I haven't seen The Guard, John Michael McDonagh's previous film. I didn't know much about this film. I just sat down, flicked it on and watched. And my god, what a movie. Calvary follows the story of Father James (Brendan Gleeson), a priest who, during confession, is threatened by a man he cannot see. This man explains that when he was a child he was repeatedly raped by a priest. Now, as an adult, the man wishes to kill an innocent priest for vengeance. This priest being Father James, setting up a week of paranoia as he does things that could potentially destroy his faith.
Now, either I have a rather odd sense of humour or Calvary is an unbelievably funny film. It's a film with quite a dark and confronting storyline, and the events that unfold beyond the set up really don't hold back, especially with the final act. For a film that could just as easily have been a drama, Calvary is hilarious. Its dark sense of humour is rarely ever lost, although it's deliberately and effectively used less frequently when the climax approaches. It's not obvious in its humour either, avoiding every single clichéd comedy joke imaginable. It's the subtle humour that works best, and it's this subtle humour that makes the film as good as it is.
While Calvary's brilliance is mostly in the sensational screenplay and shamelessly brilliant direction, the performances don't fall flat. Brendan Gleeson gives one of his best performances to date. As a matter of fact, Gleeson just may be one of the finest working actors we have, and Calvary is one of his best films yet. His performance is so alive, his presence bursting from the screen in every single scene he's in.
Kelly Reilly, who plays Gleeson's daughter in the film, doesn't have as great a filmography as Gleeson, but that's not to say that her performance slacks. I would even argue that she's the second best performance in the entire film, despite her limited screen time. Everyone is just brilliant in this movie. From Reilly to Gleeson to Aidan Gillen and even to Chris O'Dowd. They all stand out in their own mesmerising ways.
Before I get on with my final point, may I just apologise for my reviews as of late. Although not bad, they aren't nearly as lengthy or detailed as some from just a week ago, but you can blame my infected throat and lack of days left in the year for that. Anyhow, the film's finale is what I really want to talk about here. It's a finale that's intense, shocking and full of tension. The whole film is built up to one particular moment and this moment does not disappoint. Calvary will be remembered for many years to come and, in part, it has the ending to thank for this.
To sum up, Calvary features all round brilliant performances, from Brendan Gleeson and Kelly Reilly in particular. It's subtly hilarious, confrontingly dark, full of tension and has a rather satisfying ending to top it all off.
4 1/2 Stars
2014 has brought us a bunch of awesome animated movies such as The Lego Movie, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and The Boxtrolls, just to name a few. While Big Hero 6 won't top the lot, it may just slot in close behind. The film follows the story of Hiro (Ryan Potter), a young teenager who, after an unforeseen incident, is left in charge of his older brother's loveable robot, Baymax (Scott Adsit). After the two discover an evil and rather mysterious masked villain they decide to team up with Hiro's college friends (because yes, a fourteen year old is eligible for college in this film) to take them down.
I'm a massive fan of animation and will watch any new one that comes along, meaning I have seen a lot of animated films to compare this one to. As a whole, the animated films of 2014 have been pretty damn good, The Lego Movie especially. I've been very excited for this film for a long time now, especially with Disney's recent run of films. Sure, I'm not a fan of Wreck-It-Ralph, but I can understand those who love it. Big Hero 6 doesn't quite live up to the standards set by last year's Frozen, nor does it live up to the expectations set by the damn awesome advertising on Disney's behalf, even if they didn't really push the whole Marvel comics thing. While I was a tad disappointed, Big Hero 6 is still a rocking time at the movies and it's a film I will most certainly be watching again.
The animation work is mesmerising, possibly topping Disney's previous outings. The animation is splendid, utilising as many vibrant colours as the animators could find. That really is what makes Disney films so unique, isn't it. Their colour palettes. In Big Hero 6 it's amazingly realistic; boasting top notch artwork and eye candy like visuals. There's a reason that animations are more consistent than other genres and Big Hero 6 has come along to prove this right once again.
Not only are the on-screen visuals amazing, but the off-screen voice work is rather impressive too. With an ecstatic cast that includes such notables as Maya Rudolp, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung and Damon Wayans Jr... wait, wait wait, what? Okay, the cast may not be too amazing, but hey, they work, and for the most part they're unrecognisable, which is a brilliant thing. But what's better than the mildly fine celebrity cast is in fact the not-so-recognisables, including Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney and a post credits cameo that was unbelievably awesome.
This film could most certainly have received half a star more if it weren't for a ten to fifteen minute sequence in the middle of everything. For the first hour, Big Hero 6 was brilliant. It was funny and had a strong emotional backstory between Hiro and his brother. Then the whole superhero thing was introduced, which I was on board with for a little while. Our heroes then go on their first mission, which takes them to a quarantined island. It's this prolonged sequence that I am strongly against. It's not that the film slows, it's just that it lowers the quality of writing, slapping in a bunch of cheesy dialogue and predictable twists. Thankfully, the film soon picks up again and out heroes go back at it, making for a finale that's every bit as powerful as you would hope it could be.
To sum up, Big Hero 6 may have a ten to fifteen minute sequence where the quality drops, but as far as the rest of the film goes, it's pretty damn awesome. Full of humour, emotion, excellent voice work and mesmerising animation, this film is very entertaining.
3 1/2 Stars
St. Vincent is a film that stars Bill Murray, so you know it's going to be at least somewhat entertaining. It follows the story of Vincent (Bill Murray, of course), a grouchy old man living alone. He's a drunk, plus he spends most of his nights with "the lady of the night," Daka (Naomi Watts). Then one day he discovers that he's got new neighbours, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). They don't get off to a good start, but when Maggie offers to pay Vincent to babysit Oliver, well, their awful start is put behind them and a story of friendship begins.
Bill Murray is agreeably the most likeable guy on the planet. No matter what story you hear about him, it's going to be an awesome one. We're talking about the guy who walked into a bar and started serving drinks to people, except he would give them whatever goddamn drink he wanted to. He is, in every sense of the word, legendary, and I haven't even discussed his acting yet. He's not only a great guy, but he's also a phenomenal actor, bringing us such classics as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and many many others. If I really wanted to, I could walk down to my local JB Hi Fi and pick up any Bill Murray movie and I'm positive I'd find some sort of enjoyment in it. This is Bill freaking Murray we're talking about. In St. Vincent, since it's probably a good idea that I start talking about it, he's great. Duh. He's the best part of the film. He's arrogant, but in a likeable sort of way. Why? Because he's Bill Murray, that's why.
Believe it or not, St. Vincent is every bit as likeable and charming as Bill Murray himself. It's a sincere film that's full of heart and humour, plus BILL FREAKING MURRAY. It means well and this pays off, making for a film that's easy to digest and just as pleasurable to eat. It's a hilarious romp from start to finish, chiming in some seriously memorable one liners. Opening with a shot of Bill Murray in a bar telling the jokes, the mood is set for the remained of the movie, and it's an enjoyable mood at that.
What I love most about this film is Bill Murray's character, although I'm sure you're already bored about me discussing him so I won't. Maybe. While he's hilarious, the supporting cast also do a rather good job, even if they're overshadowed by Murray. Naomi Watts may not have the best accent around, but she's still good in the role. Great, even. Then there's Melissa McCarthy, who's once again proving out to be a mixed bag, sometimes giving good performances like this and sometimes giving performances like Tammy (although to be fair, I haven't seen Tammy, nor do I intend to). But it's young Jaden Lieberher who comes as the biggest surprise. His character obviously has great chemistry with Murray and this shows, or maybe they didn't have any chemistry and the performance is just so good that I thought they did. Who knows?
There's even an emotional presence that swoops in during the second half. While the first half is fun, the second half is both fun and tear jerking, and for multiple reasons too. Some would describe it as overly sentimental, but me, well, I'm blinded by the fact that this movie stars Bill Murray and so I didn't think that way at all. To me, the sentiment works. It dragged me in and it fiddled with my heart. Oh St. Vincent, you're such a good movie, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
To sum up, St. Vincent is a romp from start to finish, featuring an as always great performance by Bill Murray, some almost as great, if not slightly overshadowed performances from the supporting cast, plenty of humour and a lot of heart.
3 1/2 Stars
Since it's in both a word and a look, I can't get rid of The Babadook, but I don't really want to either. The film follows the story of Amelia (Essie Davis), a mother who's in grief after the death of her husband. One night her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), asks her to read him a mysteriously appearing book titled 'The Babadook.' After getting just a few pages in Amelia realises that it may not be the most appropriate book out there, but since young children are always right, she reads on. What they discover is that once you've read the book, the babadook comes for you.
I'm not joking when I say that The Babadook just may slot in as one of the scariest films I have ever seen. It's a film I missed in cinemas (although I'm sure that would've added to the overall experience), but I've been looking forward to for several months now. I'd heard amazing things and at this point in time it seemed that there'd be no way that the film could exceed my enormous expectations. Well, I was wrong. The Babadook blew me away on so many levels. It's a film with little jump scares, but with a magnitude of suspense. There's a constant sinister atmosphere present throughout, this atmosphere always coming off as threatening, haunting and rather dangerous.
While on the surface The Babadook is just a horror movie, under the skin it's a deep and metaphorical movie with a lot more to offer than it originally appears. It's a story about grief, or more specifically Amelia's grief. Her husband is dead and her son's rather disruptive. She's loosing sleep, patience and sanity, and so when the babadook comes for a visit she's pushed beyond her limits. Her grievances explode, and as does the events in her life. It's an appealingly simple film that's not in any way simple.
While the execution is slow, when things hit the fan they hit it hard. It's a film that takes its time in setting up the central characters, the story and the actual babadook. With some brilliant direction and cinematography, this slow build up is worth it, for when things hit the fan (and they do) the film takes on a whole other level of amazing. It's terrifying and will leave you trembling, or at least it did for me anyway.
Essie Davis gives one of the strongest female performances this year. Her character is on the brink of insanity and her performance is spot on. She can capitulate her character's fear, anxiety and tough figure. Her character is both in love with her son and she hates him, and Davis makes this believable. She can performance both the hate and the love in a way that's, well, perfect.
And speaking of her son, Noah Wiseman also gives a powerful performance, slotting in as one of the better child performances of the year. I honestly can't believe that this child was following along with any sort of script. His performance is so natural and worrying, full of unexpected decisions and rather abusive reactions to things. It's shocking, but, like with Davis, believable. He probably won't slot in as one of the top performances of the year, but as far as children go, he just may top it. The male one anyway.
To sum up, The Babadook is a true horror film, relying on tension, atmosphere and deeper meanings. It's a well acted, filmed and directed movie that is honestly one of the scariest films I have ever seen.
4 1/2 Stars
While The Water Diviner opens on a title card claiming that it's based around true events, the film itself is only based on a single sentence found in a letter sent during the time period. This sentence was then expanded into over a hundred pages of sentences and BAM! The movie arrived. The Water Diviner follows the story of Connor (Russell Crowe), an Australian man who's purpose in life is lost after his three sons are killed in war, followed by his wife's suicide. Struck with despair, Connor travels to Gallipoli with the hopes that he will be able to find the bodies of his three sons and take them back to Australia where he will bury them alongside their mother.
The Water Diviner is the first film to be directed by Australian actor Russell Crowe, and he clearly has a knack for filmmaking. When he's not constantly singing in Les Miserables, Russell Crowe can really act. He's not just a brilliant performer, but now he's also a brilliant storyteller (even if the story isn't all that). Obviously taking inspiration and skills from the many brilliant directors he's worked with over the years, Crowe gives a solid effort both on the screen and off. When you work with directors such as Darren Aronofsky, Ridley Scott, Ron Howard etc. it wouldn't be all that surprising if you pick up a thing or two. Crowe most certainly does, giving us a directorial debut that's the start of what looks to be a sensational directing career.
The film isn't just made well either, it has an interesting perspective of war. It shows it in a horrifying and depressing way, not just for the Australians, but for the Turks too. It shows the effects of war on the families of soldiers, in particular the ways they handle with loss. While it's only the extremities that are shown, that doesn't make it any less unique. The war sequences, as mature as they are, aren't always perfect though, each scene being too long and more exploitative than anything else.
There's also a lack of emotion too, which is something much needed for a lot of the movie, the war scenes in particular. The film fails to connect with us as an audience, despite many tragic events taking place. There's a bunch of crying to be had, but none that really hits hard. Russell Crowe is in tears every second scene, but as I was sitting in my seat I couldn't help but feel rather awkward, sitting there watching him ball his eyes out for a cheap attempt at stirring some emotion in the audience. That's the one area where Crowe fails in his directing, but I'm sure he'll improve over time. Hopefully, anyway.
It's story is rather messy, which probably helped to distance the emotion. There's a story, sure, but it's never one thing. It's a constantly evolving story, and not in a good way. Every ten or so minutes sees a new goal for Crowe's character. At one point he's after his son's bodies, at another he's falling in love, the next minute sees him bonding with a child, the next sees him traveling in search of a war camp. It just goes on and on and on, leaving you wondering when it's all going to end.
This messy plotting also raised many questions about what the hell is actually going on. The Water Diviner, although made well, doesn't make a lot of sense. There's so many unanswered questions, the main one being how Russell Crowe managed to acquire some sort of magical ability to see into both the past and the future. He's constantly getting flashbacks and flash forwards of people he knows, mostly his sons, but they're memories he didn't attend to. He wasn't there and there's no possible way for him to know of the events.
Ignoring the nonsensicalness and messy plotting, to top it all off, The Water Diviner is just an incredibly bland movie. The set pieces look like a lot of hard work has been put into them, but it's hard work wasted for they're nothing exciting. The colour palette is mopey, the outback's looked better and the story is podgy. It's a film with a lot happening, but nothing exciting nor interesting. While I'm being harsh on this film it's not bad. In fact, I want people to go see it. I want people to go out of their way and pay money to see this movie, for it's the only way we're going to get more quality films from Australia. Go see The Water Diviner, that's all I'm asking, even if it's not the best movie currently out in cinemas.
To sum up, The Water Diviner is well made, featuring a solid effort from Crowe both in front and behind the camera, but it's a nonsensical and messy film that's just rather bland and uninteresting.
2 1/2 Stars
Annie is now the third adaptation we've gotten of the musical, and it's also the worst one yet. If you're not aware of the story, Annie follows the story of the title character (played by Quvenzhané Wallis), a ten year old foster child who, when attempting to rescue a dog, runs into Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a man who's running for mayor. He saves her life and it goes viral, reluctantly giving him the idea to take Annie in for a week or so, simply for the publicity. It's during this week that the self centred millionaire begins to care for young Annie after being forced to spend time with her. You know the story. We've seen it before and it just keeps on getting worse and worse.
Now, Annie wasn't a film I was looking forward to. While I've never seen the stage musical, I hate the original Annie film with a passion. It's without a doubt a one star deserving film. It's a lifeless telling of what is already a lifeless story. When it came to this new Annie, they've managed to make it even worse. There's literally nothing to like about this movie, despite it having an immaculate cast. They're all in the film, but none of them seem to try, nor care. They give bombastic, one note performances with crummy vocal work to suit. This is a film of little substance, yet big ambitions. It means well, but it fails.
In an attempt to give a little fresh air to this over-telled story, the new Annie only manages to make things worse. They try to freshen things up a little, changing some of the famous characteristics of characters and even changing a few of the songs around. While I can appreciate the change of Annie's nationality, everything else I can't. It's not that I feel as though they ruined everything (as I don't see how anything in the original can be ruined), but it's just that they make everything a little less interesting.
The basic plot elements are still there, but the songs are almost entirely new. I'm not a fan of the original Annie's soundtrack, especially since they have only one okay song but it gets milked and played three times, but this new Annie makes the original sound masterful. The lyrics are laughable, the songs themselves are sung at the most inappropriate of times, and the cast's voices appear to have been digitally altered, Jamie Foxx especially. And don't even get me started on the embarrassingly bad lip syncing work.
This time around there's no butlers, no ugly Miss Hannigan (although her character is still there, but she's played by Cameron Diaz, so go figure) and very little Sandy. The only thing this film adds to the table is a focussed relationship between Annie and Stacks, even if it's still handled poorly. His, along with Hannigan's, character development doesn't have time to brew. They have a stick up their butt for 99% of the film, yet it's suddenly removed when the time calls for it. It's forced and out of the blue, just like the songs.
Despite all these flaws, the biggest disappointment Annie has to offer is that it's derivative of charm, humour or heart. It's a film that just is. Despite an over-stretched runtime, Annie never gets a chance to show off any likability or care. It's a sloppy film with little to offer, comedy included. Seriously, the humour in it is mind numbing. It's unfunny, unrealistic, idiotic, and repetitive, yet the cast and crew seem to think it works as they continuously throw it in there.
In a lot of ways, this new Annie is a parody of the old Annie. It takes the storyline and a few of the songs, but performs them in a similar style to how Scary Movie poked fun of the movie Scream (although, to be fair, Annie is a much better movie than Scary Movie). The only problem with this parody is that it's not even so bad that it's good. While films like The Room and Sharknado make for great entertainment, Annie can't even slot in among those. Annie is awful, that's all there is to it.
To sum up, Annie is a bombastic retelling of an already excruciating movie. With one note performances, auto tuned and out of sync singing, a lengthy runtime and a lack of both humour and heart, Annie fails miserably.
0 1/2 Stars
When we last saw our beloved Bilbo (Martin Freeman) he was in quite a pickle. This pickle being that he, along with his thirteen dwarf companions, had awakened a vicious dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is now on his way to set fire to, well, everybody he can find. While that was a promising build-up for this movie, it's not the plot at hand. Instead, this final film revolves around what happens after the teased destruction. A giant battle, that is. A battle for the Misty Mountain and all the gold that lies inside of it. A battle that literally takes up the entire film's runtime. A battle that's freaking awesome.
The Middle-Earth franchise is, without a doubt, the greatest fantasy series of all time. It's almost like my second home in a lot of ways. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been a part of my life for many many years and they're three of my favourite movies of all time. While The Hobbit films aren't quite on the same level, they're not any less amazing. I actually find this series to be rather brilliant, which is an unpopular opinion. The first film, although short on action, remains one of the best films of 2012, plus the sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, is even better. I was naturally excited to see The Battle of the Five Armies, even if it was a feature length adaptation of a couple of chapters. I've been on board with Peter Jackson's vision of this trilogy ever since it was announced. I've given every Middle Earth film a rather lenient five star rating (although not at all lenient when it comes to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, just The Hobbit). That's why I'm surprised to say that The Battle of the Five Armies was not everything I wanted it to be, although that's not me saying I didn't like the film. I did. Oh, just read on.
This film is all about the battle. It's the battle to end all battles, so to speak, even if there's technically many battles still to come in Lord of the Rings, but let's not confuse ourselves with the whole prequel sequel stuff. This film is essentially one overstretched, if not rather epic fight. It's a war, and a war that was never once not entertaining, even if it does contain many physics defying leaps from Legolas and an unintentionally hilarious troll whose job is simply to head-butt a wall, knock it down and pass out.
While this battle is still not up to standards with the ones from Lord of the Rings, that doesn't make the spectacle any less incredible. It's not just a battle, it's an experience. It's the defying moment in The Hobbit trilogy and it certainly makes a mark. Full of decapitations and creative murders, the prolonged sequence is constantly providing new thrills, turns and shocks. If you've read the book, like I have, then you're just as unaware of what's to come as the rest of us. While the battle in the book only takes up a few chapters, the battle is essentially all this film is, meaning Jackson had all the creative freedom that he wanted to. And he bloody gets it.
After the rather lacklustre score we got in The Desolation of Smaug, Howard Shore is back on track, providing us with a score so visceral and powerful that it puts all previous Hobbit scores to shame. As a matter of fact, the score used in The Battle of the Five Armies is one of my favourite scores of the year. It's just so effective at every moment its played, especially during both the battle sequence and the moments, like the few towards the end, where the film plays with our emotions in a surprisingly sappy, but effective, way.
And like the previous Hobbit movies, it's the song played during the credits that's the real standout. With the first film we had The Song of the Lonely Mountain, which was good, even with that cheesy title. The second film brought us I See Fire, which was also an absolutely brilliant song, if not better than the first. With The Battle of the Five Armies we have the most tearjerking song ever heard in Middle Earth. The Last Goodbye just may slot in as my favourite original song of 2014. While effective in the credits, it's when I started playing it over and over today that it really hit home. It's a song full of emotion and sadness, but at the same time rejoice and glee.
The Battle of the Five Armies is an epic movie, but a flawed one too, the biggest letdown being the opening ten minutes (AKA the pre-title sequence). This is when we get our first, and only, moment with the dreaded Smaug. The cliffhanger at the end of Desolation gives me goosebumps every time I see it, yet seeing Smaug do what he set out to do is anything but pleasing. It's a dull and out of place ten minutes that felt like it wasn't meant to be a part of this film. As good an ending as Desolation was, it would have improved both that and this one to just whip the scene on there.
But on top of Smaug being out of place, Bilbo is apparently out of place as well. He doesn't make a single meaningful input during this entire film, and when he does, it hardly even dents the overall plot. He tries to do things, but he's sidelined until the journey home, which was, to be honest, a surprisingly emotional moment for me. Not because of any one thing in particular, but because it's when the realisation came that there would be no more Middle Earth films to watch.
This film's final flaw, and arguably the biggest one, is all the sub-plots that are completely ignored or forgotten about. There's a plot set up at the end of Desolation that saw Legolas chasing after an orc, yet it's dropped and not even referenced in this film. There's the plot of the Arkenstone that's used prominently for the first act, only to be dropped soon after. And then there's a bunch of characters introduced and forgotten about soon after, the most note worthy one being Billy Connolly's character.
Flaws and all, The Hobbit trilogy has been quite an experience. It's been a lengthy one, and perhaps it should have stayed as the original two films instead of three, but it's been fun. It didn't end on as big a bang as Jackson hoped, but it didn't end on a low note either. I'm positive that I'll still pick up both the theatrical and extended cuts on blu-ray as I suck at not doing things like that, but also because the journey is over. It'd be a fun experience to see if my opinion on this remains after watching all three back to back. We'll have to see, but for now, I leave you with my only non-5 star rating. Sorry.
To sum up, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies may not end on the highest of notes, especially with several plot-lines being dropped and a rather underwhelming Smaug sequence, but it's still quite a journey, full of action and unexpected thrills. It's no Lord of the Rings, but it was never going to be, and for that, I'm happy we got an experience as good as this.
If you think that a film so wild, ridiculous and off the charts bonkers is for you, you may think differently after seeing Stretch. I did. The film follows the story of Stretch (Patrick Wilson), a limo driver who's just shit out of luck. His girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker), who he thought was 'the one,' has just broken up with him, he's loosing customers frequently to a rival limo company and to top it all off, he owes a rather large gambling debt by midnight, money he doesn't have. Enter Roger Karos (Chris Pine), a somewhat psychotic customer who offers to pay off Stretch's gambling debts if he does everything he's told throughout the night.
I was actually looking forward to Stretch, despite not really knowing a lot about it. The trailers were hesitant, but fun, and the word of mouth was positive, even from a friend of mine. I sat down in my lovingly comfortable chair (wait, can a chair be both loving and comfortable) navigated my way through the Netflix homepage and clicked eagerly on the poster for Stretch (which, if you have Netflix, you'll know plays the movie). And so the film started. The credits were rolling, Jessica Alba popped up on screen, there were a couple of neat cameos, a few suicide jokes and a sex scene all before the plot is actually set up. That's when it hit me! Stretch is really not as entertaining as it was made out to be.
The performances are nuts, but the rest of the film isn't. The cast, and Stretch does have a rather brilliant cast (minus Jessica Alba, although even she isn't actually all that bad), are having fun with their roles. Who wouldn't be? This film has everything, yet nothing to do with any of it. Although everyone appears to be having a ball, Chris Pine especially, they all get lost in the wildness, making an uneven, exaggerated and highly mind numbing movie that didn't have me laughing until the end of the third act, but even then it wasn't that big a chuckle.
Stretch is fast, short and wraps up nicely, but that's it. It clocks in at a nice ninety minutes, making the film whizz by, which is an incredibly good thing seeings as how it's not a very good movie. There's a lot happening, sure, but none of it makes sense. Some of it appears to work, but once the credits role you realise how utterly stupid everything in the film really was. Hey, I'll give them credit for at least trying to mask the stupidity.
Ed Helms appears in this film on more than one occasion, yet I never bought into his presence. I liked Ed Helms in the Hangover trilogy, but in everything else I've seen him in he's always overacting and unlikeable. Stretch is included. His character doesn't suit the film, him being some sort of apparition as, and this isn't a spoiler, he dies within the first few minutes of movie. His character makes no sense, has no relevance, and was bloody annoying.
And finally, Patrick Wilson is always providing us with a constant narration, a narration that rarely ever works. For the first scene, which showcases how he first met his girlfriend, this voice over worked. It was fun and set the vibe of things to come. Then the film just went on and on and the narration added to the overall convoluted-ness of the film. It will initially seem to make sense of things, but it then leaves you wondering how the hell we actually got to where we are, and also why Chris Pine hasn't yet put on some pants.
To sum up, Stretch may have some crazy performances and it's pleasantly over the top and ridiculous, but in doing so it becomes overly convoluted, uneven, unfunny and just a giant mess.
2 1/2 Stars
There's only one flaw to be found in These Final Hours and that is that it's not even being released in ten countries, American not included among this list. The film is set on the final day on Earth. The world is about to go down in flames and we follow the story of James (Nathan Phillips), a self-indulgent man who's ditching his pregnant girlfriend, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) to make it to a party, where he intends on getting it on with his other girlfriend one final time. Along the way, James saves the life of a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice), who insists James takes her to her father, who's location is currently unknown. And so begins James' one last chance at redeeming himself.
These Final Hours is a psychotic thrill ride that never slows or dulls, and it's also one of the best films of the year. I'm not afraid to say that I love Australian cinema and 2014, as I constantly preach, has been our best year in a very long time. These Final Hours, like other films this year such as The Rover or Predestination, makes me proud to be Aussie. It's set in Australia, it was made in Australia and it stars Australians. It's a film that tackles the apocalypse in a mature and realistic manner, adding in a tonne of little details and reactions, such as a game of Russian Roulette as a party sport. It covers almost every type of reaction imaginable. There's the Christians, preaching to God. There's the party lovers, such as our protagonist, who insist on making the most of what they have left. There's a criminals, who go around committing their final crimes before its too late, and so on. It's a film with everything to give and nothing to loose.
By the time we're just five minutes into the film we've been told everything we need to know about what's going on. Our protagonist, Janmes, has been introduced, we've been informed of what's about to go down via a radio broadcast (a broadcast that continues to play as the film goes along, giving us even more insight into the events and informing us on just how long's left until the end of the world), and then the film just goes and goes, speeding through the events fast enough to last just over an hour, but not slow enough so that it feels like it's dragging.
It's a very character driven film, with three characters playing more important roles. While disaster is always coming, These Final Hours is all about the relationship between Nathan Phillips' character and Angourie Rice's character, as well as the more romantic relationship between Phillips and Jessica De Gouw. All three of these performances are powerful, Phillips in particular. He's tough, stern and makes for one hell of a protagonist. While De Gouw may not get an awful lot of screen time, her character is like the backbone of the movie. She holds everything together and she too gives a great performance.
To sum up, These Final Hours is another reason why I'm proud to be Australian. It's a gripping, intense and realistic apocalypse movie that's highly character driven and feeds off of the lead's brilliant performances.
4 1/2 Stars
Paddington introduces us to the title character (voiced rather effectively by Ben Whishaw) while he's living in the jungles of Peru. It's marmalade day and he's quite possibly the happiest bear alive. That's when disaster strikes, forcing poor optimist Paddington to escape onto a boat and journey to England, where he hopes he will find an explorer (Tim Downie) whom his uncle and aunt were once visited by. Instead, Paddington is taken into the home of the Browns, a family of four, each with a different opinion of Paddington. But while this is occurring, Millicent (Nicole Kidman), a museum taxidermist, is attempting to kidnap Paddington and stuff him.
Ignore all the poor advertising this film received for Paddington is a blast! While the first two trailers for this film were just cringe worthy, the third trailer wasn't. Instead, it showed us the entire movie (and for that reason, I've embedded one of the not-so entertaining trailers after this review). I went into Paddington with neither high expectations, nor low ones. I went in open minded. I'm happy to say that I came out feeling rather pleasant and with a smile on my face. Ben Whishaw, the voice of Paddington, suits the role rather well, providing a talented voice performance and one that actually sounds like Paddington. For that, let's just be thankful that Colin Ferrel decided to pass on the role. Despite being a decent actor, he's not one to play a friendly bear with an addiction to marmalade.
The scenes I speak of that were shown in the trailers, especially the moments shown below, aren't actually as bad when put into the context of the film. There are still some silly moments and nonsensical ones too, but this a film about a talking bear, for goodness sake. There's a scene involving Paddington in the bathroom, a bathroom that he then goes on to misuse and flood. In the trailer this scene didn't seem to work too well, particularly when cut between a phone conversation (although yes, that conversation does unfortunately happen in the film too). When seen on screen, this scene works, and it even got my audience laughing rather rambunctiously.
There are some truly heartwarming and heartbreaking moments in Paddington. It's a film that not only pleases young ones and adults alike, but it's also a film that has a rather large heart. Paddington knows how to crack a smile and, on occasion, even a belly laugh of two. It's a sweet and thoughtful movie, even with a few moments that are possibly too dark for children to understand. Oh well, I'm sure they'll still have a ball, despite probably not knowing what Nicole Kidman's character is all about. Well, aside from the fact that she's evil.
Despite following a formulaic storyline, director Paul King appears to be sending a short and sweet love letter to the beloved character. He's not ruining the character, nor improving him. He gives us the same old Paddington in a presentable, hilarious and precise way, giving us all of his famous traits without ever forcing any of them in. Sure, there's a few clichés here and there, but when a film can be as funny as this, I don't really mind all that much. I seem to be becoming a bit more lenient with clichés as of late, but oh well. I guess films are just starting to use them more effectively.
Anyways, Paddington is the reason I love going to see family friendly films. While there have been animations that are more enjoyable this year, making a kids film that's not only good, but great, and most certainly worth buying on blu-ray, is something I don't find too often. There's a couple, sure, but there's not one that will probably end up being as rewatchable as Paddington will be. It's a fun time at the movies no matter how big or small your screen is. My rating is there, but I never implore anyone to base whether or not they should see a movie on how high I rate a film. Decide on what I say, not my rating. After all, I gave Nympohmaniac a higher rating and I'm not telling you to rush out and see that. Watch Paddington instead.
To sum up, Paddington's advertising doesn't do it justice for the film is somewhat of a love letter to the title character, featuring an effective cast, plenty of heart, some gut busting moments and humour that appeals to both adults and children.
3 1/2 Stars