The Usual Suspects … [REVIEW]

A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup … so the synopsis goes. Setting you up for a classic whodunnit. Ranked the 26th best film ever by imdb this film is incredibly enjoyable and will have your mind working overtime as the story progresses.

As I have gotten older, I have gotten more and more into this kind of film, where a lot of the fun comes from trying to work out what has happened – and I hate having these films ruined, so this will contain no spoilers – so if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry you can read this and still go and enjoy the film. The film is 18 years old, but this one had unfortunately somehow slipped through the cracks and avoided my gaze, until yesterday.

I was not disappointed.

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The story is told by Verbal Kint, a cerebral palsy sufferer, criminal , and the only survivor from a job gone wrong. The story unfolds as Verbal recounts his story to Agent Kujan, who suspects that information has been withheld from the original testimony.

The narrative of this film is very interesting and is one of the factors that will keep you on your toes with this – with flashbacks to the job, to current day to fill us in on what did ACTUALLY happen on the job.

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The film is fantastically acted, with a host of notables; Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint, supported by Benicio Del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri and Pete Postlethwaite. The particular stand outs being Palminteri and Spacey as the back and forth between the two is very compelling. I have not seen too much of Spacey’s work however, the more I see, the more impressed I am (Se7en is definitely worth a watch). Benicio Del Toro also brings a few laughs to the picture with his characterization of criminal team member, Fenster.

The Usual Suspects is very cleverly written by Stephen McQuarrie and will have you questioning the host of complexly crafted characters and trying to piece together the clues. In fact the films is so clever, it is not until about halfway through that we are introduced to the plot point of Keyser Soze which throws you in a completely different direction, and rethinking everything you thought you had already worked out.

So who is Keyser Soze? Is he even real? Apparently Turkish, with a German father –  a crime lord, so ruthless he murdered his own family to prove he could not be threatened. But here is the thing – no-one has seen him – some people are terrified of him, some people don’t believe in him – so is he even important to the story or a complete red herring? This is the question you will frantically be trying to answer as the story unfolds.  Created by writer of the film Christopher McQuarrie and director Bryan Singer, Keyser Soze is perhaps one of the greatest creations in the crime/thriller genre.

If you haven’t seen this film before, it is a definitely worth watching. The last 20 minutes are some of the best you will find in the crime/thriller/mystery genre.

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I agree with the IMDB rating and would give this a strong 9/10.

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exists.”

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The Way Way Back … [REVIEW]

The Way Way Back – this years summer feel good movie. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, this film just about does the job. It makes you feel sad at times, it makes you laugh at times, and it fills you with hope at times. All in all, it is fits your classic ‘feel good’ movie.

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I read on another review of this, that this film is the summer movie you will forget … now that I am not so sure about. The reason I am not so sure about that, is because the standard of acting in this film is very good. A nod also has to be given to the writing and directing as the characters hold strong depth and (personally I felt) the audience can resonate with them, and see them as believable.

So, the story tells of 14 year old Duncan (Liam James), whose mom (Toni Collette)has taken up with new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), who is of course, an asshole. No prizes for anyone who saw that one coming. Basically the story revolves around a trip to Trent’s summer house, where Duncan feels the outcast, but grows to feel comfortable in himself and find a place to belong.

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Now, in case there was any doubt (of which there was none) that Carrell’s character would be an asshole, the film takes no time at all just to make sure we are all on the same page, with the first lines of the film being his character telling 14 year old Duncan that he’s a 3 out of 10. To be honest, going into the film, I wasn’t sure I would be able to see Steve Carell be an asshole, he has always played the loveable, goofy idiot … and he does it so well. However, I was pleasantly surprised that Carrell pulled this role off to a tee and was completely believable as a lying, deceitful, and plain not nice, scum bag.

 
This film has a very independent feel to it, despite having a strong and well known cast, including Maya Rudolph, Steve Carell, Rob Coddry, Amanda Peet (who i appreciated being cast as a bit of eye candy for me!), Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell. To be fair, everyone in the film played their parts well, but Sam Rockwell absolutely stole the show, being the star in every scene he was in , playing the role of Owen the manager of the Water Wizz fun park and the much needed friend for Duncan; he delivers this fantastically. If you were on the fence about seeing this film, it is worth going just for Rockwell. Likewise Allison Janney gives a phenomenal performance, in a  film that has it’s share of comedy but not laugh a minute, every time Janney graced the screen I was in stitches – the back and forth between her and her son Peter (River Alexander) is priceless.

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This film, in the classic feel good genre, does give you a lump in your throat at times, even though you can see what is coming from a mile away. However, when you go into a film like this, you know exactly what you are paying for – so you can hardly complain. Although, that said, at times you might find yourself longing for a little something to shake it up a bit, but unfortunately is not forthcoming.

There are threads in this film that are presented, but aren’t fully explored –  and for the most parts these are character relationships, for example the relationship between Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell’s characters is brought up multiple times, but is failed to be closer examined, as is the same with the relationship between Duncan and Janney’s daughter Susanna – the inevitable love interest, to tick another box on the feel good checklist. However, running at 1hour and 45minutes, my guess is that Rash and Faxon are being mindful of not losing the audience by prolonging the picture, and this was probably a fair sacrifice to make.

I did enjoy this movie, and I think others will too – if you resign yourself to knowing what you are paying for before you go in. Don’t get me wrong – that isn’t a slight on this film, there is only so much you can do with a feel good flick, and I think Rash and Faxon actually did a good job with this – even putting in very funny cameo appearance performances themselves.

rash and faxonNow, I was always going to see this film, because I am huge Steve Carell fan, and wanted to see him tackle a slightly different role, and I am also a big fan of Jim Rash, mainly from his role on Community, and was interested in how he would do as a writer and director, despite this not being his first film – he and Faxon also co-wrote and directed The Descendants starring George Clooney, (which won an Oscar, but I haven’t seen that, so cannot comment.). And to be honest, I thought the film was written and directed very well.

A classic feel good film and a good effort from all involved – worth a watch

7/10

 

 

Space Jam … Still a slam dunk! [REVIEW]

The other week when I was visiting home, my brother magically produced one of my all time favourite movies from my childhood – Space Jam, and allowed me to take it with me … a classy move as it must have been hard to let a disk with such amazing content go! So, I set aside some time to indulge in this classic, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

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The film revolves around Bugs Bunny and his Tune Land gang trying to save themselves from the Nerdlucks who, under the instruction of Danny Devito’s Mr Swackhammer, want to kidnap them and make them amusement park attractions on Moron Mountain. A basketball game is set up to play for their freedom, which seems a safe bet considering the Nerdluck’s vertically challenged state, but panic ensues when the talent and height of a collection of pro NBA players is stolen and the Nerdlucks become “Mon-stars”! …

Enter Michael Jordan – saviour of cartoon characters.

Yes, the film is basically one big advert for Michael Jordan – in fact the film was developed  following a series of Nike ads that featured MJ and Bugs Bunny. Yes, it is very cheesy in places. Yes the jokes are a little childish. BUT, it is still so much fun to watch, and is still absolutely hilarious! And lets face it , the likes of LeBron or Kobe wouldn’t be able to pull off a friendship with the Looney Tunes, and it is doubtful they would even be able to rally a team to beat the Mon-Stars.

… in fact Space Jam is just another reason why Michael Jordan will always be the greatest basketball player of all time.

But back to the film.

It had been a long time since I had seen Space Jam, and sometimes these things from your childhood don’t stand the test of time – but Space Jam is not one of those things. If anything, I feel this has got better with age. I was still laughing out loud at the childish antics of Bugs and Daffy, I found myself recounting lines and classic catch phrases before they were utter by the characters and marvelling at the outrageous events that are only possible in an animated world. At one point I was laughing so loud one of my flatmates stuck their head round the door and asked “ehhh, whats up doc?” … okay the last thing didn’t happen, but you get my point.

However, it’s not just the animated characters that serve up the laughs, the guys from “3D land” also bring the comedy. Wayne Knight’s Stan Pollack has the potential to become an annoyance but is thankfully delivered in short and sweet bursts, and holds one of my favourite lines in the film, after being questioned about the 10 foot hole he has dug on the golf course he replies “Ugggh, I’m fixing a divot”. It might be simple, but it had me in stitches. Bill Murray, playing himself, also is fantastic dreaming of a new career in the NBA which he won’t let go, and again provides the set up for another of my favourite lines, “HEY! I didn’t know Dan Akroyd was in this picture!”

And like all good kid’s movies, there are things that go over your head as a child, but are hilarious when you get older – Space Jam delivers this in the form of innuendo, references to other items of pop culture, and the not so subtle Warner Bros digs at Disney – including Moron Mountain (quite obviously a reference to Disney’s Space Mountain) and the throw away line “Please! What kind of Mickey Mouse organisation would name their team the Ducks?” … Sorry Emilio, Bugs Bunny just served you.

Space Jam is a lot of fun, and probably the best real life/cartoon crossover since ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ … a solid 8/10

If you haven’t seen this film, then you definitely need to … although there should be no excuse for not having seen it, you’ve had 17 years to do so.

If you have, go back and watch it again, like me, you will not be disappointed!

So what are you waiting for … Get your Hanes on, lace up your Nike’s, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we’ll pick up a Big Mac on the way – you’ve got a film to watch!

Leave a comment with your thoughts on the film!

Also, if you are a fan of the film, you should read this article as to Why Space Jam is the worst officiated game in history – absolutely hilarious!

Pain and Gain … Not as painful as expected [REVIEW]

Before even watching this film, I experienced a variety of feelings towards it. When I first saw the trailer I thought this looked like it was going to be a good laugh and lots of fun to watch. Then I found out the truth behind the story and decided against watching it as I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy it knowing what had really happened  – but then, curiosity got the better of me and I changed my mind and went to see it anyway, to see what it was all about – fully expecting to come out appalled at the bad taste. Luckily however, this wasn’t quite the case.

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I think it’s important to know that this is in fact a true story – and quite a horrific one at that. Lugo and Doorbal are actually sitting on death row because of their crimes – hence my scepticism in paying good money to go and watch a ‘comedy’ about this. It may be hard to believe this is a true story as scenes unfold, but it is in fact all true (you can easily find online the stories about the real life crime), and we are in fact reminded half way through that “This is STILL a true story” during a particularly unbelievable scene, just to remind us these guys really were that incredibly moronic.

I am glad to say however, that the comedy in this film is not about laughing with the Sun Gym gang, but more at them, and just how stupid they really are and the bizarre nature of the situation.

The film begins by trying to make Lugo seem like a normal guy down on his luck, but you soon get to see him for the “manipulator of all manipulators” that he really is. The crimes are senseless and sadistic and in a bid to try and keep you from losing the characters too early the millionaire kidnapee is made out to be a complete and utter bellend (Which in reality is not entirely true if you read about the real story). However it is not long lasting and you will soon be hating Lugo (as well you should). The only member of the gang you may not hate is Doyle (the only fictional character, but is a combination of real life personas involved in the real crimes), who at least seems remorseful about his actions, and is constantly manipulated by Lugo to complete tasks he doesn’t want to do. And, it has to be said, that Dwayne Johnson aka WWE’s The Rock shines in this role and steals most of the scenes he is in.

The film continues with the kidnapping of millionaire Victor Kershaw (not the name of the real victim) and the torture of him to try and get him to sign over his life – I know what you’re thinking, this doesn’t sound funny, and you’re right, it is not.

The film has been absolutely slated by critics, although in all honestly, this isn’t a bad film – yes it may seem a strange concept to make a comedy out of it, although it is not quite the comedy that is made out in the trailer . However I actually found the story telling very interesting. The input of narrative from the perspective of all the characters really adds to the story and adds depths to the characters, allowing you to see them for who they really are – for example Lugo claiming he wanted to be like everyone else and that he’s a nice guy and Kershaw isn’t so he should be allowed to take his things – demonstrating how delusional the character is. Walhberg also hasn’t had the best reviews but I thought he did quite a good job, playing the mood swings and manipulative delusion of Daniel Lugo very well.

This is by no means a classic, and you probably won’t rush to see it again, but all in all it isn’t too bad. Some may need to leave their moral compass at the door due to the films subject, but honestly this doesn’t glamourise the Sun Gym gang the way the trailer suggests. It probably is worth a watch if you fancy a trip to the cinema and aren’t sure what else to see.

I’d give this a 5-6 out of 10.