on a knife edge between what you would do for your kids and what's right in the name of the law.  The difference of opinion between the two families seemingly covers every base and with an immediate suspect in the frame - means there is no real guesswork as to who the guilty party (or parties) are although with that said, they have still managed to throw in a fantastic twist at the end that you wont see coming.

The sleepy and dismal setting of this movie does make for a visual dud in my opinion but the story doesn't really give way for light and cheerful scenarios and although the story is captivating - wanting the audience to make sure the girls do make it out alive it does seem to drag on somewhat.

There is no hidden agenda with this movie.  Its a moral standing on what's right and what's wrong, surrounding a potentially hideous crime that would make all parents sick to their stomach.  Your heart goes out to the families in this and although I wont give away the ending - you make your own mind up if Keller's or Loki's / Birch approach is one that you would take.

285, Rush

I have never claimed to be 'sporty' in any way shape or form and in some ways, the same can be said of cinema (apart from movies based on American football).  Historically - sports films normally fall at the first hurdle. 

However - take an old school rivalry from the 70's & super fast cars that defied most current safety laws and you have the stunningly exciting sport of Formula 1, bought magnificently to the big screen by Director Ron Howard, who charts the epic on (and off track) battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1976 Championship.  A Championship that saw Hunt win his one and only title and that saw Lauda a victim in a horrific fire - but still battled through to a final race showdown.

'Senna' started it all off with the documentary on probably one of the greatest drivers ever but it was just that - a Documentary - this is a movie - and what a movie!

I don't even believe you have to like or indeed know anything about F1 to enjoy this film.  Howard has captivated the essence of the drama and action seamlessly with fantastic cars, great settings and what seems like real footage cut in amongst the 70's TV visuals of the races as they happened.

For those who don't know the story - James Hunt is the playboy racer, Lauda - his more reserved, professional nemesis and in the early races easily wiping the floor with Hunt until a crash and fire that sees him carried out of his car and for most, completely written off for the season - sadly the victim of terrible burns still seen to this day.

In Lauda's absence - Hunt 'wow's' the crowds - clawing back points from the absent Niki and its these wins that spur Lauda to recover and get back in the car for the finale - that actually sees him retire from the final race that could secure him the title had it not been for terrible weather conditions.

Hunt - with victory in his sights wins the race and takes his only title - something that he claims was through skill but in hindsight - something he would never achieved had Lauda remained competitive for the whole season (but you try telling Hunt that!)

Its the characters of this film that make it a winner - superbly portrayed by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth and his racing counterpart Daniel Bruhl as Lauda.  Their on and off track rivalry shows Hunt as the womanising, drinking party boy and Lauda as the reserved professional, with a fantastic final scene at an airstrip with Lauda questioning why Hunt wasn't testing and preparing for the following season, one Lauda went onto win himself and Hunt's response "I'm just enjoying being the Champ - you should try it" something Lauda went onto do 3 times in his career and one that Hunt never managed again.

At the Indian Grand Prix this weekend, Lauda was on camera saying he loved the film - a fantastic portrayal and something he was proud of, wishing Hunt had been alive to see it and that's good enough for me.

Being born in 1976 to a dad to loved F1, I too watched these races from as early as I can remember (and still do to tis day) but this year is one I wish I'd been able to see with my own eyes - stunning, adrenaline filled bravery and determination, something that just wont ever happen again with the Health & Safety and Rules and Regulations of today's quite tame comparison but I'm sure the drivers of today would state its even tougher out there now.

Having this movie made seems to have captured the essence of the 1976 season and I'm glad it was as good as it is.  If Niki Lauda approves - who am I to judge?