US Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is sent to a mental asylum set on an inhospitable island with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. There, they meet Dr Crawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr Naehring (Max von Sydow) and find that things are not what they seem.
I remember watching this years ago and really hating it – finding the twist extremely obvious and the whole thing quite annoying. I’m not a huge Scorsese fan, and was just a bit unimpressed. Then I heard it discussed on Plato’s Cave, the RRR film criticism show, and while they are all massive Scorsese fans, they said to watch it just as a thriller with a twist will be disappointing because it is deliberately so obvious. However, if you watch it with that knowledge and just enjoy the way it unfolds, you can really appreciate it. So, I gave it another go and, dammit, they were totally right. It’s very clever and intense and just great. I’m so glad I went back and watched it from a different mindset.
Broken men, oh so many broken men. Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler, following in the footsteps of his older brother and now coach, David (Mark Ruffalo). Then along comes John du Pont (Steve Carell) a very rich man trying to break free from his disapproving mother Jean du Pont (Vanessa Redgrave) whilst still living in her shadow. He has a passion for wrestling and convinces Mark to come and live and train at his facility. But there is darkness, so much understated but deep darkness and things are bound to end tragically.
It’s a slow movie that underplays key events to the point that if you were to be distracted, you could almost miss important moments. I still haven’t decided what my opinion is about it – certainly, it is a well constructed story, and the lack of soundtrack during most (if not all) of the film works beautifully. But I found the acting, certainly from the three main actors, really stilted and forced. It was almost as if each had several physical characteristics that they had been told to focus on and this drove their performances. Once I got used to this, it was okay, but it took a while.
Foxcatcher was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Steve Carell), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo), Best Achievement in Directing (Bennett Miller), Best Writing, Original Screenplay (E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman) and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. It was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Steve Carell), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Mark Ruffalo) and BAFTAs for Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo) and Best Supporting Actor (Steve Carell).
Man creates a robot with artificial intelligence that then threatens the existence of humans. What a refreshing and new concept! Oh, sorry, was that sarcasm? See, my problem with this film is just that I saw it only a few days after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road. And after seeing something with that grit and darkness, the Avengers just seem stupid and whatever.
So, in this film, the man is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and the robot is Ultron (voiced by James Spader). And the robot uses the internet to expand and take over everything. Then there are the side stories. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) surprises them all by having a wife and kids and a life that most of them had written off because of their superhero-ness. There’s some romance brewing between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and we all want that to happen. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) are just standing around and being buff with the odd sarcastic comment here and there.
Look, I liked it enough, but I am totally aware that the studios have various sequels and stuff for all of these films set up for the next ten years or so, and I feel like they should be better than this. But that could be just the Mad Max factor. Here’s a challenge – I know you’ve got all these films written, and there is a lot of stuff that probably is expected to tie in with the comics. But how about we do some decent stuff with Black Widow, and let’s get some better female characters. And heaps more. And not like that one that Gwyneth played who simpered around in tiny denim shorts and ended up in bed with Tony Stark. Let’s all be better at this, hey?
Lisa (Anna Paquin) is a teenager growing up in New York, trying to work out school and boys and a long-distance relationship with her father, and a challenging relationship with her mother. And then she witnesses a woman get hit by a bus and tries to figure out how this fits in with her life.
It’s an interesting film. There are scenes where the action happens in the distance, but the sound is of the events that are happening just off camera – conversations, fights, music, even just roadworks. And other scenes where dialogue is happening but the vision is something totally else. It’s strangely beautiful and mysterious. Unfortunately, for me, I feel like Anna Paquin is just so closely tied to Sookie that I found it very difficult to buy her as anyone else. There is a scene early on with a lot of blood and high emotions, and I couldn’t help feeling that it was all a bit True Blood. And once I got that in my mind, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
I liked it for the first, perhaps, two hours, but then I just got fed up with the drama that Lisa creates all around her, and the way people either confront her or just go along with her drama. By the end I just was fed up with it all.The accident scene was wonderful, made so in part by the wonderful Allison Janney. And the cast in general is very impressive, with Mark Ruffalo, Jean Reno, Kieran Culkin, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick.
Samantha (Laura Linney) and her son Rudy (Rory Culkin) live a life of routine in a small town. He goes to school and to a babysitter after school. She works in the bank and dates a local bloke occasionally. Then their routine is disrupted by two things: Samantha gets a new boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick) and her loose cannon brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo) returns to town.
It’s a story about getting people out of their comfort zones, of challenging their behaviour and beliefs, about taking risks and about recognising inner strengths and weaknesses. And it’s just fine. It’s not amazing, but it’s not awful. There were a couple of scenes that I found a bit ‘as if’ which was a shame. I think it was because the rest of the film did such a good job of playing to the emotional truth that when something was less than true, it really stuck out.
You Can Count On Me was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Laura Linney) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Kenneth Lonergan)
Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) and their two children Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) live a pretty idyllic life – they have plenty of money, Joni is about to head to college and things are great. Then, when Joni turns 18, Laser pushes her to contact their donor father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). When Paul enters their life, things become difficult for everyone.
It is a great film, which is clear by the quality of the cast it attracted. The story is plausible and it doesn’t shy away from difficult scenes. Having said that, I did wonder (spoiler alert) about how easily a woman in a strong, long-term same-sex relationship was wooed away by a man. Seems quite insulting to the strength of the relationship and dangerously could be seen to suggest that a lesbian just needs to meet the right man. Perhaps it was just that it all seemed fast – the passing of time is not overly clear throughout the film. There are a couple of moments where characters seem to take the easy way out of a situation, but for believable reasons. As far as a story is concerned, this is generally a good yarn.
The Kids Are All Right was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Annette Bening), Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Mark Ruffalo) and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg).
Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) have been married for some time, have small children, and find that they barely have energy to have their date nights, even though they clearly enjoy each other’s company. But when close friends tell them they are splitting, news that strikes out of the blue, they decide to make a big effort and go into town (New York, that’s the town) for a special dinner. When they can’t get a table at an exclusive restaurant, they pinch someone elses reservation. Hint: if you are going to do this, make sure that the people who’s reservation you take are not attempting to bribe anyone, and you don’t spend the night on the run for your life. Even if you do end up spending time with a shirtless Marky Mark.
I love Steve Carell, I love Mark Wahlberg and I especially love Tina Fey. How could I not love this film? It’s funny, ridiculous, but mostly extremely funny. And I could watch it over and over. Just ace times.