Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies (2010)

Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Director: Simon Phillips

Set & Costume Designer: Gabriela Tylesova

Cast: Ben lewis, Anna O’Byrne, Maria Mercedes, Simon Gleeson, Sharon Millerchip, Emma J Hawkins, Paul Tabone, and Dean Vince.

Genre: Romance

Performance Date: January 13th, 2012

Sydney Season: January – April 2012

 

Score: 3/5

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Holiday* Viewing

This is a new weekly feature every Sunday that highlights all the movies I’ve seen while I’m on “Holiday”.

Easy A,DVD

Emma Stone plays high school student, Olive, who inadvertently ends up with the reputation of being rather loose, shall we say. Or to use the vernacular from my own high school days, a right slag. Very grown up performances and I adore the relationship the parents have with the heroine. Will definitely buy thisDVDand stick it beside ‘Mean Girls’ on my shelf. 

 

Thor, in an aeroplane somewhere over the Pacific

Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is tossed out of Asgard by the All Father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and ends up a pesky mortal here on Earth, where he gets hit repeatedly by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Very believable chemistry between Thor and Foster. The final fight scene goes on a bit too long for my MTV attention span, but remembering Hemsworth with his shirt off at that time compensates mightly. Watching the credits, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, which obviously wasn’t something I knew before viewing.

The Help – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Tate Taylor

Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Ahna O’Reilly, Anna Camp, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Nelsan Ellis

Synopsis: Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Stone) is a young woman with aspirations of becoming a novelist, very progressive for a Mississippi woman in the 1960’s.   Even more progressive are her opinions on racial differences within the state.   At the risk of breaking the law, she begins a novel concerning the stories of the African-American maids in her township… a novel that is destined to make waves.   Her first challenge though is to get these scared women to talk to her, until Abeline Clark (Davis) finds the courage to speak up.

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The Adjustment Bureau – A Review by Film Nerd

Director:  George Nolfi

Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Jon Stewart, Michael Kelly

Synopsis: David Norris is a young political contender with a bright future.   He has a chance meeting with ballet dancer Elise, a woman whom he becomes infatuated with and thinks he will never meet again until another chance encounter on a bus.   At this point however, the Adjustment Bureau, otherwise akin to agents of fate step in.   This romance is not according to “the plan”, and if they end up together, both their futures may not be quite as bright.   Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick.

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Hanna – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng

Synopsis: Hanna (Ronan) has been raised in the wilderness by her father Erik (Bana) to be the perfect weapon.   Her mission, when she is ready, is to kill the mysterious Marisa Viegler (Blanchett) of the CIA.   There are many things that Hanna does not learn from her father, such as some of the joys of modern civilisation, and, more sinisterly, the truth of her own past.

This is another of the films I expressed interest in when I posted about films I was anticipating at the beginning of this year.   In the end it only got a limited release in Australia, perhaps due to be an action film that has art house overtones.   There is a lot to recommend this film.   The action scenes are frenetic and exciting, there are some interesting characters, and yet despite how well the film is set up, it somehow does not all pull together at the end to make a cohesive whole.

Ronan does a great job in this film, having been building an impressive CV to date, which includes previously working with director Joe Wright on Atonement.   They clearly have achieved a rapport working together that comes through in this film.   Hanna dominates the screen time of this film, so the actress playing her had to be convincing and watchable.   Ronan manages both of these successfully.   She is as adept at being a heartless killer, as she is at looking at the new modern world with a mixture of wonder and fear.

The fact that when she is released she makes friends with a family on holiday helps also to show the more human side of the character.   There are times these moments threaten to change the tone of the film, making it perhaps more clichéd, the film does manage to turn these moments around into something somewhat unexpected.   This story thread though is one I feel was left incomplete, as this family, headed by the characters played by Flemyng and Williams, is left abruptly and never heard from again for the rest of the film.

Providing the most prominent adult roles, both Bana and Blanchett are on their usual superior form.   Bana appears less than expected, however he does well with the material given to him.   Blanchett is powerful as ever, though her American accent jarred with me, and I feel served no purpose to the plot.   She could just as easily have used her tried and true English accent and played an MI5 agent, and the plot would have been served just as well.   Aside from this though, she is convincing in her role that is at stages maternal, but more often quite threatening.

I quite enjoyed this film for the most part, and it has the benefit of feeling fresh and being an original story, an element that is lacking in a lot of modern cinema.   The ending is handled poorly though, and in reflection there are more than just a few loose threads that are not taken care of, to the damage of the rest of the film.

3 stars out of 5

 

Hanna on IMDB

Hanna on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tjtv8tVtVRw]

Red Riding Hood (2011)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie and Gary Oldman.

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

Australian Release Date: March 24th 2011

Australian Rating: M

Score: 1/5

A medieval village is plagued by a restless werewolf, and everyone is a suspect. Sound simple? Well it is. Throw in a shallow teenage love story and you’ve got a cheap teen flick that kids barely watch past their partner’s lips.

That may sound a bit harsh, but there was no real hook at the beginning. I was bored within minutes and only stuck it out because I don’t like half watching movies. There was a mediocre love triangle, well, two actually, and the whole story was “who’s the wolf?”. The film consisted of making 4 or 5 people appear to be the wolf, and then at the very end you find out who is the wolf and who saves the heroine. I could save you seeing it by telling you who the wolf is, and that’s it.

The few bigger name actors in this movie played their roles as well as could be expected, but the rest of the no name cast was seriously lacking. It also suffered “insert-random-sex-scene-here syndrome”, which always annoys me. If there is a reason to show the sex scene, then by all means, otherwise it is a cheap distraction from story. And before you get upset with me, they didn’t even get anywhere with those scenes.

I don’t really have much more to say. I was really interested in the film and was terribly disappointed. I wish I had something better to say about it.

SchmandaRose

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence,

Rose Byrne, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Bacon,

Oliver Platt, Alex Gonzalez, Jason Flemyng, Zoe Kravitz

Genre: Action

Australian Release Date: June 2nd, 2011

Australian Rating: M

 

Score: 3/5

Forget everything you ever knew about X-Men. Because it is best left behind when watching this film. Not that the movie itself was inherently bad, it was just difficult to get past all the inconsistencies. Call me an old school fan girl if you wish, but I just found this representation lacking.

This movie is meant to be a prequel to the other X-Men movies, not a retelling of the strong story of friendship and parting of ways of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. As such, certain liberties were taken to try and conform this story to the new take on the X-Men stories as portrayed in said previous movies.

Don’t get me wrong, for an action flick it had explosions, hot chicks and a half decent detailed storyline, not to mention some great acting (in the form of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender), but it was like the writers decided to take the story between Charles and Erik, and pick random characters from the X-Men comics to fulfil places that were created in their version for a character with their specific powers.  As a fan of the  original stories, I found this difficult to overcome. But for people more accepting than I, I can see how this could have been an enjoyable film.

Like I already mentioned, the acting of Charles (McAvoy) and Erik (Fassbender) was one of the highlights of this film. McAvoy really captured the enthusiasm, determination and moral leadership that Charles was known for in his youth, and Fassbender played the troubled, still-trying-to-find-his-solution Erik, that ultimately lead to his becoming the leader of a radical group whose purpose is to eliminate any threat to his people. Freedom fighters or terrorists. It is a fine line. But Magneto himself is not evil. This movie does do one thing right. It shows how Erik and Charles want the same thing, safe existence of mutant-kind, yet the differences in methods they believe necessary to achieve this. The main theme of this story is Coexistence vs. Replacement. Charles believes that mutants and humans can live side by side, harmoniously, while Erik has a sadly more realistic view – one which Charles’ thesis was based on – and that is that there can only ever be one dominant species. The rest of the acting was nothing spectacular, some of it was rather 2dimensional in my opinion, but the cameos from the previous movies were a nice touch.

Let’s ignore the fact that they had the wrong characters and created incredibly inaccurate character relationships for a moment, and let’s discuss some of the major issues in the story. I think they can be summed up by ‘speed’. I personally found that some of the major character developments happened way too quickly to be believable, and that the ending was very sudden. Take Charles Xavier and Raven Darkholme: what purpose did it serve to make them grow up as adopted siblings, then have her inevitably turn on him barely within a heartbeat? One night and a shared dream with Erik should not have been enough to make her turn her back on the decades spent growing up with Charles. That kind of change needed to grow and be shown, to be believable.

So, a brief overview of what they did incorrectly: wrong ages and/or nationalities for some of the characters; having Alex Summers at all (considering he is significantly younger than Scott); working so intimately with the CIA; but most importantly: Charles found Jean when he was working with Erik. She was his first real student, his prodigy. One inconsistency they corrected from the previous movies, however, was the age and alignment of Emma Frost.

I can accept, but still dislike, the idea that Marvel has multiverses, and that those stories are also inconsistent, but within a series they remain consistent, and so far, as much as I still enjoy watching them, these movies are inconsistent within themselves. I will be happy when Marvel Studios get the licensing back for X-Men movies. My vote would be for a screen version of the Ultimate series. It is modernised and somewhat simplified. If someone got that wrong I would be devastated. Although, the current casting department have done a generally wonderful job.

Final thoughts: a good story on its own, but they have taken something that they did not create and changed it, dramatically. Better enjoyed by people who barely know anything of the comics.

SchmandaRose

For those who loved the originals 🙂

Your Highness

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel

Synopsis: Fabious (Franco) is the popular Prince of the realm, off fighting the hordes of the evil Leezar (Theroux), and overshadowing his underachiever brother Thadeous (McBride).   When Leezar steals Fabious’ bride-to-be Belladonna (Deschancel), he enlists his brother’s help to go rescue her.   They are helped along the way by female warrior Isabel, who has her own scores to settle.

I should preface this review with the fact that I was seeing the film with low expectations based upon previous reviews, and I was also already extremely tired.   I was far from being in the mood to think about much, and if anything, cheap laughs was exactly what I could have wanted.   I got said laughs, and as such, this film was perfect for me at the time.   If I had been in a more discerning mood, I probably still would have enjoyed it, but perhaps find it a bit silly.

That would not be an inaccurate interpretation, but it is where the charm of the film lies.   Raunchy innuendo, gross-out, slap-stick… all the reliable comedy tropes are there.   McBride revives the same slacker comedy type that he relies heavily on, and Franco channels more of his character in Pineapple express than his Spiderman villain, here to good effect.   If the film had remained a two-handed effort between these two, the gags could have gotten old fast, but introducing Portman’s Isabel gives the comedy greater balance, in addition to providing a love interest for Thadeous (and the associated comic opportunities).   In the end, there were quite a few belly laughs on offer, with many chuckles in between.   Bride of Film Nerd and I saw the film as a second half of a double feature with Bridesmaids, and I can safely say we both agree that Your Highness was the superior comedy.

We were also quite surprised that the special effects were quite decent, in addition to some quite incredible action sequences.   Each come from nowhere, and they are welcome when they arrive, giving the film a bit more flair whenever the running gags are in danger of becoming old.   It helps that Franco looks quite appropriately dashing in the role of action icon of the film.   Even McBride, when brought into his stand up and be counted final fight scenes, looks somewhat menacing, without extending the character beyond its origins to an unbelievable extent.

All of this commentary in many ways however is over-analysing what is a very simple film.   If you find stoner/slacker/frat boy humour offensive, you should already be well aware to keep away from this film.   If that list already has grabbed your interest though, there are many worse ways I can think of spending an enemy.   The film gets the fourth star if you are tired and can’t raise your mind above low-brow!!

4 stars out of 5http://filmactually.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php


Your Highness on IMDB

Your Highness on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH7qH4Kb8wc]

 

 

Bridesmaids

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Hamm

Synopsis: Annie (Wiig) is the unlucky in love type who also has a history of a failed business, and things generally not going well.   Her best friend Lillian (Rudolph) gets engaged and asks Annie to be the Maid of Honour.   This immediately puts her at odds with fellow bridesmaid Helen (Byrne), a new, more well off friend of Lillian’s, who clearly wants the top job.

This film has had a lot of good press.   Largely, this has a lot to do with it breaking the mould, being a gross out comedy (produced by gross-out comedy king Judd Apatow) that is female centric.   When the film operates as a gross out comedy, it is really quite brilliant.   Unlikable characters however, are inexcusable in a film of any description, and this film provides enough to destroy the good work that this film achieves elsewhere.

The fault predominantly lies with Byrne’s Helen.   Byrne has had some success of late, and her performance is not at all what is to blame here.   The character is so controlling and domineering, that it is just sheer frustrating rather than funny.   She becomes a caricature of all the worst stereotypes of a bad bridesmaid hiding under the veneer of the organising helpful type.   The film is so successful at making her unlikable, that by her inevitable redemption stage, I kind of just did not care anymore.

One annoying character is bad enough, but our protagonist Annie is also herself a frustrating character.   It is cringe-worthy watching a person so adept at making all the wrong choices.   Wiig makes her sympathetic, but when she yet again turns on the nice guy that will treat her right for a guy who considered her his number three, I am sure I tore a bald patch out from my head.   This leads me to some elements that are brilliant about the film.   Chris O’Dowd transplants his Roy from the IT crowd into this film, playing sweet, quirky and loveable type, and would be partner to Annie.   He is just a nice guy, and the film benefits from his presence.   The other really likeable character is McCarthy’s Megan.   It is from this source that many of the biggest laughs come.

I have griped on character quite a bit here, perhaps because my lasting impressions of the film came from this.   Not so much from the comedy.   Some of the comic set-pieces work really well.   Watch out for the reactions to food poisoning when bridesmaid dress shopping is occurring.    These are not regular enough though, so it is a film that lacks the pacing of similar male centric gross-outs.   In the end, this is sold as a comedy, so it could have spent less time on the more frustrating dramatic elements, which did not even induce character sympathy.

It is a good way to pass a Saturday night.   Just don’t let previous good press get your hopes up too high.

3 stars out of 5


Bridesmaids on IMDB

Bridesmaids on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrRd2QSsGc4]

 

 

The King’s Speech – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall

Synopsis: The Oscar winning film that tells the story of King George VI (Firth), who battled life long with a debilitating stutter.   When his older brother (Pearce) abdicates, it is up to him to step in and guide the country on the eve of the second World War.   To assist him in addressing his subjects via wireless, he enlists the help of unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush).

A review by Film Nerd.

Revenge of the Film Nerds is a bit late on reporting on this film, despite the fact it is still playing in some cinemas even following its release on DVD and Blu-ray.   There is simply no excuse for this oversight, as it is a film well deserving of all the accolades heaped upon it, and is one of those rarer instances these days where the Academy chooses a deserving winner correctly.

The story of King George VI is a simple yet inspirational one.   His early abortive attempts at public speaking can only draw sympathy, even for those that have not personally experience the debilitating effects a stutter can have.   It is not a long stretch to amplify that in one;s mind when some-one is born into a role requiring public address.   Firth is on fine form, never missing a beat when missing a beat, as it were.   It takes a fine actor to take a character, real or not, with a clear defect, and to not make that a caricature.   Firth imbues his “Bertie” with the right amount of frustration and anguish to show a real man with a real challenge.   Then steps in Rush, on equally fine form.   His Lionel Logue is certainly eccentric, his methods somewhat absurd, and yet the impact of his actions is imbued with a real sense of authenticity.

Of course, the film is building to overcoming the odds, especially as the world once again descends into war, requiring the public to hear a strong address from country’s figurehead.   Once again, when this moment finally comes, the speech is not flawless, but it is strong and honest.   Despite all these events though, I would argue that beyond this, it is a story about friendship.   The Prince on his road to becoming King has been raised to not share his emotions, especially not with a civilian like Logue.   For Logue himself, he has more than a high profile assignment…   In figuring out what makes his client tick, a friendship is born that will define them both.

It is not a film of much action, nor of big, grand-standing moments.   It is a film however of heart, and of inspiration.   Well done to all involved in bringing this interesting piece of history to life in such a mid-blowing way.

5 stars out of 5

The King’s Speech on IMDB

The King’s Speech on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzI4D6dyp_o]