I can guarantee you that if your aren't the guy who walked out of this film in my cinema today then this may be the most pleasant movie you'll see all year. The Skeleton Twins follows the story of Milo (Bill Hader), a depressed gay man who, at the start of the movie, attempts to kill himself. When in hospital he's visited by his sister, Maggie (Kristen Wiig), whom he hasn't had contact with for over ten years. Maggie invites him to come stay with her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), until things settle down, causing a chaotic series of bonding, fighting and reliving memories.
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are at the top of their game, giving career best performances. The two literally have not been better. They give performances with such emotion, humour and charm, allowing every scene to play seamlessly into the next and without anything coming across as out of place or out of the ordinary. Their performances make everything seem natural, even the rather odd, yet entertaining scene at Maggie's work where the two get high off of happy gas and go around making fart noises. My immature self got almost too many laughs out of this scene. This, coincidentally, was also the scene where the guy left my cinema with a distort look on his face. Bill Hader's character just may be up there as one of the most sympathetic, likeable and charming characters we've had all year, very much thanks to Hader's incredible, charismatic performance.
In similar style to this year's The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins will successfully twist your emotions into a ball then spit it back into your face, all while maintaining a large smile. Within the first three minutes of this movie I was tearing up, the film's first venture through your emotions. We're introduced to this character that we know next to nothing about, but thanks to the sumptuous looking cinematography and editing, we know all we need to know to have an emotional response towards this film. This is just the first three minutes that we're talking about people! There's still 90 more to go. 90 more minutes of splendidly mixed emotion, comedy and charm, making The Skeleton Twins one of the sweetest movies of the year.
The comedy is handled well and never once feels forced. I actually like Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader a lot. Unfortunately, they never truly get the recognition they deserve. Their comedy in this film is spot-on, never missing a beat and always getting a laugh out of me. There was never once in this movie when the humour didn't work. Luke Wilson, who's role is still funny, but has more of a dramatic tone to it, also handles the comedy well. Like Wiig and Hader, I enjoy his presence in movies, The Royal Tenenbaums being the first film that comes to mind. He's always been one to handle comedy and drama well and in The Skeleton Twins he soars!
To sum up, The Skeleton Twins is an incredibly sweet and emotionally draining film that features career best performances from Wiig and Hader, some of 2014's most likeable characters and comedy that never misses a beat.
4 1/2 Stars
Just when you thought Arnold Schwarzenegger may be getting his career back on track, BAM! We get this film. Sabotage follows the story of John Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger), leader of a DEA task force, along with his crew of drunken, violent and potty-mouthed (yes, I just wrote potty-mouthed) men and women. After failing to complete a drug bust, the crew are distraught and on the edge, not sure which one of them is an undercover baddie. It's a mess. That's my attempt at summarising the storyline for Sabotage, but I doubt I'm even close with all the sub-plots and backstories macausing this film to be a convoluted pile of garbage.
The only positive about this film is Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. He is the only thing this film has at redemption, but unfortunately the rest of it is so goddamn terrible that not even the governor can save it. While his performance is decent, I would argue the fact that it's his best post-retirement performance, as many have stated, but I may just be blinded by how absolutely unappealing this film is when compared to his previous 2 films, both of which I enjoyed a lot more. Other than Schwarzenegger, the cast fail. Despite giving good, or even great, performances in other films their's nobody here that gives a remotely good performance. They're all on auto-pilot. A dodgy auto-pilot at that. This may be because of the clumsy screenplay that they've got to work with, but nobody in this film seems to be trying. They're all having a bit of a laugh, not caring about what's going on, just watching the world go by.
The screenplay, co-written by Skip Woods and director David Ayer, is all sorts of terrible. I had mixed hopes when beginning this movie. It looked terrible and I'd heard so many bad things about it, but David Ayer has written some praised films in his time, such as End of Watch or Training Day. Granted, he's made a couple of dodgy ones too, but they're best left unmentioned. Skip Woods, however, doesn't have the best filmography out there. He's the one responsible for bringing us, not only what most consider the worst Die Hard film (A Good Day To Die Hard), but also what most consider the worst X-Men film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Somehow this film manages to be worse than both A Good Day to Die Hard and X-Men: Origins. The dialogue is unbelievably unrealistic, the characters two dimensional and the violence unnecessarily gruesome.
Jam packed with clichés and unoriginal moments, Sabotage manages to slot in as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's worst movies. Wow, never thought I'd say that about Sabotage. Well, before I saw it that is. Arnie has made some big mistakes in his career, some that I'm not even willing to see just yet (but probably will eventually). Calling Sabotage one of his worst films is really saying something. The film is so campy, over long, slow and uninteresting. I am begging you to save yourself close to two hours of your time by going back and rewatching classic Schwarzenegger, such as Terminator, and not going to see this.
To sum up, Sabotage manages to slot in as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's worst films with a clumsy screenplay that's all sorts of terrible, unnecessarily violent, unappealing performances, clichés, 2D characters and an overlong runtime.
Cheap Thrills follows the story of Craig Daniels (Pat Healy), a happily married man living in an apartment with his wife and newborn baby. After falling months behind in his rent and loosing his job, Craig is out of ideas. One night he unexpectedly comes across his old high-school friend, Vince (Ethan Embry), who invites Craig to join in with a sort-of-gambling-like game led by a man named Colin (David Koechner) and his what appears to be uninterested wife, Violet (Sara Paxton). The game? Complete as many dares as possible, each win resulting in a cash reward.
Cheap Thrills is a darkly comedic and always energetic movie with plenty to offer for those seeking a few thrills of their own. This film is a wild ride, cramming in as many criminally crazy scenarios as possible. The result? A film that will not be leaving your mind any time soon. As the film progresses we're taken through several different dares, each harder to watch than the last. By the time we've almost made it through the 88 minute runtime we're left, not necessarily hating what we've just watched, but thankful that it's over. It's a violent and ferocious movie that's relentless all the way until its closing tile card. There's a dare made in the film's third act that's incredibly hard to watch, but is then followed by a reaction that's even harder to watch. This scene I will not spoil, but it's almost guaranteed to arise some sort of reaction from all that view it.
The screenplay is wild, aided by excellent performances. A screenplay can be good, but it won't necessarily make the film good when placed on screen. Without a decent cast or a gutsy enough director, Cheap Thrills could have been a disaster. Even on paper the film may sound a little flat, but put together it makes for one hell of a movie. The cast bring pacing to this film, making every moment watchable. David Koenchner is granted permission to be his usual self, surprisingly heightening my enjoyment for this odd, yet brilliant piece of filmmaking that's both delightful and stressful to watch. Think Antichrist, but with more comedy and less (SPOILER ALERT) genital mutilations.
Towards the middle of the film it tries to take an out of place swerve to a different direction. There's a scene that begins by boasting with character traits, but then quickly changes directions into something unnecessary and out of character. This scene appears for just a few minutes (thankfully), before slowing back down and retracing its steps (quite literally too). How they avoid the possibilities may also come across as out of character, but I'm really just thankful that they stopped heading in that certain direction before it was too late.
To sum up, Cheap Thrills is a darkly comedic, always energetic, and ferocious viewing with a wild screenplay, excellent performances and heightened direction, offering more than enough for those seeking a few thrills of their own.
3 1/2 Stars
For all of you unlucky people, like myself, who had to sit through Sex Tape, we need to be thankful that The Little Death turned out to be quite the opposite. The film documents (fictionally, of course) several couples all living in the same neighbourhood, each with a different, but connected, story to tell about love, sex, marriage and, um, fetishes. Yeah, lots and lots of fetishes. Weird fetishes? Well you'll have to define weird.
The Little Death is an absolute blast of a movie. The film always manages to push the boundaries of what to show or what not to show, without ever going too far. It's a riot from start to finish, opening on a scene that's awkward, uncomfortable and almost too much for me to handle, yet still somewhat entertaining. It then closes on what is essentially a brand new story that's also one of the film's highlights. Writer and director Josh Lawson, who also stars in the film as Paul, a man with a foot fetish and a girlfriend who's insisting he rapes her, knows how to make a good comedy. His multi-story narrative intelligently intertwines with one another and comes together for a satisfying and embarrassingly hilarious ending.
The film's runtime is cut to perfection, giving each of the story lines more than enough screen time. Cutting between different stories in films tends to work more often than not, but I always end up fearing that the one I'm about to watch just won't work. The Little Death most certainly works. Each story gets its chance to show off a great deal of witty comedy and raw emotion. Sadly, each story also comes with a scene or two that just doesn't work. They all tend to drag at some point or another. Some for a longer period than others. The storyline involving a man who's sexually aroused by his wife sleeping tends to do this the most. It's not necessarily because that storyline is bad, as it's not, but it's definitely the weakest and most uneventful of the stories on offer.
The cast do their best, nobody dragging the film along in hopes that they may once give some emotion. They're all fine. Beyond fine, actually. They're witty, confident and are able to create the most awkward of situations. This film is really awkward, and deliberately so. Without glorifying it or even showing it for a prolonged time frame, The Little Death covers the most unusual of sex-related topics with characters that feel, for the most part, real. Sure, they're all a little odd, each with their own unique way of doing things (lots of things), but that's the point of it all, and it sure does make for a highly entertaining and very unique comedy that hits all the right notes.
To sum up, The Little Death's writer and director, Josh Lawson proves once again that he knows how to do comedy with a film that's awkward, witty, unusual, confident and filled with raw emotion. The Little Death hits all the right notes.
The Equalizer plays out more like a TV show than it does a movie, probably because it's based on one. Because of this, I shall not be reviewing this as a film, but as a television show, because clearly that's what this is. The Equalizer follows the story of Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a selfless man trying to put his mysterious past behind him. In the pilot episode he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young prostitute who's under threat from her Russian bosses. Robert sets out to take down her bosses and let her be free, but in doing so he starts something far greater than what he initially intended.
The Equalizer, as an entire season, fails. In comparison to a handful of other recent television shows with a similar subject matter, The Equalizer is rather week. The season opens with a strong pilot, it's intriguing and successfully sets up what's to come for the show's forthcoming episodes. This episode may be a little slow and repetitive, never really getting anywhere until the final few scenes, but it's the show's best episode. The episodes that follow are the downfall of this show. What went from a show full of potential, quickly went to a predictable, messy and clichéd series that doesn't manage to pack enough punch until its violent, explosive and thrilling season finale, with that final episode's only problem being that there just wasn't enough tension necessary for an episode of such great proportions.
With so many different stories to tell, some of the cast really needed to return for more episodes. The show does an outstanding job with its casting. Denzel Washington owns his character, creating a likeable yet incredibly violent hero out for justice. Even when we're forced to watch him do the same old thing episode after episode, he can do it in a way no other actor could come close to mastering. The supporting cast, as magnificent as a few of them are, just don't appear in enough episodes. Chloé Grace Moretz, who's provocative role is easily the second best performance in this series, isn't used to a great enough extent. Admittedly, her character wouldn't have a lot to do in the post-pilot episodes, but if we could check in on her every now and again then it would've make this direful series all the more respectable.
Throughout each of the episodes we're given brief glimpses of our primary antagonist. He begins by simply appearing for just a scene in each episode, but as the season goes on we're given more and more scenes with him in it, resulting in the final episodes to focus entirely on the threats he poses. Actor Marton Csokas does well with the character, giving him a sinister appeal, but his character has been seen in dozens of other films and shows. He is the most clichéd and unoriginal villain you could think of. He kills people just to send a message. He's covered in horrific and villain-like tattoos. And, the more stereotypical one, he's foreign. They don't come more generic than this.
The cinematography and direction work in some episodes, whereas they don't in others. This is a really odd point to make about this TV show, seeings as how the cinematographer and director stay consistent throughout the entirety of the show's air. Director Antoine Fugua, who's new to the small screen, understands how to get the best out of his top-notch cast. The visuals in the film are grotesquely shot too. Unfortunately this only happens in a few episodes, the first and last in particular. The other episodes can be tossed away, they rarely add anything to the overall plot.
To sum up, The Equalizer features some top-notch casting, grotesque camera angles and consistent direction, but they can't withstand the flimsy and messy plot or the episodes between the pilot and the season finale.
Um, where is it that I should start with this movie? It's, um, unique, I'll say that. It's very interesting too, yes, yes. It's, um, odd also. Very very odd. Escape From Tomorrow follows the story of Jim (Roy Abramsohn), a father who's visiting Disney World with his family. Upon arriving at their resort he's told that he's fired from his job, causing him to enter into a state of depression that he insists on hiding for the sake of his family's holiday. As they venture throughout the park Jim's mind begins to wander off, leading him into a bunch of, um, interesting scenarios. Yeah, they're, um, interesting.
Escape From Tomorrow hasn't been received well, and that's understandable. It's most definitely not for everyone. It's almost like a blend of one of those found-footage horror movies (pick any one, they're all practically the same thing) and a Stanley Kubrick film. It's a complex, psychotic ride. This film is weird, if I haven't made that clear already. It's undoubtably too weird for some, combining odd visuals with haunting cuts, resulting in one hell of a movie. The film was made without Disney's permission, secretly filmed by the cast and crew while security wasn't looking. Obviously, this has stirred up a great deal of controversy, but I honestly think that this film is worth watching just for that reason alone.
The film's screenplay, although slow in pace, is highly original and incredibly intriguing. Like I just said, if Stanley Kubrick were alive today he would be all over this film. For those who've fortunately seen a Kubrick film (please tell me that you have), you'll know this his films are always multi-layered, dark, frightening, original (mostly) and outstandingly well written. Escape From Tomorrow falls under all these categories. It doesn't hook you right away, or it certainly didn't for me, but as the film goes on it just gets weirder and weirder and weirder. We're taken on a journey throughout Disney World with a man who's mind is constantly wandering off or creating fantasies. We have no idea if anything we're seeing is real or if we're simply loosing our minds too. Although I don't intend on ever seeing this film again, it's one that I think I'll get more out of when rewatching.
The screenplay may need no extra work, but the effects and acting does. To be fair, this film was made on a small budget, and so they presumably didn't have access to a lot of big budgeted special effects, and I get that. I understand what that does to a film, but for Escape From Tomorrow is simply doesn't matter. The film is so unique, off-putting and brilliant and so I didn't mind if a few of the haunting effects look noticeably fake. I did, however, mind that some of the acting could use some touch ups. Nobody in this film gives a great performance, they're all either fine of average, nothing that manages to stand out.
To sum up, Escape From Tomorrow is most certainly not going to appeal to everyone, but I, myself, found it to be a highly original, frightening, complex and very Stanley Kubrick-like. It's, um, unique, and that's all you really need to know.
3 1/2 Stars
The tagline for this film goes "the end justifies the mean." Now, this may be a very truthful tagline, but that's no excuse for how much of an unrelatable asshole Jason Bateman's character is. Bad Words follows the story of this character, Guy is his name, a forty year old man who's taking advantage of a loophole in the rules of a national spelling bee competition. So, to take vengeance over something done to him the past, he insists on remaining in the competition until its bitter end, or the larger end (if you want to quote a far superior comedy, The World's End).
Bad Words is an original, funny and occasionally sweet comedy, if not a bit predictable too. While I will delve into my many problems that I have with Bad Words, I shall begin by stating that this film is very easy to swallow. It's not complex or in depth, but it has enough charm and wit to make it very watchable. The screenplay by Andrew Dodge, while containing more than a few jokes that take it a little too far for my liking, is wonderful. As the film progresses it turns away from its despicable past and into its charming, hilarious and incredibly enjoyable finale that even packs in a bit of heart. There isn't, however, too many characters that I was compelled to root for. Guy, as I suggested in the previous paragraph, is a terrible human being. He's rude, obnoxious, shallow and self-centred. He's not the ideal protagonist, although that is perhaps the point of this movie, to show him change as a human being.
As well as Jason Bateman's character being a dick, Kathryn Hahn's character, although a little less douchey, failed to be funny. I've found this to be similar with other films of hers too. She just isn't that funny a person, or at least in the movies I recall seeing her in. Her character is loud and annoying, causing very few laughs from me. Her character doesn't undergo any development throughout the entirety of the film either. Although, not really any of the other characters do until the closing minutes where it's forcefully crammed in.
Bad Words frequently cross the line of believability. There is very little in this film that plays out realistically, it's all exaggerated to make for a more entertaining movie. There's a scene where Guy takes Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), the little kid and fellow competitor that he befriends, to see a prostitute's breasts. This scene may come across funny to the average audience member, but there's no way that it makes sense. The filmmakers try to weave their away around it by having Guy lie to the prostitute about his age, but this just makes the film come across even stupider.
To sum up, Bad Words makes it hard to relate to the main characters and it frequently crosses the line of believability, but that doesn't stop it from being a highly entertaining, rather hilarious, occasionally sweet and very original comedy movie.
I'm late, I know, but better late than never, right? Felony follows the story of Malcom Toohey (Joel Edgerton), a Sydney cop out celebrating a successful raid, a raid which caused Malcom to take a bullet. When driving home from this night-out, Malcom, very much intoxicated, accidentally runs over a young boy on his bike. Not wanting to get in trouble, Malcom begins to lie to the police about what happened, including to the suspicious detective, Jim Melic (Jai Courtney). Now Malcom must either live with the lie he's set up, or turn himself in and face the charges.
Felony is a sleek, fast paced and riveting Aussie thriller. I don't know how many times I can point this out, but I am in love with the Australian Film Industry this year. So much so that I really regret not seeing 52 Tuesdays or These Final Hours, both of which are on my must-rent list. Felony is a film that draws you in right away. The opening shot of the film, although mostly digital, was absolutely stunning, perfectly manoeuvred and expertly teasing, ensuring that we stay seated. We then cut back a few hours and get the final moments before Malcom's "complication" of sorts. Felony never wants us to turn away or to leave. It wants us to stay and watch and it knows precisely how to do so. With tight editing, a brisk runtime and a fresh storyline, Felony is a yet another Australian film that should be put on your radar.
The performances in this film are astounding. Jai Courtney returns in a career-best performance, proving once again that last year's A Good Day To Die Hard was simply a mistake. Joel Edgerton may appear amazing, and he is, but he shrivels in comparison to Tom Wilkinson's devious and manipulative performance, making his character easy to hate as the film goes on. All letting free their thick Aussie accents, Felony is a film that feels right at home. It's reality, written extravagantly by Joel Edgerton in the first film to be written solely by him (he co-wrote 2008's The Square and provided the storyline for this year's The Rover). The dialogue is truthful, the situations are engaging and the characters are thorough.
It's not until the film's ending that we become underwhelmed. For 95 minutes I was glued to the screen, not wanting to turn away and not disengaged in the least bit. Then the ending happens. And while it's shocking, emotional and unbelievably powerful, what follows is a little disappointing. Everything happens, it's stylishly shot and fabulously directed, but then the film stops. It just freaking stops. We're given a good idea of what's to happen next, but the film cuts off so unexpectedly and disappointingly.
To sum up, Felony is a sleek, fast paced and riveting Aussie thriller with astounding performances, an extravagant screenplay and an original and engaging premise, although the ending cuts off a few minutes too soon.
I will never understand what makes sports drafts so entertaining, but clearly the filmmakers on this film understood how. Draft Day follows the story of Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner), a middle aged NFL general manager following in the footsteps of his late father, whom Sonny reluctantly fired prior to his passing. The film is set on the most frustrating day in an NFL general manager's career; Draft Day (hence the title). He is forced to make a serious of decisions that will affect the lives of his team, all while trying to hide his relationship with the newly pregnant, Ali (Jennifer Garner).
Draft Day won't appeal far beyond fans of the sport. Unlike other sports-related films such as Rocky or Raging Bull or the more recent Moneyball, Draft Day doesn't spent much time getting you invested in the sport. Well, it really doesn't spend any time on it. Its target audience is the already built fan base of the NFL, not necessarily cinephiles in general. I was lucky enough to find some enjoyment in the film, although that is because there's a lot more going on in this movie than just the drafting. It's a character driven movie, led by another entrancing performance from Kevin Costner, and occasionally a decent one from Jennifer Garner. That being said, not a lot of the other performances are to boast about. For the most part they're fine, nothing horrendous, there's just nobody that stood out.
The stakes are absent, but the pressure is high in Draft Day. It's almost a fictional documentation of how this process goes down, or at least it tries to be. It is set in just one day, nothing before and nothing after. While it successfully gives off how much pressure comes with this job, thankfully elevated by the engaging screenplay and brilliant performance from Costner, it doesn't spend too much time on what would happen if Sonny's plan didn't work. The film was unable to convey that to us, resulting in a lot of frustration for no apparent reason, when deep down you already know how this film is going to play out.
All of the comic relief is forced and unfunny. It's really disappointing to me at least, that this film's humour doesn't work. Even though I went in thinking that this film was 100% a drama, the comedy is underwhelming. When the director of Ghostbusters is making a film, you'd hope it's entertaining. It was, don't get me wrong, but the comedy is so forced, irrational and unfunny. In the most clichéd way possible, Sonny is put in charge of an intern that he must take under his wing and get help from. This character plays no relevance to the plot and is simply there to be comic relief and nothing more. The worst part of it is that his character isn't even funny. The only joke that initially stood out, but has since stopped being funny, was when Jennifer Garner comments on how the players receive jewellery after winning the season.
To sum up, Draft Day won't appeal far beyond fans of the sport, but it's still a fast paced and engaging sports movie that's elevated by another entrancing performance from Kevin Costner and an occasionally decent one from Garner.
There's something about animation that I've always found magical. Even if the film is complete rubbish, I've always found something wonderful about them. The Boxtrolls follows the story of Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), a young human boy, yes describing him as human is important in this story, who at a young age was taken by Boxtrolls. Boxtrolls, if you can't guess, are essentially small trolls who live in boxes. As the years go by, the boxtroll population declines, forcing Eggs to leave the safety of his underground home in an attempt to save his friends.
The Boxtrolls features splendid animation, along with a splendid storyline. The Boxtrolls, although aimed at a younger audience, is a film that, no matter what your age is, you'll be able to find some form of enjoyment in. It's an innocent film that means well, and does well. The hand made claymation is alive and bursting with details, and it's captured mesmerisingly by the rather impressive cinematography. There's a shot early on in the film that's from the POV of Eggs as he's climbing up the sewer and entering into the town for the first time and, my god, the shot is amazing. The Boxtrolls never feels like it's a series of photos being played back at an incredibly fast pace. The film feels alive. The detail and precision that the people behind this, Paranorman, Coraline and many other films is just outstanding. They're yet to make a bad looking film, or even a bad film, if memory serves.
The only real flaw that The Boxtrolls has is that it tackles familiar themes and it's a bit predictable. Well, that's two flaws actually, but they both play into each other. The film's messages, I'd list them, but they'd imply several spoilers and I'm just not that type of guy (unless my review calls for a spoiler-filled paragraph), although relevant, have been done in many previous films, a handful of which were done to a greater extent than how they were in this film. These themes caused for a predictable story arc and character revelations. Since these themes were beginning to be established early on, the film went down a familiar path, resulting in familiar situations.
The voice cast bring light to these gloomy characters. The characters themselves don't have a lot going for them. They're all a bit clichéd. Energetic and exciting, but clichéd. The scenes with dialogue begin mediocre, coming across forced and cheesy, but then we're introduced to more and more characters, adding to my overall enjoyment towards the film. The scenes with the box trolls, however, are a lot more fun than those with the humans. It's not that the human characters fall flat, much like this year's Godzilla, but more that they're not as fun to be around.
To sum up, The Boxtrolls, although predictable and inferior to Paranorman, is a sweet film with stunning cinematography, wonderful claymation that's bursting with details and a voice cast that brings light to these gloomy characters.
3 1/2 Stars