Monday, 24 January 2011

Cinema Review: Morning Glory

There's little left to desire when it comes to morning television. If you say otherwise, it's most probably due to your employment for a sub-standard show that fluctuates in value more often than the hosts' eagerness towards a segment featuring an array of pies. Alas, it's an unarguable fact that most morning shows are unsuccessful in their attempts to swoop up the big stories while, most importantly, keeping up the ratings with refreshing segments. This is what Rachel McAdams' character Becky Fuller, a hardworking television producer whose new job prospect of reigniting troubled morning show Daybreak's flame proves incredibly difficult with drab stories and squabbling co-hosts testing her patience.

Director Roger Michell has a keen eye for casting. Piecing together the fundamentals of Morning Glory with Mean Girls star McAdams with an obsessively grouchy, slurry-mouthed Harrison Ford and an enthusiastic Diane Keaton, he highlights throughout his clear knowledge of how to capture an intensely enjoyable chemistry between co-stars -- proven with his earlier films Notting Hill, Venus and Enduring Love, to name a few.

McAdams, a young but highly promising talent, could have lasted the entire duration picking at my very last nerve. A character that would have maintained a plausible annoyance throughout, yet as this is McAdams, such statements could never possibly be uttered. Working diligently with optimism and vigour, her character parallels herself alarmingly. As cute and adorable as she may be, it's all a bonus to a character that's already a joy to watch. On the other hand, Ford sadly stays tight to his previous role in dreary tearjerker Extraordinary Measures. While both characters are complete opposites -- finding a cure for cancer clearly wasn't on the mind of former evening-now daytime host Mike Pomeroy -- an obvious similarity can instantly be made due to their painfully long-lasting woeful attitudes. Still, while he remains fairly uninspiring, his relationship with McAdams is the true 'rom' of this romcom. An almost father-daughter companionship is formed between the two that's an admirable substitute for a cliched love story. Albeit there's one present, but it's so miniscule that it acts as a mere sub-plot with all intentions of not straying from the main story at hand.

Aline Brosh McKenna, the writer of firm favourite The Devil Wears Prada, plods out a film that treads familiar terrain, but enables a journey that feels almost refreshing to watch. McAdams' Fuller is a strongly written female lead that channels comedy and drama all in the one, with Ford and Keaton proving irresistably entertaining as the two consistently argumentative on-screen hosts. A hilariously ostentatious Ty Burrell and a sickly sweet Patrick Wilson are small elements that influence McKenna's sharp writing, with the main trio sparring and lashing quirky one-liners at one another.

It's inevitably contrived, but Morning Glory is nauseatingly well cast and superbly written. As always, McAdams delivers in all elements, with the chemistry between her co-stars proving the most rewarding. A delightfully feel-good, often laugh-out-loud 'romantic' comedy that showcases a bustling but exciting New York City with a lead you can truly root for.


Friday, 14 January 2011

DVD Review: F

Starring: David Schofield, Eliza Bennett, Ruth Gemmell, Juliet Aubrey

Directed by: Johannes Roberts

Plot: The staff of a community college have their after hours disturbed by a group of distinctly threatening hooded figures.

In my most unobtainable vision of my idealistic horror film, there would contain a plot that would somewhat parallel 'F' in the way that it maintains a grounded, almost sub-standard story in regards to the audience being able to place themselves in the characters' shoes, and a setting which would most ideally transcend from the mind of Roberts himself. The deeply unnerving idea of having to stay behind at school after closing is chilling enough, but turn out the lights and add an ominous group of clearly unsettled, most probably angry at their parental figure, delinquents equipped with an array of sharp household objects and you have a decently constructed thriller. So, why was Johannes Roberts' 'F' so far from what i had so dearly hoped for?

British veteran actor Schofield is Robert Anderson, a doted father and husband whose life turns troublesome once an unfortunate incident with his student lands him an estranged, down-trodden man with alcoholic tendencies. With the Headmistress of his work place clearly against him, Anderson is a joke to most, including his daughter. It's an unarguable but disappointing fact that all signs of a leader point to Schofield, yet such a statement is preposterous when dealing with such a cack-handed and severely annoying, almost pitiful excuse, of a character. Instantly unlikeable, Roberts' fictional creation is a weak unfortunate depiction that is weighed down further by Schofield's unadventurous role taking. Grunting and groaning whilst resembling that bum on the street corner doesn't stand strong in my eyes, yet when paired with daugter Eliza Bennett (Inkheart), he's surprisingly the opposite. A caring and misjudged father, their relationship is one of the film's highlights. Through squabbling or, well, squabbling, their few scenes prove realistic enough to hold attentions.

With the supporting characters getting bumped off quicker than you can spot that hoodie in the dark, zero development is on offer, which, if dealt with a little more care, could have inspired remorse for those characters whose names i can barely recall. A possible love interest could have been on the board but immediately, 'F' feels incredibly, often carelessly, rushed.

There's little to actually judge when considering 'F'. Running at a mere 70 minutes, there's little room for decent writing, any spark of originality or any true threat. Don't get me wrong, the brief interactions with the hooded foes are often intense and full of dread, but with every scene they're featured in ends in a cutaway edit and slam, the creepiness that was successfully racked up in those few seconds is spoiled by a whimpering Schofield or a cutesy, but gorgeous, young Sarah Michelle Gellar look-a-like Bennett.

Promising, but ultimately, 'F' failed on most levels. Brilliantly atmospheric and a few unexpected, but cheap, jump-in-your-seat moments are sadly overlooked by the rest of Roberts' fault-ridden British horror. With an ending that appears particularly unfinished, don't expect, if you bother picking the film up, to remember it an hour down the line. Sad, but true.


Friday, 7 January 2011

2010: My Top Ten

As late as i may be to the table, noted below are the ten films that made 2010 the year it was. The standard was high, so here's hoping 2011 rewards us with equally as inspiring films from directors either known or unknown. 365 days to rack up another list; GO!

10) While it screened for many in '09, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air was never fully released until January 15th in the UK, therefore it receives last place out of my chosen few. Receiving multiple nominations upon award season, Reitman's witty and heartful drama focusing on George Clooney's Ryan Bingham, his inability to ground himself, literally, and the story that unfolds between love interest Vera Farmiga and work colleague Anna Kendrick was an early hit. While Clooney may have gathered up the praise for his role, i always considered Kendrick -- previously starring in the Twilight franchise as a throw-away supporting character -- the true star, earning care and concern as the uptight Natalie.

9) As a true Potter fan, it was inevitable that if director David Yates did it right, part one of the groundbreaking franchise had to appear on my top 10, with the hotly anticipated closing chapter most probably appearing on next year's round-up. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I takes spot number 9, with Harry, Ron and Hermione on the run from Voldemort and his minions in hope of destroying all horcruxes (items containing segments of the Dark Lord's soul) that He Who Shall Not Be Named has hidden. Cue an impressive array of intense chase sequences, gorgeously poignant moments between our three, more so two, heroes and a 'to be contintued' climax to anger all those that have followed the now grown up trio from the beginning. The forthcoming finale is bound to cause heartache throughout the land of the Muggles.

8) It disappeared before most had noticed, but Rodrigo Cortés and Ryan Reynolds' double efforts in this year's spectacularly nail-biting thriller Buried was one of the many highlights for myself and, judging by the rave reviews, most critics. Reynolds stars as Paul, a U.S contractor working in Iraq. After an unexpected attack, Paul wakes to find himself buried, alive, inside a coffin with only a lighter and a cell phone, leaving him little to no hope of surviving. A true race against the clock thrill ride that had me utterly exhausted with the circumstances the character was propelled in and left me gasping by the time the credits began to roll. Reynolds held the film brilliantly, proving himself as a serious actor rather than the comedic one he was understandably stereotyped to. Who knew a 95 minute film situated in solely a coffin, with Ryan Reynolds of all people, could be one of the year's most mesmerizing and fantastically twisted pieces?

7) An unconventional choice, but Nanette Burstein's Going the Distance had me, an eternal fan of the clichéd romcom, swooning two seats down. While it never truly shook off the predictable, Geoff LaTulippe's script was refreshingly R-rated, setting it apart instantly from the substandard, all too sappy love stories. The universally believable story works, but without the talents of former partners Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, the entire project would be flailing in the dumps. Their chemistry sizzles and their love story is infinitely more realistic and touching than any other double act featured in a film this year. Easy laughs and a partnership worth falling for.

6) Dreamworks Animation is a company that often specialises in the fancy, flaunting their famous voice talents rather than investing in a worthy plot. In my eyes, they reached an entirely new level this year with How To Train Your Dragon, a kid-friendly comedy about the young Viking Hiccup whose aspirations to follow in his father's footsteps are thwarted once an unexpected relationship with the most feared dragon, Toothless, forms. One of the most heartwarming animations of the past ten years, Dreamworks have supplied us with a film that could in fact rival the brilliance of Pixar. Then again having seen Megamind, maybe it was a fluke?

5) The moment the Universal logo appears in 8-bit graphics and sounds, i knew Edgar Wright's take on Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic series was going to be something special. While Scott Pilgrim vs. The World pretty much split audiences, i was in the former of those that fell head over heels for the charming, undoubtedly over-the-top characters, fantastically snappy writing and dazzlingly stylized action sequences, all of which had Wright's typically original twist on things which, in my eyes, is the reason he's successful at what he does. A perfect cast of extraordinary characters and enough zeal from every member to influence an extended career path -- a comment aimed more towards Ellen Wong, playing the deliriously cute Knives Chao.

4) While the appreciation for Easy A was something to be desired in the UK, the U.S. were quoting it all over the joint, making my Florida getaway all that more enjoyable. Emma Stone is understandably perfect as Olive, a clean-cut high school student who mistakingly begins a web of lies surrounding her sex life. Thanks to the school's biggest bitch, bible-bashing Queen Marianne (Amanda Bynes), and the rumour mill, said white lie influences Olive's social and financial standing. One of the smartest, more wittier scripts of the year, Will Gluck's teen comedy is one to battle such renowned high school comedies like Clueless, and contains glorious remnants of John Hughes' earlier pieces -- the added mentions of films such as Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club nearing the end were just brilliant. If anything good came out of Easy A, it's the fact that Stone can carry a film with such an honourable enthusiasm. A rising star i honestly can't wait to see blossom into more adult roles. Co-stars Bynes, Penn Badgley, Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson and Lisa Kudrow also influenced how spectacularly entertaining the film was.

3) A sequel that will unsurprisingly find its way onto every fan's top three. Capturing hearts all over the world, one of the closest examples to a perfect film i've ever come across -- Pixar's Toy Story 3 rounds in at number three. With Andy now grown up and off to college, Woody, Buzz and co. are left in the unknown. Accidentally shipped off to Sunnyside Daycare, they must escape the troublesome child's play area as cutesy, strawberry scented bear Lotso has the place under his thumb. A finale to leave most weeping into their hands and the packet of soaked Kleenex flung onto the floor. An admirable and overwhelmingly moving ending to a trilogy that has redefined animation.

2) Another film that remains at the tip of every moviegoer's tongue -- Christopher Nolan's Inception. Widely praised for it's complexities and sheer originality, Nolan's masterpiece was unarguably one of the year's most groundbreaking, allowing for two and a half hours of complete escapism. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a skilled thief that specializes in stealing from inside the human mind who is given a chance of redeeming himself and returning back to his family. To do so, he must accompany a group and pull off the impossible inception. A ridiculously brilliant cast, a superb script and an unsurpassable amount of mind-blowing sequences to elevate the film as one of cinema's most richest experiences.

1) It's sad to say that due to it's early release back in 2010, Matthew Vaughn's big screen adaptation of Mark Millar's graphic novel, Kick-Ass, has been overlooked when noting down 2010's highlights. Rising actor Aaron Johnson (starring previously in biographical film Nowhere Boy) stars as Dave Lizewski, a geeky high school student that decides to take the law into his own hands by donning a green scuba suit and forms superhero Kick-Ass. Added bonuses come in the form of Nic Cage's single decent role in some time, Big Daddy, McLovin' himself playing Red Mist, villain kingpin Mark Strong and the true stand-out character, Hit Girl, played god-damn fantastically by fourteen year old Chloe Grace Moretz. Jane Goldman's explosively funny, incredibly violent script was without a doubt one of the most unexpected (to those unfamiliar to the novel anyway) of the year, therefore earned a special place and has proven successful as reigning champion for me.

Honourable Mentions:

-Disney's return to hand-drawn animation in The Princess and the Frog was a move that proved ultimately successful.
-Jeff Bridges' Oscar winning performance in Crazy Heart was a tremendous accomplishment, as was the film's gorgeous soundtrack.
-Drew Barrymore's debut as a director in Whip It.
-A clear homage to old school, campy horror in Piranha 3D. The Spring Break massacre is in the books for reaching a gore level i never knew was able to accomplish.
-Matt Reeves' remake of the swedish vampire horror, Let Me In. A close-knit re-do that was pretty damn impressive.