Review – A Simple Favour

Writer and director Paul Feig’s films are generally good or bad, or love or hate. There doesn’t tend to be much in the way of an inbetween on any of them. For example, I loved The Heat and Spy, but really couldn’t have liked Bridesmaids more if you paid me.

So, when it came to his latest project, A Simple Favour, things were set to go either way. Admittedly, after having the trailer thrust on upon me during a cinema visit, I wasn’t bathing in anticipation. On the surface, it just looked like a Gone Girl knock-off, so I’d kind of half wrote it off. However, when some very celebratory reviews tied in with a dead weekend for me, I threw caution to the wind and went to see it. Whilst the Gone Girl vibes are definitely present, A Simple Favour does manage to avoid becoming the cheaper version it originally threatened to be. The only question surrounding the film now is whether it’s worth the time and money needed to go and see it at the cinema.

The film centres around two mothers who meet through their kids having a play date. Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a stay-at-home mum who loves nothing more than motherhood, whilst Emily (Blake Lively) has a high profile job in PR which doesn’t mix brilliantly with having a kid. The performances put in by both actresses were super entertaining. They played polar opposites who brought out the best (or worst) in each other, and it is in creating these kinds of characters where I think Paul Feig’s strengths lie. Kendrick seemed to be right at home as quirky vlogger Stephanie, and Lively was the perfect accompaniment as too-cool-for-school Emily. When the two of them shared the screen together, there were some magical moments to be had, and these definitely made for some of the film’s highest points.

The storyline here was pretty strong too. I liked the little twists thrown in here and there, and the ending involved a particularly impressive sequence as well. Although, as I’ve mentioned already, the film did manage to steer away from being a budget version of Gone Girl, the vibes that remained acted as more of a curse than a blessing. Some moments felt like they’d been lifted straight from that film and bastardised a bit. There were also a few things that happened throughout the story that seemed as though they’d skipped a beat. For example, why did Stephanie make the assumption that, if Emily was still alive, she’d be stalking her blog everyday? How exactly did she come to that conclusion? Why, of all things, would she be doing that? It was little things like this that didn’t quite add up for me and made it feel like too much had been attempted that couldn’t be pulled off.

One thing that no-one can take away from this film is how excellent the style is. Everyone and everything looked fantastic! Special shoutout to Blake Lively’s suit game whilst we’re on this subject – they were all very impressive, and will now be how I model my own image every day i go to work from now on.

Despite my initial reluctancy to watch it, A Simple Favour turned out to be a fairly decent film. It’s not perfect, but it’s strengths carry it through nicely. Kendrick and Lively are terrific to watch and I don’t think you could’ve found a better combination of actresses to play the two characters they did here. I love the look of the film, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to detract from the points where it did occasionally lose itself through either trying to pay tribute to other thrillers of a similar nature or attempting to pull off twists that it couldn’t quite manage. Still, it’s far from a terrible film, so give it a go when you get the chance.

Advertisements

Review – Searching

Every so often, a film comes along and exceeds all of the virtually non-expectations I have for it. Searching is one of those films, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s had that effect on a lot of people.

The film follows David Kim (John Cho) who has drifted from his daughter Margot (Michelle La) since the death of her mother. When Margot goes missing, David pulls out all the stops to bring his daughter home. Sounds pretty straightforward, but I can assure you that Searching is anything but.

Straightaway, the film gets off to an interesting start with an opening sequence that is majorly reminiscent of the opening to Pixar’s Up. I don’t know if it was something done intentionally, but I thought it was a nice touch and was an effective way to quickly get the audience emotionally invested in the characters.

John Cho and the character he played were both fantastic. It was the little details about David that worked wonders for the authenticity of the whole film, which is something it has been widely praised for. Things like how he didn’t instantly know what everything was or how it worked – these weren’t the biggest of things to include but they did make the biggest difference. Cho’s performance did a fantastic job of showing a father’s desperation in searching for his daughter. He was really easy to get behind, which I think is half the battle sometimes. These characters can often come off as super abrasive, and sympathising with them can be challenging as a result. David had a willingness to listen that meant he was actually a help, rather than a hindrance to the investigation, and remained very composed despite his desperations and so was massively more likeable.

Deborah Messing starred opposite Cho as Detective Rosemary Vick. Her part in the film turned out to be far more important than I had originally expected, and I think the way the story utilised Vick was brilliant. Messing was good in the role, and gave us just enough to believe she was all she said she was.

The writing for Searching is superb. Every part of it is so well crafted. Obviously I’ve already commented on some of the main characters, so I’ll now take a moment to talk about the story. What I loved about it was the fact it gave you all the hints you needed to work things out yourself, but did so s subtlety that you didn’t always pick up on it until it was too late. This meant that every turn the story made was entirely plausible, and you never once sat there thinking, ‘well, that was just for the sake of being twisty’.

The final thing I shall mention before signing off is the way Searching was filmed. It dawned on me ver early on how screen recordings were being used, however it hit me at the end that the entire film was shot this way. I loved this concept, not only for it’s originality, but for how it proves how accessible filmmaking is with a bit of creativity. I also have a lot of admiration for the amount of stage management this set up must have required. I know the difficulties I encounter when I open more than 3 windows at a time. To have been able to execute this as cleanly as it was done must’ve taken a lot of organisation, and I can only commend writer and director Amersham Chaganty for his vision here.

Searching was a surprise for me. A film that I’d have known very little about beforehand if it wasn’t for a trailer being forced upon me at a cinema screening a couple of months ago, it seems to have come out of nowhere, and that could very well be the secret to it’s apparent success so far. It takes an ultra-realistic and highly original approach to a type of story that I don’t think has been told as artfully as this before. You see real people on the screen thanks to the wonderful jobs all the actors have done, and the plot keeps you guessing until the final moments, meaning you cannot take your attention away for a second. I’ve a funny feeling this is a film that will be making it’s way onto the top ten lists of many people at the end of the year, and it’s really not hard to see why. Get yourself a ticket booked and see this film because you absolutely could do far worse.

Review – A Walk Among The Tombstones


I think I may have witnessed the best film Liam Neeson has been in in recent years.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is a 2014 crime drama following tormented ex-cop turned private investigator Matt Scudder, played here by the good man himself Mr Neeson. The story sees Matt trying to catch the criminal masterminds behind the disappearances of a series of women, whilst also dealing with a few demons of his own. Granted, this is the kind of character that’s been done to death over the years, but there are reasons why these types of guys are a popular choice – they work. Is it playing it safe? Quite possibly. However, over-complicating things is so often the downfall of many films and the people behind them. It was nice to see simple done well here, with a number of things attributing to my enjoyment of the film.

We’ll start with characters and the performances of the people who played them. Obviously we have Neeson playing our hero here. As Matt, he was your typical tough guy, pulling all the old tricks in order to comprehend suspects. I liked the fact that there was a touch of Dirty Harry about Matt. In fact, the whole film felt like an homage to these kinds of old school cop films which is definitely something that helped it garner my affections. It was a role that I think suited Neeson down to the ground. He didn’t feel like an ageing action man trying to stay relevant. Instead, he took on a solid role, put in a shift, and made sure it paid off.

Something else that made it easy to like Neeson in this film was the chemistry he shared with Astro, who played TJ, Matt’s wannabe partner. It was a such a likeable pairing. There was a lot of tough love handed out between them, which could serve to make you laugh but was also a reminder of the harsh setting of the film, which was New York circa 1999. I think the addition of TJ into the mix humanised Matt a lot. When he was around, Matt became more of a father figure as opposed to hardened, seen it all cop. Likewise, Matt’s presence transformed TJ. Both performances were very complimentary of each other, bringing out the best in either actor.

One thing I absolutely loved about this film is the look of it. The dull, dreary tones really suited the story and the characters. Everything seems to have a layer of grey cast over it, meaning you were never allowed to forget about the dark nature of the crimes at the centre of the story. This was also something that felt like a nod to the detective stories of yesteryear, which was a nice touch.

Also owing to the gorgeous appearance of this film is the cinematography. Having done the work I have done for the last year now I can honestly say that I would be so proud of myself if i had captured so many of the shots that make up this film. Some of it was genuinely stunning to look at.

A Walk Among The Tombstones turned out to be a far more pleasant surprise than I had anticipated it to be. It’s a film I really enjoyed and wouldn’t mind too much if we got a follow-up to it, although I doubt that’ll happen. It looked good, and did so many of the people who featured in it a lot of favours. Neeson is, I think, the best he’s been in a long time, and glides into the seasoned cop role effortlessly. This is absolutely worth the watch if you’ve missed it up until now.

Review – 50/50

50/50 is another of those films that I’ve heard a lot of people say good things about, and also one that I’ve had recommended to me more than once.

The film is about a guy who gets diagnosed with cancer in his 20s and is given a 50/50 chance of survival. On the surface, it sounds like a somewhat depressing watch, but the story is told in a way that is actually very entertaining, and because of this it feels very authentic too.

I really loved the performances from Joesph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen in this. Gordon-Levitt played cancer-fighting Adam brilliantly. He captured a whole range of emotions with his performance. Rogen played his best friend Kyle, who I believe was supposed to represent Rogen himself in the film, which is based on one of his real-life friends. Both actors were really great on their own, but when they were together on screen, whether in their scripted scenes or the more impromptu stuff, together they took it to a whole other level. You were watching best friends going through hard times, not two people pretending to be buddies, and that was a key element in making this film as good as it was.

I’ve already touched upon how realistic this film felt. While it had it’s fair share of down moments, it wasn’t too dark overall. At the same time, it didn’t try to be laugh-a-minute – I think the tone of the film was just right, which is another reason why it felt so real. Every situation in life is made up of many elements no matter what it is, and often when these are portrayed on-screen, especially when showing real-life events, the tendency can be to depend more heavily on one of those elements. I don’t feel like at any given point 50/50 played up too much to the happy or the sad parts of the story. It just took everything as it was, and didn’t make it any more than it needed to be, which was very true to the nature of our protagonist here (does that make as much sense to you as it does to me?). I’m also pleased to say that, for once, I’m glad the film had a happy ending, which I think stands testament to how it portrayed it’s lead character and his situation.

On the whole, I’d definitely say you should give 50/50 a go. It’s a film about so much more than a guy with cancer, and everyone who watches it will be able to relate to it in some way or another, which is why you should see it.

Review – The Shape Of Water

Probably one of this year’s most talked about and most hotly anticipated awards season films is The Shape Of Water. It’s a film that I hadn’t been too fussed about seeing initially, but one thing led to another and I ended up going to see it anyway.

Well, AREN’T I GLAD THAT SUCH A FORTUNATE SERIES OF EVENTS OCCURRED AND I DECIDED TO GIVE IT A SPIN! What a wonderful film it turned out to be! Very moving, surprisingly funny and gloriously original. I can’t quite believe that I almost gave this one a miss.

Perhaps what had put me off seeing this film was the premise. Essentially, it follows a woman who falls in love with a merman. Any regular visitors may know that I am not a hopeless romantic, hence why this wasn’t a film that popped up on my radar. However, I did feel that, for the most part, The Shape Of Water wasn’t dead soppy with the way it portrayed any of the relationships in the film, and I can’t complain about that one bit.

i really loved the some of the performances in the film, and also what a golden bunch of characters was featured. Sally Hawkins is delightful as Eliza. There was something about her performance that meant it was just really lovely to watch. The pairing of her and Octavia Spencer’s very chatty character was genius, and I think the two really brought out the best in each other on-screen.

Michael Shannon plays a good bad guy, I’ll give him that. There were countless times where I thought he just absolutely owned the role of Richard Strickland. I actually despised his character, and that was a wonderful feeling to have. To put it simply, he was a nasty man with an agenda, and Shannon played it brilliantly. Loved it!

No matter what you think of this film, you can’t deny that it is original. Writer and director Guillermo Del Toro does what I believe he’s quite famous for by now by treating us to a story that is rather like an adult fairytale. It is a superbly fantastical with some romance, friendship and a bit of violence and brutality thrown in for good measure. It’s a real mix, but nothing that’d be a far reach from anything that any of us would’ve had read to us as kids I don’t think. It was definitely very different, and I liked that about it very much.

So, after enjoying The Shape Of Water far more than I had expected to, it would seem that all I can do is sing it’s praises. I loved the characters and the performances that went into bringing them to life. There was terrific variety in what I got to see in the film too, and as for originality – well, this ticks all the boxes on that front for me. The Shape Of Water gets a solid recommendation from this girl at least.

Review – Sleeping With The Enemy

I’m a big Julia Roberts fan. I’ve seen a few of her films now, and I’ve enjoyed the majority of them. Sleeping With The Enemy was not really part of that majority though.

The film follows a woman who fakes her death in order to escape an abusive husband, but who ultimately makes enough mistakes to enable him to track her down in her new life. I liked the idea of the storyline – I think that had Roberts not have been front and centre in the film it would still have appealed to me because of this. As I was watching it, there were parts of the film that I think could have influenced other stories such as Gone Girl. I have to say though that I thought it could have been done better. There were certain elements of the plot that were a little too good to be true and worked too well in the favour of some characters. Now might also be a good time to point out that I didn’t find the ending to be very satisfying at all. I’d have preferred a more drawn out, more climactic final showdown that the one we got. What happened was a bit predictable for me – I’d have preferred something with more shock and awe to be honest.

This wasn’t my favourite Julia Roberts film, not by a long way. I don’t think there was anything that was majorly wrong with it, no crimes against film were committed, I just didn’t like it that much. Her character here was a far cry from Vivienne in Pretty Woman or Erin Brockovich in, well… Erin Brockovich. Instead, she was bit of a wet lettuce who you struggled to pull of the things she did. As for some of the other actors in the film… I haven’t got a clue who any of them were to be completely honest (all I know is the guy who plays Roberts’ husband here has recently made a prolonged appearance in Eastenders which tells you all you really need to know about him). Again, I didn’t think anything I saw was particularly stunning, but they were performances. I think I’ll leave it at that.

So those are pretty much all the thoughts I have on Sleeping With The Enemy. In short, I’d advise spending your time watching one of the numerous films similar to this but finished to a higher standard. This was rather average, and I think we all deserve better.

Review – The Disaster Artist

A film telling the story of how possibly the worst movie ever made came to be sounds like it could be very entertaining. However, did any of us ever imagine it would be as good as this? I did nahhhhhhhhht.

Yes, The Disaster Artist sheds some light on how Hollywood hopefuls Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau (played by Dave and James Franco) found each other, and how their god-awful 2003 film, The Room, came to be. It had always showed promise, but what this film delivered was phenomenal.

The Franco brothers both put in what are very likely to be career-best performances so far. Dave was really cute as Greg – you completely bought into the idea that he was just a kid trying his luck. There was a strong happy-go-lucky vibe abut his character that meant you kind of expected him to get a break at some point.

Now, without casting too much of a shadow over Dave’s performance, let’s talk about James for a second. He was absolutely terrific as Tommy. Without a doubt he is the single element that takes this film to whole other level. Seriously… where the hell did this come from? I thought the likeness between him and the real Tommy was uncanny. As far as looks go, there was a bit of a difference, but in terms of tone of voice and mannerisms, if you didn’t know better I think you’d struggle to tell them apart at first. He really did stand head and shoulders above the rest of the cast here with his work – absolutely terrific!

I liked how selective the film was with the scenes of The Room it showed. I think it covered just about all of the most infamous scenes of the film, which I think has been key to the success of The Disaster Artist. I haven’t seen The Room myself, but knew about all of the scenes included here. Being based on the book that documented Sestero and Wiseau’s friendship and their making of The Room, I don’t know if this was a decision that was already made for the creators of this film, but if not I think some wise decisions were made.

Similarly, I think there is one very significant creative choice that should be noted as being genius here – the end credits. Who ever’s idea it was to show Wiseau and Franco’s scenes side-by-sideat the end should be championed. Again, we come back to Franco’s stonking acting, but also the attention to detail that film makers of The Disaster Artist had. The make up of each scene was virtually identical, making it feel like everyone involved truly felt something towards this project.

The Disaster Artist may well be a top contender for my Film Of The Year 2017. I’m really struggling to find any kind of a fault with this one. There were some quality performances put in by the actors and an astonishing amount of dedication to the project by everyone involved. There’s a lot that can be taken from this film, but if anything you should note that whatever you want is possible provided you are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. If all you get from watching The Disaster Artist is that message then it was worth seeing it, trust me.