The Gift (2015) Film Review


Top job on the writing and directing, Joel Edgerton! I shouldn’t be surprised, he’s one hell of a talent who has been around for ages, and needs to come into his own.

So, The Gift. This is a film where you do not want to reveal much, because it is such a well-paced, well-told story. Let’s just say that when Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move back to near where Simon grew up and he accidentally reconnects with a schoolmate, Gordo (Joel Edgerton), things do not go the way anyone expects.

I was totally with the characters, and while I wondered why some decisions were being made, I went with it. I was scared, I was confused, I hated each of them at different times, and I was magnificently relieved when it ended.

Don’t read anything about it. Just watch it.

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).


Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) Film Review


Barcelona is beautiful, and I find it hard to believe that anything film there could not appear beautiful. Add in some romance, lust and some very attractive people and you have a film that is pleasant to look at.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina Scarlett Johansson) are friends who have gone to Barcelona for the summer. Vicky is engaged to a conservative, button-down man back in the states, and Cristina is wild and restless, looking for new and interesting experiences. They meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a passionate artist who proposes weekend away where he hopes they will have a lot of fun and hopefully end up in bed together. Vicky is repulsed, but Cristina is intrigued, so they go. Over the summer, Vicky’s notion of her life as a wife and lover is challenged, whilst Cristina finds the new experiences she is hoping for, yet continues to search.

I enjoyed the film, but felt totally let down at the end. It was as though both had had experiences that changed their lives and minds, yet they barely appear changed. Although I suspect this is the pretty much the point of the film. I guess I just wanted more.

For me, the film is worth seeing just for Penelope Cruz as the overly dramatic and passionate ex-wife of Juan Antonio – marvelous, wild and exciting.

Penelope Cruz won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

The Prestige (2006) – Film Review


I don’t like magic. It’s not that I need to know what happens, I just don’t really like it. I quite like little close-up magic tricks, like having a coin appear from behind my ear, but the whole stage-show, big effects with the man strutting around and a woman in sequins flashing about… not my scene. The only time I’ve ever liked watching anything magic related was Jonathon Creek, and that’s more for the mystery bits and pieces.

The Prestige follows two magicians – Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) as they compete to be the best in London. It’s a long film and I got frustrated, but I think it was not so much the length, but the fact that I didn’t really believe the rivalry between these two men. Despite events which clearly set up the rivalry, I just didn’t feel it. And Christian Bale’s accent drove me nuts. But, as always, I persevered, and I’m so glad I did. This is one of those films which sets a lot of stuff up without you even realising it, and then suddenly it all pays off. I want to see it again to find all the hints and to see how much is foreshadowed.

The Prestige was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Art Direction and Best Achievement in Cinematography.

Everything Must Go (2010) Film Review


Nick Halsey (Wil Ferrell) is an alcoholic who has lost his job and, upon arriving home, finds his wife has thrown all of his belongings on the front lawn and has left. In denial, he starts to live on his lawn until an unlikely friendship with a black teenager, Kenny and a direct conversation with his new, pregnant neighbour Samantha leads him to start taking action.

I don’t know why it seems that so many of the films that I have seen recently have been these slow-moving character pieces with someone having to deal with major negative life changes where not much happens but eventually things start getting better. They are probably good films, but when you see several in a short period of time, any potential impact is lost. What’s more, in this as in several other films, the character’s turnaround comes from very little, and seems to be quite definite and final.

Wil Ferrell is very believable as this broken man. I think many comic actors can be quite good in serious roles – think Adam Sandler in Punchdrunk Love, or Jim Carey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or Robin Williams in several of his serious roles (not all, though. He does have a tendency to get a bit too earnest). Wil Ferrell can definitely do it too – he was fabulous in the much under-rated Stranger Than Fiction. By all means, so for more serious roles, but I reckon go for films that have a bit more plot.