Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Film Review: "The Hangover Part III" (2013).

"The epic conclusion to the trilogy of mayhem and bad decisions." This is The Hangover Part III. This comedy film directed by Todd Phillips, written by Phillips and Craig Mazin, and based on Characters by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. It is the sequel to The Hangover Part II, and the final installment of The Hangover Trilogy. The Wolfpack decides to help Alan after he faces a major crisis in his life. However, when one of them is kidnapped by a gangster in exchange for Chow, a prisoner on the run, they must find him.

In May 2011, days before the release of Part II, Phillips said that "there already are plans for a third film but no script or start date". In addition, Mazin entered early talks to write the third installment. In December 2011, on the The Graham Norton Show, Bradley Cooper stated he "hopes" that Part III will start shooting in September 2012, and also stated that Phillips is working on the script. In January 2012, it was reported that stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms were nearing deals to reprise their roles in third installment with each receiving $15 million (against the backend) for their participation. They had to be convinced to do the third film, since they believed the storyline had lost its appeal. In March 2012, Warner Bros. announced that it was moving forward with the sequel and scheduled a release date of May 24, 2013. In June 2012, it was reported that the third installment would return to Las Vegas and would shoot on the Las Vegas Strip and at Caesars Palace. The report stated that much of the film would also be shot in Los Angeles and Tijuana and include a storyline that involves the boys rescuing Alan from a mental hospital. In July 2012, Ken Jeong signed on to return in a significantly expanded role. The following week, Mike Epps entered negotiations to reprise his role of Black Doug. In August 2012, it was reported that Heather Graham would be back to play Jade the stripper. A few days later, Sasha Barrese was signed to reprise her role as Doug's wife, Tracy. By early September 2012, Justin Bartha said he had signed on to return in the sequel. In addition, John Goodman, Melissa McCarthy, Jeffrey Tambor rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid November. Filming took place throughout Nogales, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Tijuana, Mexico; and California.

The film stars Galifianakis, Cooper, Helms, Bartha, Jeong, Goodman, McCarthy, Tambor, Graham, and Chung. There are plenty of laughs to be had from the outrageous situations in which the guys find themselves thanks to their hilarious, even if it's too over-the-top, performances.

A crueler, darker, raunchier carbon copy of the first and second installment, The Hangover Part III lacks the element of surprise—and most of the joy—that helped make the original, or even the sequel, a hit. 

Simon says The Hangover Part III receives:

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Film Review: "Stuck in Love" (2012).

"A story of first loves and second chances." This is Stuck in Love. This romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Josh Boone in his directorial debut. Meet the Borgens. William Borgens is an acclaimed author who hasn't written a word since his ex-wife Erica left him 3 years ago for another man. In between spying on Erica and casual romps with his married neighbour Tricia, Bill is dealing with the complexities of raising his teenage children Samantha and Rusty. Samantha is publishing her first novel and is determined to avoid love at all costs - after all she's seen what it has done to her parents. In between hook ups, she meets "nice guy" Lou who will stop at nothing to win her over. Rusty, is an aspiring fantasy writer and Stephen King aficionado, who is on a quest to gain 'life experiences'. He falls for the beautiful, but troubled Kate and gets his first taste of love and a broken heart. A tale of family, love (lost and found), and how endings can make new beginnings. There are no rewrites in life, only second chances.

By early March 2012, it was announced that Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Logan Lerman, Kristen Bell, Liana Liberato, Spencer Breslin, and Patrick Schwarzenegger were cast in writer and director Boone's independent romantic comedy-drama. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early April. Filming took place throughout North Carolina under the working title Writers.

The film stars Connelly, Kinnear, Collins, Wolff, Lerman, Bell, Breslin, and Schwarzenegger. The cast balance grace with gravity, wit with heart. They were transcendent, pure and authentic. If Kinnear, Wolff, and Lerman are glibly charming and ultimately affecting, the film belongs to Connelly, Collins, and Liberato, performers who always seems to be backing warily into their own films. They are so captivating and genuine in their performances, they manage to make this intensely poignant film very moving, romantic and highly entertaining.

Stuck in Love is a sharp and emotionally-sophisticated romantic comedy that imbues its teenage characters with rare intelligence, and tackles its bleak subject matter with acerbic wit and tenderness. The film sets out to make you laugh—not just a little tiny chuckle, but laugh until you feel warm inside. It succeeds. Under the assured direction of Josh Boone, the film earns its emotions without grand manipulative gestures, and finds its heart through the fantastic cast and an effortless and appealing intimacy between the characters. The talented cast and crew enhance what is already some pretty good material, making the film a genuine romantic comedy that doesn't fall into a typical Hollywood weeper formula. In a laudable attempt to seem heartfelt without blatant manipulation, the film generally succeeds, thanks especially to winning performances from its cast. Heartfelt, sincere and altogether rather wonderful, the film will enchant audiences and leave behind very many laughs in its wake. The film is exceptionally high-quality mainstream entertainment, a genuine work of art.

Simon says Stuck in Love receives:

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Film Review: "Side Effects" (2013).

"One pill can change your life." Side Effects does exactly that. This psychological thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh from a screenplay written by Scott Z. Burns. The film concerns the ramifications of an event following a young woman being prescribed antidepressant drugs, in particular the fictional new drug Ablixa (alipazone). To promote the movie, a website for Ablixa was created, and Jude Law answered questions by email.

Up to the year 2005, there have been around 68 documented cases of homicidal sleepwalking. This was to become the subject and subtext for Scott Z. Burns' script. With the original title The Bitter Pill, this film was to be director Steven Soderbergh's last effort in the director's chair. For casting, Soderbergh originally considered casting Lindsay Lohan for the role of Emily and he auditioned her three times. However, producers felt that her ongoing legal issues would disrupt the production process. Afterwards, Emily Blunt, Olivia Wilde, Imogen Poots, Alice Eve, Amanda Seyfried and Michelle Williams were considered for the lead role. Then Blake Lively was cast, but the production company that was funding the movie dropped out after learning of her casting. She was eventually replaced by Rooney Mara, who dropped out of Zero Dark Thirty (2013). Justin Timberlake was considered for the role that went to Channing Tatum. The film reunites Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum and Jude Law with Soderbergh, making it their third collaboration for the formers and the second collaboration for the latter. Soderbergh claimed that one his biggest influences making the movie was the work of Adrian Lyne, especially Fatal Attraction (1987). Principal photography started in April 2012 in New York City.

The film stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. The cast gave riveting performances, each one displaying psychological depth and turns left, right and centre. Mara brings a particularly seductive complexity to the role and Zeta-Jones shines once again in her second Soderbergh role.

Soderbergh's intense study of the medical field yields an impressive cinematic work in Side Effects. This is a dead-serious film about medical complications, one that swallows with ridicule yet sustains its fundamental eeriness and gravity throughout. The intensity of previous Soderbergh films is in full force here. The film brings horror home to a substance that most grownup moviegoer actually take. The screws are tightened expertly in this suspenseful meller about a flipped-out drugee who makes life hell for the married man who medically advises her. Solid direction, thrilling set pieces, and a riveting performance from Rooney Mara. It's a bleak film, but an extremely watchable one. The entertainment value for this one is high. A pure film for adults, and it manages to walk a tightrope between reprehensible behavior and business as usual. An exceptionally well-written, well-acted and well-directed thriller that extends beyond the boundaries mainstream films typically set. Overall, it is a worthy final chapter to a great cinematic career.

Simon says Side Effects receives:

Also, see my review for Contagion.

Film Review: "The Last Stand" (2013).

"Retirement is for Sissies." This is The Last Stand. This action film directed by South Korean film director Kim Jee-woon, in his American directorial debut, and written by Andrew Knauer. Once a narcotics officer in the LAPD, Ray Owens has settled into a peaceful life as sheriff of Sommerton Junction, a quiet border town. But that peace is shattered when Gabriel Cortez, a vicious crime lord, escapes from FBI custody and speeds toward Ray's town with a band of mercenaries. Federal agents prepare to capture Cortez, and Ray is at first reluctant to get involved -- but he soon finds he must rally his team and take matters into his own hands.

In June 2009, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and studio Lionsgate pre-emptively picked up Andrew Knauer's spec script for The Last Stand. In June 2010, South Korean director Kim Jee-woon became attached to the project. Writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff was also brought in to rewrite the script, which di Bonaventura compared the film to a Western film, with a small town being attacked by an analogue to a corrupt cattle baron and a weathered veteran trying to stop him. Liam Neeson was considered for the protagonist, but he passed. In 2011 Lionsgate offered the project to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had just ended his tenure as Governor of California. In July, he was confirmed in the lead role, marking his first lead role since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). Jee-woon was at first apprehensive to have such a big star in the project, but once both discussed the project he noticed both had the same ideas for Ray Owens, aiming for an everyman instead of a "Terminator like feel". Two weeks later, Lionsgate announced a release date of January 18, 2013. By late October, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Jaimie Alexander and Rodrigo Santoro rounded out the film's cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in early February 2012. Filming took place throughout New Mexico and Nevada. In late December, filming was briefly interrupted, but resumed in early January.

The film stars Schwarzenegger, Knoxville, Whitaker, Alexander and Santoro. One can not help but feel that the performances given by the cast, especially that of Schwarzenegger, are nothing but parodies of parodies.

East meets West again, with disappointing results, in The Last Stand, a Hollywood actioner that draws shamelessly on its Hollywood action forebears without utterly embracing the Koreanism that director Kim Jee-woon is known for. The story’s many advances and reversals can be hard to follow at times. Everything boils down to the action, and what that action means. The film may owe a lot to other films but it is never fresh and mostly boring. This is filmmaking as rodeo ride: bruising and ultimately pointless, but thrilling as hell while it lasts. The film is a jaunty, happy-go-lucky adventure that packs a fistful of dynamite in the spectacular showdown. Kim's filmmaking is generally cartoonish in a bad sense, as he squanders his set pieces, flashbacks, and other attention-getting with sometimes downright wretched staging.

Simon says The Last Stand receives:

Friday, 10 May 2013

Film Review: "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013).

"You think you world is safe? It is an illusion. A comforting lie told to protect you. Enjoy these final moments of peace. For I have returned to have my vengeance. So, shall we begin?" This is what is going down in Star Trek Into Darkness. This science fiction action film directed by J. J. Abrams and written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof, based on the series of the same name created by Gene Roddenberry. It is the twelfth Star Trek film and serves as the sequel to 2009's Star Trek. When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror, from within their own organization, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

In June 2008, it was reported that Paramount Pictures was interested in signing the main producers of the 2009 Star Trek film for a sequel. Screenwriters Kurtzman and Orci began writing the script in June 2009. By 2010, a release date of June 29, 2012, was set, with Damon Lindelof announcing he had begun working on the script with Kurtzman and Orci. Pre-production was set for a January 2011 start. Abrams, Kurtzman, and Orci stated that selecting a villain was hard. In January 2011, Abrams reported that he had not decided whether or not he was directing the sequel, citing that he had still not seen a script. In February, Orci posted on his Twitter that he (and Lindelof and Kurtzman) aimed to deliver the script in March 2011. By April, Orci revealed at WonderCon that the film's first draft of the script had been completed. Abrams reported to MTV that once he finished work on his film Super 8 (2011), he would be turning his full attention to the Trek sequel. Though a script was completed, uncertainty regarding the extent of Abrams' involvement led to the film being pushed back six months from its June 2012 release date. In September, Abrams officially signed on to direct the film, with the cast from the previous film reprising their respective roles. The film was given a revised release date and pushed to a 2013 slot. Originally actor Benicio del Toro had reportedly been sought for the role of the villain. He later bowed out. Actress Alice Eve has signed on for a role and so has Peter Weller. In January 2012, it was reported by Variety that Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast in the role of the villain in the film.

Chris Pine reprises his role as Captain James T. Kirk, with Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Leonard Nimoy, Anton Yelchin, and Bruce Greenwood reprising their roles from the previous film. Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weller, and Alice Eve round out the film's principal cast. Pine gave an emotional performance as Captain James T. Kirk. Quinto gave another brilliantly portrayed and intelligent performance as Commander Spock. Cumberbatch gave the film's strongest performance as John Harrison.

Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than its predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels. Despite flaws and plot holes in the story, the film is a great technological achievement in the Star Trek franchise.

Simon says Star Trek Into Darkness receives:

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Film Review: "42" (2013).

"In a game divided by color, he made us see greatness." This is the story of 42. This biographical sports film written and directed by Brian Helgeland. In 1946, Branch Rickey, legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball's notorious color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the team. The heroic act puts both Rickey and Robinson in the firing line of the public, the press and other players. Facing open racism from all sides, Robinson demonstrates true courage and admirable restraint by not reacting in kind and lets his undeniable talent silence the critics for him.

In 1995, Spike Lee planned to write and direct a film based on the life of Jackie Robinson. The film was set for a 1997 release date to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breaking of the colour barrier, and courted Denzel Washington to star. But in 1996, the project fell apart over creative differences. In March 1997, Lee found favour with Columbia Pictures, who signed him to a three-year first-look deal. Columbia President Amy Pascal reflected that it would bring "enormous potential for Spike to reach audiences that are not traditionally associated with Spike Lee movies." The project eventually fell apart again. In 2004, Robert Redford set up a Jackie Robinson biopic as producer with his own production company, Wildwood Productions, and was intended to co-star as Branch Rickey. In June 2011, it was announced that Legendary Pictures would develop and produce a Jackie Robinson biopic with Helgeland on board to write and direct. Legendary collaborated with Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, to ensure the authenticity of her husband's story. She had previously been involved with Redford's project. By mid May 2012, Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, AndrĂ© Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater, and Ryan Merriman were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in late July. Filming took place in Macon and Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Utilizing old photographs and stadium blueprints, Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, The Polo Grounds, Crosley Field, and Forbes Field were recreated for the film using digital imagery.

The film stars Boseman, Ford, Tudyk, Beharie, Meloni, Holland, Black, Linklater, and Merriman. Strong performances were given by the cast. Though Boseman and Ford's performance was a better examination of Robinson and Rickey as the legendary infielder and manager than the actual people, anyone who loves baseball will be intrigued by the story of the determined men who broke the color barrier in the major leagues, and made baseball history.

With unforgettable Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford performances, 42 offers the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers manager and infielder a fittingly dynamic homage. What is surprising in this new film is the sincerity of the dramatization and the integrity of Mr. Robinson and Rickey. Too often, in films of this nature about sports figures, fanciful or real, the sentiments are inflated and the heroics glorified. Here the simple story of Mr. Robinson and Rickey's trail-blazing career is re-enacted with manifest fidelity and conspicuous dramatic restraint.

Simon says 42 receives: