The Muppets (2011) Film Review


Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz) are brothers. Well, kind of; Walter is a puppet. Though this is not really directly acknowledged, a strange part of this film that I really kind of loved. Anyhow, they do everything together with a song, but as Gary becomes a man, in love with Mary (Amy Adams), Walter is just a puppet obsessed with The Muppets. So when Gary and Mary and Walter go to Hollywood to The Muppets studio and discover it is about to be sold, they know they need to work together to fix it. Will they get The Muppets back together for one last show? Will Mary and Gary live happily ever after? Will they do a heap of fun times song and dances?

I loved it so much. Yes, I grew up with The Muppets, and have fond memories from the show. But there was always the risk that a reboot would be a disaster – and instead, it was fabulous. All the cheese and schmaltz that it needed to have, but with a truly Muppetty storyline and great humour.

Money Train (1995) Film Review


Ah, these classic nineties cheesy action films! I love them so much! So, the premise of this is probably more ridiculous than most. John (Wesley Snipes) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson) are partners, working to catch pickpockets and the like on the subway system. Oh, and they are brothers – only via foster care, John has always looked after Charlie. Then in comes the extremely attractive new cop, Grace (Jennifer Lopez) who they are both instantly attracted to. John, the good guy, is prepared to step aside for Charlie, but Grace likes John. Then Charlie gets fired, and between that, missing out on Grace and having a massive gambling debt, well, not even his groovy ponytail can keep him going. So he decides that he’d better just rob the moneytrain. And we want him to win because he is charming and lovely, and the big boss, Patterson (Robert Blake) is a nasty so-and-so.

It’s got so much crazy going on, how can you not watch it? There’s the side story that there is a guy trying to set female workers on fire (awful, but the wonderful Chris Cooper was the psycho). The sex scene in which it appears that J-Lo is trying to escape from Snipes, juxtaposed with Woody Harrelson being beaten up. Then there is the piece de resistance… a massive train crash, with two trains, and lots of running and jumping, explosions and the like. It’s fabulous.


The Town (2010) Film Review


Charlestown, Boston. There are a group of guys who pull bank jobs, and they are quite good at it. However, things don’t go quite so ace on this last one and they end up taking a hostage for a short while. Bank worker Claire Kessey (Rebecca Hall) is trying to recover from her experience and being interviewed by FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) when she meets Doug MacRay (Ben Afffleck) and a relationship begins. Little does she know that Doug was one of the robbers, and he was checking to see if she remembered anything. Then he and his partner in crime, James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) are forced into another job by local heavy Fergus ‘Fergie’ Colm (Pete Postlethwaite) and things get more tense.

Ben Affleck directed this film and it was really fabulous. Strong story, not the most totally original (see On The Waterfront for some quite strong similarities in the relationship between the bad criminal and the good lady), but it is a good take on this. I really enjoyed the way the worlds of the film are created, and the way the characters totally inhabit the world. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Town was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jeremy Renner).


Breach (2007) Film Review


Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe) is a young, up and coming FBI agent who has been put into a position working on a dodgy senior agent, Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). It’s based on a true story. I hope loosely, because everything seems dodgy and half-arsed, and surely the FBI are better than that. Surely.

I cannot believe that the young upstart played by Phillippe could possibly so anything the way he does it – from the way he speaks to his superior, played by Laura Linney, to his nervous, wussy demeanor. And surely an agent who has been doing what he has been doing for so long wouldn’t so instantly trust this fool of a kid just because they are of the same religious background. For me, this film was poorly written and not very well executed.

August: Osage County (2013) Film Review


Beveley Weston (Sam Shepard) an alcoholic academic goes missing, and the three daughters he had with pill-popping wife Violet (Meryl Streep) return to support her. But each have their secrets and problems leading to a massively volatile time.

I saw this as a play by MTC a few years ago and loved it. I especially loved the set, but seemed to recall that the script was very impressive. Hence, I was concerned about watching the film; would it hold up? Would it be overwhelmed by the big names in the cast? (Meryl Streep, Sam Shepard, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch as the main names)

I think it held up extremely well. It’s certainly not a happy film; if you are ever feeling that you are taking your family for granted, watch this. You will love them so much more. So many horrible people in one place.

It is surprising that the film has only been nominated for awards for acting in the Oscars and Golden Globes. With such a strong story and excellent performances, I would have expected it would at least be nominated for Best Film. It’s a far better film that The Wolf of Wall Street. But then, it wasn’t directed by Martin Scorsese, and the main performances are by women. It seems to be a bit of a pattern for the awards I’ve noticed; the films that have been nominated for best performances by actresses are less likely to appear in the best film category than the films nominated for best performance by actor. Sexist? Or are women just not getting leads in good films? Are male stories better? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

Interestingly, just after I wrote this, I was sent a link to an article about sexism in the film industry featuring Olivia Wilde. Here it is. She took part in an experiment with some male actors reading aloud from the script of American Pie, only swapping male and female parts. The ladies got the laughs, the guys got bored. Interesting. (I should note that I don’t know anything about PolicyMic. It’s just the link I read. Lazy journalism? I’m not a journalist. FYI)

August: Osage County was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Julia Roberts), for Golden Globes for Best Actress in A Motion Picture,  Musical or Comedy (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Julia Roberts) and for a BAFTA Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts).

American Beauty (1999) Film Review


Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) tells us in the opening of the film that within a year, he will be dead. He is a loser; stuck in a disintegrating marriage with Carolyn(Annette Bening), with a grumpy teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch) who has no respect for either of her parents and a job he hates. He is deeply unhappy. Then he meets his daughter’s cheerleader friend, Angela(Mena Suvari), who he develops an infatuation with. Also, a new family moves in next door, and the strange teenage son starts selling Lester pot. Before you know it, his life is turned around and then, true to his earlier statement, he dies.

I taught this film over several years and found that each time I watched it, I enjoyed it more and more. It is such a beautiful film – every second is perfectly constructed and every shot contains a wealth of information to tell the story. The performances are beautiful, with each character’s strengths and vulnerabilities revealed.

American Beauty won Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Spacey), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Annette Bening) Best Film Editing and Best Music (Original Score)