So it’s 2014. That’s crazy isn’t it? Before we know it we’ll be finished with this decade… But you don’t want to hear stale musings about how time flies, do you? You want to read about a few films. Well no problem, it just so happens I’ve managed to watch some. Let’s take a look at one…
The Intouchables tells the true story of Driss; a recently released criminal who is unexpectedly hired to be a caretaker for a rich quadriplegic man called Philippe. The start of their time together is strained, mainly due to the steep learning curve Driss encounters. Although his new caregiver has no previous experience, Philippe appreciates his unprofessional approach: he even goes as far as sharing a couple of joints with him. More importantly, Driss doesn’t pity Philippe because of his condition and the two become firm friends.
The Intouchables has made millions at the box office, picked up a César Award for Best Actor and back in 2011 it became the highest grossing movie in France. And yes, you should believe the hype because it really is brimming with personality and charm. Judging by this, it’s no surprise that American distributers The Weinstein Company already have an English remake on the way. But if you’re all for watching subtitles (and you really should be, there’s a literally a whole world of foreign language films) then you should take the time to check out the original.
Highlights: Driss’ genuine disbelief that Philippe can’t feel being continuously scalded with a teapot.
The Loved Ones’ premise isn’t anything special: a girl, Lola (Robin McLeavy) captures a boy, Brent (Xavier Samuel) after he refuses to take her to the prom. Together with her loving father, they go about torturing Brent as he desperately tries to find a way to escape. It’s a pretty standard affair, but the great thing about the film is what director Sean Byrne does with the material.
The entire film is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. Robin McLeavy’s performance as the psycho princess Lola is as captivating as it is unsettling to watch. No part of the film makes it feel strained or out of place, which can be the downfall of so many horror films. A good script, tight editing and great acting really sell the story, while the Australian outback serves as a stunning backdrop for the mayhem that gradually unfolds. This is a film that you should see; even if it’s outline is slightly lackluster.
Highlights: The sub plot about Brent’s friend actually attending the ball is an interesting addition to the movie. Plus it mercifully eases some of the tension.
I think it’s high time we took a look at a romantic film, don’t you? Away We Go follows Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) as they prepare to have their first kid. After discovering that Burt’s parents are relocating overseas, the couple decide to take a leaf out of their book and move. Together they set out across America, visiting their family and friends in hope of finding their ideal home.
This is a really well done road movie. Prolific actors such as Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal deliver excellent performances, making each of Burt and Verona’s stops memorable. The supporting cast is nicely balanced with the equally impressive leads. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph’s onscreen chemistry really sells the journey of the kooky thirty something couple. Great direction makes watching them go through the motions of finding a new home very enjoyable and heartwarming. Definitely worth a watch.
Highlights: The good intentioned bickering between the Burt and Verona as they discuss their friends, travel destinations and more importantly, their baby.
For anyone who had their head stuck in a hole, it was Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary last week. Millions of fans tuned in for the hotly anticipated 799th episode ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Withnail and I’s Paul McGann featured in a mini episode ‘The Night of the Doctor’. Even Google paid tribute to the series with an impressive Doodle. If you were like me and knew nothing about the BBC show, a lot of this probably went over your head. Fifty years worth of episodes, spin offs and regenerations can be pretty confusing. Luckily, An Adventure in Space and Time is a pretty good place to get acquainted with the long running drama.
The movie centers on how Dr. Who started its run back in 1963. Producer Verity Lambert struggles with difficult actors, cramped sets and a limited budget. Circumstances beyond their control like the assassination of John F. Kennedy result in fluctuating ratings. The first half of the film feels like a tense battle between David and Goliath, with disaster being narrowly avoided at every turn. The stellar cast, lead by David Bradley, brings the story of the show’s first shaky steps to life. All in all, it’s a very intriguing insight into how the series grew into the phenomenon it is today.
With so much going on for the anniversary, An Adventure in Space and Time could easily be pushed aside by fans in favour of other Dr. Who outings. Similarly, people who aren’t big on sci-fi might find their eyes glazing over at the prospect of giving it try. But this is a great movie. The best thing about this film is that both fans of the series and total newcomers can enjoy it. Die-hard veterans will love the subtle references and in-jokes while people who aren’t familiar with the show will appreciate the story and setting.
Highlights: The impressive level of detail put into recreating the swinging 60s. It holds its own even when compared to big budget, era centric shows like Mad Men.
Despite its poor run at the box office, James Gunn’s Super does feature an impressive cast, lead by The Office’s Rainn Wilson. The plot follows Frank Darbo (Wilson) after his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a notorious drug dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After receiving no help from the police, Frank decides to rescue his ex himself, and thus the “The Crimson Bolt” is born. Aided by his sidekick “Boltie” (Ellen Page), the duo set out to rescue Sarah while sporting two crudely made (yet brilliantly realistic) costumes.
The setup is fairly typical of many superhero films, but over the course of its running time, Super deviates from this slightly derivative outline. Compared to the usual depiction of heroes, Frank’s motives are flawed and selfish. He assaults any rule breaker by hitting them with a pipe wrench, regardless if they’re a child molester or if they’ve simply cut in line. For Frank, the difference between right and wrong becomes blurred and his growing sense of self-entitlement turns a standard superhero story into something a lot darker.
Super is a great film because it brings something new to a tried and tested format. If you watch it expecting something like Iron Man or Kick Ass, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. If you can look past this however, you’ll find a well made, thought provoking film.
Highlights: Ellen Page’s manic laughter and Nathan Fillion’s appearance as Frank’s muse, “The Holy Avenger”.
As the title suggests, Christopher Denham’s directorial debut is a horror flick set firmly in the found footage sub-genre. Now before you start rolling your eyes and sighing exasperated sighs, hear me out. Yes, this type of film rarely brings anything new to the table, but Home Movie is an exception.
The film follows the Poe family as they adapt to a new life in the country. Parents David and Clare happily record the day-to-day activities via a hand held recorder while their children, Jack and Emily, remain silent. Trouble begins when their kids start exhibiting unsettling behavior, which includes killing their pets in a number of brutal ways. As their situation gets worse, David and Clare frantically search for an explanation to their children’s actions while wrestling with their own personal demons.
For a low budget film, Home Movie has plenty of potent horror elements within its modest running time. The reason it works is simple: the makers kept the writing sharp. As a result, the characters are three dimensional instead of just being lifeless cardboard cutouts. Every horrific element they encounter is heightened because we as an audience care about what happens to them. It might seem basic, but this is where a lot of recent, big budget offerings fall down.
Home Movie won’t revolutionize the horror genre. It has its fair share of flaws. The usual ‘why’re they filming everything?’ question inevitably crops up and some of the character’s decisions are remarkably stupid, but it’s a prime example of how much a difference can be made just through the writing.