Friday, August 31, 2012


This movie made me angry from the opening credits' sepia-tinted focus on Michelle Williams' blue-laquered toenails.  Poor Margot, it seems to say, so quirky, so right-thinking, making muffins with her face scrubbed clean.  It's like a Williamsburg dream. Except it's not.  It's a part of hipster-heaven-imagined Toronto where a young boho-wannabe couple who never seem to do much work can afford to live in a ramshackle-beautiful house interior designed just-so.  The couple are desperately irritating, right up until you realise that they are really really creepy.  They seem to have a kind of asexual buddy relationship where flirtation consists of speaking in infantile voices and drinking milk and poking fingers in your husband's mouth.  Plus the wife is clearly depressed and the husband so engrossed in making chicken cacciatore that he doesn't notice. So she starts flirting with the neighbour who is, of course!, a rickshaw driver who hangs out at the beach each morning to think.  I couldn't make this stuff up. Except he's clearly not as groovy and right-on and at peace with nature as all that because he's soon stalking her at the Y and then she's stalking him, and it all ends in the unsexiest sex-talk over martinis and a confession about nothing.  Still, as unappealing as I found the cocktease wife Margot and her stalkerish fancyman Daniel (Luke Kirby), at least there's a kind of raw honesty and commitment in their performances.  You realise that the first time you see Seth Rogen (the chicken-chef) react to his wife's confession.  Director Sarah Polley decides to do something that should showcase real acting talent - smashcut close-ups of his different reactions. Except, we learn, Rogen can't act - or at least not that kind of raw drama - he seems to be acting "at" it - and does that annoying Brad Pitt thing where you keep groping your face because that looks natural, right?  I mean, let's be clear, we have to blame Sarah Polley for this self-indulgent, risible mess, just as we lauded her for the Alzheimers drama AWAY FROM HER.  She wrote these absurdly incredible characters and their unsexy sexy language.  She exposed Rogen's inadequacies.  And in a montage designed to show Margot tiring of her new man, she reduces her film to an Ikea advert with a teenage-naive-embarrassing cut to what racy sex might actually look like.  Of course, this movie isn't as radical or subversive or raw or authentic as it thinks it is.   Chicken-man's sister turns out to be that movie cliché - the wise alcoholic.  Basically, the meaning is that we always take the weather with us.  And that very few movies live up to the Leonard Cohen song they're using.  Go home.  Go home. There's nothing to see here.    

TAKE THIS WALTZ played Toronto 2011 and Tribeca 2012. It was released earlier this year in Taiwan, the USA (Video on demand), Australia, Canada, Turkey and Sweden. It was released earlier this month in New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain. It will be released in Belgium on September 19th; in France on October 31st; and in Brazil on November 9th.

Friday, August 24, 2012


THE IMPOSTER is a superb documentary by a British TV documentarian, Bart Layton, with a good pedigree in true crime stories. It tells the true story of a young man in Spain who adopted the identity of an American missing person to stay one step ahead of Spanish social services and keep his place in a childrens' home.  However, this appropriation set of a chain of events that led him to the USA and the family he supposedly belonged to.  The first shock of the film is that the family fell for the imposter, despite the differing eye colour, the bleached blonde hair and the European accent.  The second shock is that this credulity might have stemmed not from the desperate desire to believe that a loved one is still alive, but in order to have an alibi to the alleged murder of the real missing boy years before.  The third shock, for me at least, is that despite the fact that Interpol had a long line of similar con tricks committed by the imposter, his crime was treated as a criminal matter rather than as a psychological disorder.

Bart Layton crafts a film that is blessed by full access to the imposter and to the real missing child's sister, brother-in-law and mother.  We therefore see and understand his motivations. He speaks with utter conviction and disarmingly credible even when we know he is lying. So when he accuses the family of murdering the real child - the only reason they could be willingly taken in by him - how far should be believe a man who has a scary grip on reality and others' feelings?  As for the family, they realise that to protest their innocence, even though there is zero evidence against them, is to fight a losing battle against prurient gossip.  

The documentary is scrupulously fair.  It allows the imposter, Frederic Bourdin, to display himself as intelligent, perceptive but also dangerously delusional at best. It allows the mother of the boy to show herself as distraught but also highlights the drug abuse and petty crime in the family. Who can we believe? This is left open. But the telling of the tale is suspenseful and the vehicle of the telling, polished.

THE IMPOSTER played Sundance 2012. It opened in New York in July and is currently on release in the UK and Ireland. It opens in Canada on October 12th, in Denmark on October 18th, in Sweden on October 22nd, in Russia on November 22nd, in New Zealand on January 10th 2013, in Australia and the Netherlands on February 28th, and in France on April 17th.

THE IMPOSTER was improbably rated R in the USA and has a running time of 99 minutes. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012


THE THREE STOOGES.  I hated it. I hated it. I hated it. And then. Embarrassingly. I loved it! 

The turning point was the scene where Moe got cast in Jersey Shore and slapped The Situation silly.  Up until then the movie had mostly been a paint by numbers childish garish slapstick comedy.  Sure, I could see the technical skill in pulling off the pranks, but a trio of child-men dressing in drag and duelling with pissing babies is hardly my idea of a good time. And as for the plot, one can only assume that the Farrelly Brothers were being self-conscious in ripping off THE BLUES BROTHERS orphans-raise-money-to-save-the-kiddies idea.  I was embarrassed for everyone involved, and especially for Sofia Vergara, who plays the murderous slut who hires the Stooges to kill her rich husband.  Why would the star of America's highest rated prime-time network comedy be doing such a crude film?

But then it happened.  About half way through the film the brothers have a fight and Moe falls into a role on Jersey Shore.  Suddenly I was laughing out loud as the provincial dolt roundly taking the proverbial out of the fake-tanned, slow-witted reality starts. This was pure comedy gold.  And as soon as I opened myself up to it, I realised that I actually did appreciate just how good the three lead actors were - especially Chris Diamantopoulous as Moe.  Worst of all, I realised that I actually cared about what happened to guys.  I wanted to know if they'd make up with each other, and whether they'd save the orphanage, and whether the mean gold-digger would get her comeuppance.  And even at that point, the movie continued to surprise me with a couple of small plot twists at the end that undercut its day-glo saccharine feel.

Alls I can say is that despite my initial revulsion at crude slapstick comedy, I actually had a good time with THE THREE STOOGES, and in its final half hour, it becomes a much cleverer movie than one is led to believe by its initial men-in-drag-as-nuns type humour.  I'm not saying I'd watch it again - but I'm glad I watched it once!

THE THREE STOOGES was released earlier this year in Canada, India, the USA, Pakistan, Vietnam, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Croatia, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, France and Singapore. It was released earlier this month in Chile, Mexico, Spain and Peru and was released this week in the UK and Ireland.  It is released on August 31st in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua; on September 7th in Ecuador; on September 14th in Venezuela, on September 20th in Bolivia; on September 28th in El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama; on October 12th in Germany, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay and on December 7th in the Dominican Republic.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Modestly funny but ultimately underwritten rom-com slash satire from the writer and director behind CALENDAR GIRLS.   The deliciously brilliant Lucy Punch (YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER) plays former wild child turned demure nouveau riche bride Saskia.  In the weeks before her ludicrously over-the-top wedding, she revolts against her spineless fiance Tim (Robert Webb) and becomes attracted to his boorish brother and best man Raif (Rufus Hound).   Naturally, their indiscretions are caught in his amateur video of the build-up to the big day leading to entirely predictable last minute shenanigans. This clichéd is hard to buy in to because the characters are so under-written and one-dimensional.  It's hard to see why Saskia would be attracted to either brother, and the promised revelations of her teenage rebellion seem rather tame.  The social satire on competitive mothers-of-the-bride is far more successful and it's Harriet Walter as Saskia's mother who steals the show.  The observational comedy is just absolutely spot on and authentic - from the mother gloating over her friends when she's secured the perfect venue - to the more extreme but subtly done idea that the bride will arrive on a fake unicorn.  Ultimately, this already short film feels like it has a superb half hour television social satire hidden inside it and frankly, the production values don't lend themselves to the big screen either. 

THE WEDDING VIDEO is on release in the UK, Sweden and Ireland.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TED - Less Subversive Than It Thinks It Is

Seth Macfarlane of Family Guy fame comes tothe big screen with an R-rated stoner movie that thinks it's radically subversive, but is really just another tired Judd Apatow-esque movie about infantile men wooing back their long-suffering mature girlfriends.  For the life of me I can't figure out why they fall for it.

Mark Wahlberg plays fit loser John Bennett who, as a bullied child wished upon a star and found that his Teddy Ruxspin had come to life.  Fast foward twenty-five years, and Ted is a washed-up former child-celebrity who drinks, does drugs, swears and treats women as cheap sex objects.  John has become a car rental agent and is implausibly dating successful businesswoman Lori (Mila Kunis) - that is until Ted invites round a hooker who shits on the floor of their apartment.  I kid you not. The rest of the film has two threads.  The first sees Ted get a job and move out to allow John to try and impress Lori with his new-found maturity.  The second sees Ted abducted by a psycho (Giovanni Ribisi - typecast), which of course allows a final act redemption as everyone realises just how much they love Ted after all.

It's not that Ted isn't funny.  There are a handful of laugh out loud scenes.  But as ridiculous non-PC subject matter goes, TED isn't in remotely the same league as, say, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, BAD SANTA or Armando Ianucci's The Thick Of It. And after a while the nostalgia for 1980s popculture - notably Flash Gordon - became a little tired.  Most of all, the movie just wasn't consistently funny enough for my taste, and when that happens you start questioning the endless gay jokes and crude talk.  Don't get me wrong, I love filthy humour more than most, but the only excuse for that kind of language is that the comedy hits the mark, and TED just didn't.

TED was released in June in Canada and the USA; and in July in Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Croatia, Portugal, Estonia, Romania and Slovenia. It was released earlier this month in the UK, Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Israel Finland, Norway and Spain. It opens this weekend in Lithuania.  It opens next weekend in Greece, Hungary and South Africa. Ted opens on September 6th in Argentina, Denmark, Singapore and Poland; on September 14th in the Netherlands and Mexico; on September 21st in Brazil and Turkey; on September 28th in Hong Kong and Colombia; on October 4th in Sweden and Italy and on October 10th in Belgium and France. 

Monday, August 13, 2012


THE BOURNE LEGACY is very much the B-team continuing a critically acclaimed and commercially successful action franchise. Instead of director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon, we have Tony and Dan Gilroy and director and writer, and star Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER).  The only sensible move the writers make is to avoid Renner just inhabiting the character of Bourne.  Rather he is another member of the elite programme that created Bourne, who is still at large. The US intelligence service, scared that the programme of genetic enhancement will go public, decides to shut it out, which basically involves a manhunt of all the "mutants" and the scientists who did the work.  Cue a partnership between Renner's agent and Rachel Weisz' scientist as they travel the world looking for the drug that will "lock in" Renner's enhancements.  

THE BOURNE LEGACY is a good enough "tab A into slot B" movie with solid performances from the lead actors and a good enough script and plot premise.  I remain sceptical about whether Renner is really a leading man - whether he has sufficient charisma and screen heft. I wanted more of the danger that lurked just below the surface in THE TOWN - more of the raw edginess. I also remain sceptical about Tony Gilroy as a director as opposed to a screenwriter: too many of the chase scenes felt baggy and boring. There's none of the subtlety, style and confidence that he displayed in MICHAEL CLAYTON.

Overall this film is not as bad as many had feared, but it isn't really in the same league as the original trilogy.

THE BOURNE LEGACY is currently on release in the Philippines, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, India, Paraguay, the USA, Vietnam, Ireland, the UK, Spain, Australia, Denmark and New Zealand. It opens on August 23rd in Argentina, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Mexico; on August 29th in Indonesia, Sweden, Bahrain, Kuwait, Peru, Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Colombia, El Salvador, Estonia, Latvia and Turkey.  It opens on September 6th in Hungary, the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Lithuania, Norway and Pakistan; on September 12th in Belgium, Germany and Israel; on September 19th in France, Finland and South Africa; on September 28th in Japan; on October 4th in Greece; on October 25th in Chile and China and on November 23rd in Venezuela.

THE BOURNE LEGACY is rated PG 13 in the USA and has a running time of 135 minutes. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012


BRAVE reached our shores much maligned - a Pixar movie that was too Disney, too earnest, too mashed up in the re-writes, not funny enough, not adult enough..... And it's true, BRAVE isn't your standard issue Pixar fare.  The protagonist is female, the setting is medieval Scotland, and instead of male bonding and pop-culture references we get an earnest, emotional and frightening film about maternal love and maturity.  Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) rebels against her arranged marriage to a clan heir, refusing to be a demure feminine wife like her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson).  Happening across a witch (Julie Walters) she unwittingly casts a spell that turns her mother into a bear - an animal her father Fergus (Billy Connolly) is most intent on killing. Moreover, if Merida can't undo the spell within two days her mother will remain a bear forever.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the film, and it even got a little dusty in the theatre by the end of the movie. Maybe that's because I am a female reviewer, or maybe it's because if you approach the film with an open-mind: while it's different from Pixar classics, it's still a good relatable movie.  I liked the voice work.  I really believed in the reconciliation between mother and daughter and that the stakes were real.  

Moreover, on a technical level, the film once again pushes the envelope.  Rural Scotland has never looked more lush. The scenes were Merida gallops through the countryside on her pony are just breathtaking.  And as for her wild, curly, red hair - I am just stunned by the movement, texture and detail that the animators were able to render.  I also loved the fact that the animation tips its hat to Studio Ghibli, with the witch-character and the will-o-the-wisps straight out of PRINCESS MONOKO or SPIRITED AWAY. Finally, let's not overlook the fact that for the first time ever we have a film with proper Scottish accents rather than Mike Myers painful imitation.

BRAVE was released in June in China, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, India, Indonesia, Taiwan and the USA. It was released in July in Pakistan, Vietnam, Argentina, Chile, Israel, Paraguay,  Belgium, the Netherlands, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Japan. It was released earlier this August in France, the Philippines, Cambodia, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Scotland, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Croatia, Iceland, Lithuania, Spain and Venezuela. It opened earlier this week in the UK and opens this weekend in Portugal, Romania and the Czech Republic. It opens later in August in Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It opens in September in Georgia, Italy, Serbia, Turkey, Panama, Slovenia and South Korea.