Thursday 2 January 2014

American Hustle

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)

American Hustle is a fun time of a movie.  It tells the story of the abscam political bribe expose operation which I’d never heard of but which is supposedly well-known.  

As with most ‘true stories’ (the caption at the beginning of the film tells us that, ‘some of this actually happened’) the plot meanders and you are never quite sure what’s supposed to happen next but the acting keeps us invested, especially Jennifer Lawrence whose character is so juicy I wished they’d built the whole movie around her.

Amy Adams is a little off – I got the feeling she was a little shallow for this role - which is shame because she’s in almost every frame, but Amy Adams is smoking hot, and barely half dressed for most of the movie so, you know - all is forgiven.


Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)

It’s hard to make Formula 1 boring – except when you’re watching an actual race – and Rush – the story of James Hunt’s 1976 Championship winning season – is anything but.  I’ve read Hunt’s biography so I was a little nervous that Ron Howard was going to take Argo like liberties with the plot – but no worries, it all panned out fine.

First off the casting was excellent.  Daniel Brühl, who I’ve never heard of, as the meticulous German, Niki Lauder. And Chris Hemsworth as the glamorous Hunt, were perfect.  Had Howard got the casting wrong this movie would have stalled on the grid, but as it was, the movie screeched through the first corner and tore up the track.  Just be sure to shield your eyes when they crash, and crash again. It all gets pretty gory…


Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)

Like kids and their kid movies I pretty much love anything Steve Coogan ever puts out, even before I’ve seen it, and Philomena was no exception.  Despite the seriousness of the subject matter (Evil nuns! Bad Catholics! Boo!) Coogan injects his dry wit everywhere, the British class system being a common comic source: 

-          Judy Dench opens a packet of Tunes (cough sweets) and offers one to Coogan (Coogan:  ‘A Tune?  You hum it and I’ll sing it!’) 
-          Dench tells everyone she meets, ‘you’re one in a million’.  Coogan: ‘That’s statistically impossible!’

But, Philomena is more than just an odd couple road trip yarn, no wait – it isn’t.  But whatever, it is sweet, it’s Steve Coogan and it should definitely win an Oscar (Go Steve!).

Hunger Games Catching Fire

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)

I had the queasy feeling, halfway through the new Hunger Games installment, that I’d seen this movie before.  Everything seemed so…familiar.  And then I remembered – I’d read the book! 

How did that happen?  I wondered.  I never read movie books - why would I?  That’s like watching the end of the football before rewinding to the kick off.

I hope there’s lots of goals…

The new Hunger Games is great entertainment and, unlike the Hobbit movies, it doesn’t leave you wanting less.  Too bad I just read the third book…

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)

I wasn’t so smitten with the last Hobbit movie.  Nobody died and it took up 3 hours of my time for no good reason.  Hobbit 2 doesn’t know when to end either but it does at least have some wit and drive.  And Cate Blanchett is the hottest elf ever (she is an elf right?  I get all these middle earth types mixed up…).

The Hobbit 2 continues the quest of the dwarfs and the bloke out of The Office to reclaim their homeland, and kill a dragon or something.  On the way we meet the usual Orcs, which were so menacing in the Lord of The Rings trilogy but for some reason are now tame and cartoonish. We also meet Cate the hot elf and go for a barrel ride down a river until we get to the dwarfs village.


Once there I’m pretty sure the movie is supposed to end – we’re 2 hours in by this point – but as usual Peter Jackson keeps going and eventually calls time when the reel runs out. Phew!


Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)

Kids are not the most discerning of audiences are they?  Sprinkle a little cartoon sugar over the screen and they’ll watch anything.  Add a dollop of cute lead, a flimsy premise and a couple of catch phrases and the kids will lap it up. 

I remember taking my kiddies to see Rise of the Guardians, a dark and dreary movie.  They loved it! Ditto Brave (‘it was awesome’) and The Cat in The Hat (‘best movie ever!’).  Kid’s movies… critic-proof!

Fortunately Frozen is a good movie.  I can’t remember the plot – something about an Ice Queen, ice powers and a quest to, er, do something.  But it doesn’t matter because Olaf the snowman is cute, the music is pleasant and, of course, everything works out in the end (spoiler alert!  Oops). 

Dallas Buyers Club

Bullseyes:  ② (out of 5)

Matthew Mcconaughey is a weird looking bloke.  But his boney limbed appearance in Dallas Buyers Club makes him all the more bizarre.  As with many films I found myself distracted by the actor at the expense of the character.  So for this movie I was never fully immersed. 

Some actors are able to fully inhibit their characters – Meryl Streep is the obvious one that comes to mind – hey that’s not Meryl it’s Maggie!  But too many, like Mcconaughey, fall short. 

Another distraction was Jennifer Garner – why is she here exactly?  And what is the purpose of her character?  And why is she no longer hot…?!

Distractions aside, Dallas Buyers Club skips along nicely and the acting is all well and good, but I couldn’t help thinking that this was all just a big vanity project for Mcconaughey.  A way out of his mostly shallow macho man movies.  Hopefully he’ll beef back up next time and leave the skinny roles for a starving actor or two.  I hear Michael Cera is free...

Die Hard

Bullseyes:  ④ (out of 5)

My wife couldn’t believe I’d never seen this ‘classic’.  And, seeing as though cinemaclock reviewers gave it a 9.1 and it was the middle of the Xmas vacation where there’s nothing else to do, I pretty much had to go. And, Yippee Ki Ay - I’m glad I did!

It’s been 26 years since Die Hard was released so a plot summary should be superfluous - right?  If not I’ll just borrow my 11 year old daughter’s brief summation:

‘It’s like Towering Inferno meets Taken.  With Bruce Willis’.

The best part of movies like Die Hard is that they don’t take themselves too seriously.  First off the terrorists are mostly white and European – as if! These are folks you’re more likely to meet in a boardroom, on a beach or in a weight room.  And the cops are all bumbling idiots, which is always fun to see.  And there are many classic comedy moments.  Like the gun toting hoodlum stealing a candy bar as he prepares to mow down the incoming special forces.  Or the on-going references to Twinkies.

Bruce Willis might be mostly B-Movie bound these days but he always seems to be giving a wink to the camera and that’s fine by me.

Yippee Ki Yay Mother *****!    

The Butler

Bullseyes:  ② (out of 5)

I thought about doing one word movie reviews one time.  If I had gone this route, The Butler’s review would be simply:  ‘Yawn’.

The Butler follows the real life travails of Cecil Gaines – Forest Whitaker - from his modest roots as a cotton picker to the dizzy heights of White House butlery serving 8 US presidents.  The problem with the story is that, once it gets going - nothing really happens.  Let’s face it, butlering is not a particularly interesting profession, and Oprah Winfrey’s presence does nothing to spice it up.  You sort of feel that Oprah just put herself in the frame to give the Oscar judges a subtle poke.

‘Hey folks it’s me (again) – how about a trophy…?’

They’ll need a big poke too to wake them up from this.



Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)

Does anyone still go to Marineland?  Are we all still that stupid?  Well that's a shame. Maybe movies like Blackfish will tip the scale…?

Blackfish tells the tale of Tilikum the Killer Whale, a ‘blackfish’ as the Native American’s call them, a mammal which truly embraces its ‘killer’ label. After mauling a trainer in Sealand of the Pacific, Tilikum is moved from bathtub to bathtub where he systematically torments and executes a slew of hapless trainers.  

We watch eerie amateur recordings and hear eye witness accounts of Tilikum’s kills and near kills and scream along with the excited Aqualand crowds as they witness death and maiming – all for just $15.99! 

I was so depressed at the end I had to hop on the bus and go to the zoo.   


Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)

Nebraska is a lovely little movie. Simple, to the point and sparce – no wasted time or effort here.  Nebraska features hardly any dialogue, barely any plot and not a blip of colour...ah!

Will Forte and his Dad head out on a road trip to claim an imaginary million dollar sweepstake.  The money they think they’ve won might as well be coming from a Nigerian warlord but that doesn’t matter because, at its heart, Nebraska is a movie about wasted lives and elusive opportunities. 

Nebraska reminded me of Young Adult and Fargo.  The setting – Hawthorne, Nebraska mainly - aka ‘Anytown’ USA – literally sets the scene.  Long drawn out shots of fading signs, strip malls, and empty fields informs us that nothing much ever happens out this way and, most likely, never will.

So, in the absence of any real action we are left to observe the thoughts and feelings of the quirky characters and their maddeningly mundane interactions.

There is one scene with the family huddled around the TV watching the football.  Glassy eyed stares all around, even as the on field excitement abounds. The only interruption is the chatter about Uncle Ray’s foot: 
‘Ray’s got a sore foot’
‘I said your brother he’s got a sore foot!’
‘It feels better now though’

Nebraska doesn’t make me want to go to Nebraska, but I’d be happy to pop in and watch a game.

Anchorman 2

Bullseyes:  ① (out of 5)

Will Ferrell owes me an apology. And a refund.  What with all the hype and the comedy talent infused into Anchorman 2, you might assume that this sequel had to be good right?  Hmm…

I was perplexed by the cinemaclock ( reviews, which I checked before heading out.  Folks gave the flick either a 1 or a 10, and very little in between.

No help there then.

I loved the original Anchorman. It is goofy, off the wall and stupid. I was hoping for more of the same here.  But, alas, Will Ferrell and the gang have single-handedly undone all of the goodwill they created by making one stinker of a sequel.

First off the plot is lame and takes an age to get going.  Back story and set up is fine if you keep it brisk, but this movie is anything is brisk.  Anchorman 2 features a lot of those long drawn out, awkward scenes which worked so well in the first movie and Talladega Nights.  But the reason the grace before meals scene ( ) and ‘Afternoon Delight’ ( ) worked so well is because they were, well - funny.  But when a scene isn’t funny the only thing worse than leaving it in is drawing it out.  I found myself cringing or yawning throughout most of this movie. 

The last 20 minutes were especially pointless.
He’s gone blind! 
He’s taming a shark! 
Who cares!  It’s not like you had anything better do to with your 20 minutes right?

Will, that will be 8 dollars and 1 hour and 59 minutes please.  Thank you.