Monthly Archives: October 2011

Review: The Help (2011)

DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor.

CAST: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O’Reilly, Allison Janney, Anna Camp, Eleanor and Emma Henry, Chris Lowell, Cicely Tyson, Mike Vogel, Aunjanue Ellis, Sissy Spacek, Ted Welch, Leslie Jordan, Mary Steenburgen.

SYNOPSIS: Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan (Stone) is less concerned about finding a husband than her friends, desperate to become a respected writer. Troubled by the way the black women who work in her friends’ homes are treated, Skeeter turns to Aibileen Clark (Davis), asking her to disclose the truth about what really goes on behind closed doors. With others reluctant to help at first, Skeeter finds herself on the road to discovering some of the community’s best-guarded secrets and exposing the town during the civil rights movement.

Set amidst the events of the civil rights movement, for all its laughs and light heartedness, The Help deals with some incredibly traumatising events – albeit in a 12A fashion. This is bled into the second half with great ease and is a very impressive transition from the fun, caricatured portrayal of American society from the first half. Although we don’t see any mass violence, we see people escaping it, running for their lives and sporadic mentions of Jim Crow and similar figures ensure the harsh reality remains an ominous shadow over the film. Continue reading

Review: Contagion (2011)

DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh.

CAST: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, Anna Jacoby-Heron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chin Han, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Sanaa Lathan, John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston, Elliott Gould, Brian J. O’Donnell.

SYNOPSIS: When a deadly disease starts spreading across the world, the speed and unpredictability at which it attacks leaves the human population helpless. Following different stories, some that connect and some that don’t, we see how this unknown virus affects individual families, doctors and the pressure that falls on the government.

Contagion’s main weapon lies in just how incredibly realistic the events that play before us are. These massive Hollywood superstars on our screen are no longer past and present Oscar contenders, but real people fighting for their lives. While it’s safe to say this film has acquired a cast most directors would give their left arm for, their ability to transform into your average civilian marks out just why. Continue reading

Review: Real Steel (2011)

DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy.

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis, Olga Fonda, Karl Yune, James Rebhorn.

SYNOPSIS: Tired of watching humans fight, impressive robots are built to battle each other in the ring and shipped all over the world for competitions. Some, however, fight in the dirt and their owners have to drive day after day to find the nearest fight. Charlie Kenton (Jackman) is struggling to find enough money from these small fights to keep the debt collectors away. But when his 11-year-old son Max (Goyo) turns up after unexpected circumstances, the two of them find Atom, a robot who may give them a chance to both rebuild their relationship and reform the sport.

If you walk out of Real Steel without a smile on your face, there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. Better than you probably think, Real Steel once again shows us that even when he plays it effortless with Charlie Kenton, Hugh Jackman sells. Continue reading

Review: The Three Musketeers (2011)

DIRECTOR: Paul W.S. Anderson.

CAST: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Freddie Fox, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Christoph Waltz, Juno Temple, Gabriella Wilde, Mads Mikkelsen, James Corden.

SYNOPSIS: After leaving the home he shares with his parents, D’Artagnan (Lerman) heads to Paris and meets the former Musketeers, Athos (Macfadyen), Porthos (Stevenson) and Aramis (Evans). Far removed from their former glory, they are all too soon swept up in a plot to seize the French throne and D’Artagnan must help them secure King Louis’ (Fox) position within Europe.

Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers has its heart in the right place. It’s a real shame, then, that so many extraordinarily talented actors are wasted to assure this is a vehicle for Logan Lerman. As much as you try and embrace the whole silliness of it, not a lot seems to work. And how did a film of 110 minutes feel so long? Continue reading

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

DIRECTOR: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

CAST: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Jonah Bobo, Analeigh Tipton, John Carroll Lynch, Marisa Tomei, Liza Lapira, Josh Groban, Beth Littleford, Kevin Bacon, Joey King.

SYNOPSIS: Cal Weaver (Carell) thinks he is living the perfect suburban life until wife Emily (Moore) tells him she’s been having an affair with a guy from work (Bacon) and wants a divorce. After watching Cal drown his sorrows night after night in a local bar, ladies man Jacob Palmer (Gosling) decides to take Cal under his wing, turning him into a project and helping him navigate the dating scene.

It’s not often a film about soul mates, heartbreak and first love can be turned into a deliciously smart comedy. But after 2009’s quirky I Love You Phillip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa seemed like the perfect duo to give it a try. Continue reading

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

DIRECTOR: Tomas Alfredson.

CAST: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, David Dencik, Toby Jones, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Stephen Graham, Kathy Burke, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Simon McBurney, Philip Martin Brown.

SYNOPSIS: After a covert mission goes horribly wrong, George Smiley (Oldman) and his superior, British Intelligence spymaster Control (Hurt) are let go from their jobs. But when Ricki Tarr (Hardy) turns up claiming to have evidence that there is a Soviet mole at the heart of British Intelligence, Smiley and colleague Peter Guillam (Cumberbatch) are enlisted to pin down the traitor.

Beautifully constructed and meticulously executed, Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a showcase in pitch perfect pacing, acting and storytelling. Centred around a series of flashbacks utilised as a way in which to pin down the mole at the top of the circus, the race to find the culprit is as sadistically frustrating as it is chokingly tense. Continue reading

Review: Friends With Benefits (2011)

DIRECTOR: Will Gluck.

CAST: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Bryan Greenberg, Nolan Gould, Shaun White, Andy Samberg, Emma Stone.

SYNOPSIS: After Jamie (Kunis) headhunts Dylan (Timberlake) for a job at GQ Magazine, the two become best friends after she spends a lot of time showing LA boy Dylan around the Big Apple. The relationship soon becomes physical and they are left answering that eternal question – can bed buddies be best buddies?

After loving every second of 2010’s Easy A, Will Gluck’s Friends With Benefits had a lot to live up to. It may not be superior to the Emma Stone-starrer, but it sure as hell tries its hardest and for the most part this pays off. With some brilliant back-and-forth from the minute Dylan and Jamie are introduced, it’s clear that Gluck hasn’t lost his touch with recurring jokes on scientology, John Mayer, Harry Potter and the Hudson River plane landing hitting all the right notes. Continue reading