Only God Forgives … Cinematic Brilliance [REVIEW]

They say that less is more. And that is certainly the case for Only God Forgives, the second film from the Drive team of Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn. Only God Forgives is a real piece of beauty, and although received very mixed reviews, in my opinion is one of the best films to come out of 2013.

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Set in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, brothers Billy and Julian (Ryan Gosling) run a muay thai boxing gym as a front for a drug dealing business. After raping and killing an underage prostitute, Billy is murdered himself. Forced by his manipulative mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), Julian must seek revenge against his brother’s killer and the police detective (Vithaya Pansringarm) who allowed the killing to happen.

Only released in the summer of this year, I was very surprised to see this hit the Netflix catalog so quickly, but it was a welcome surprise, as I adored this film when I saw it the cinema only a few months earlier. Only God Forgives is a funny film, it is the sort of film that you will either love or hate. And as one of the people who love it, it did knark me a little bit with some of the negative reviews that I read and heard after the films cinematic release. Taking a step back, I can see why people may not get into this film, but I still strongly disagree with most of the points that are raised against the film.

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Yes, the film is very slow – but is slow by its very nature and for me adds heavily to the film. It is incredibly tense and very deliberate with every scene. Every shot has been meticulously thought out to make the most of every inch of the screen, every angle and composition is genius, be it the lighting to match the mood, shots that make you feel as the audience you are peering in and hidden in the shadows getting a view of a world that you shouldn’t be seeing – the cinematography is fantastic, and the filmmakers deserve to be recognised for the brilliance of each and every shot. This also accompanied by a fantastic score that is pulsating and builds the drama and tension fantastically, helps drive this film.

Only God Forgives_4The film has been criticised by some for a lack of story – however there is a story in there. This is story of revenge, but what is so fascinating about it is that this isn’t your classic revenge story of retribution –  there is no remorse from the audience for the demise of the characters, and Kristin Scott Thomas plays her role as Crystal, the mother of a murdered son, fantastically – she is the definition of pure evil in this film. Ryan Gosling is superb as Julian, without actually hearing that much from him, from the way Gosling played the role, I felt as I learnt enough about the character, whilst having him still remain mysterious and allowed me to interpret the character my own way rather than be force fed what he was really all about. There is very little dialogue in the film, as the story is told through actions rather than words – this is a very visual film and your attention needs to be fully switched on or else you won’t get the benefit from this film, the character development is a lot greater than it appears on the surface as this is done almost entirely visually. onlygodforgives_shootoutext_hd

Vithaya Pansringarm is also fantastic and deserves a mention, as in the reviews I have read he is very much overlooked, perhaps as he is far less known than the other stars in this film. His portrayal of detective Chang is superb, incredibly mysterious his character is very complex and is an intimidating presence whenever he is on the screen.

Only God Forgives, at times is difficult to watch, this film is definitely not for the faint hearted – littered with extreme violence and an exploration into the inner mind workings of seriously troubled characters. Refn will make you squirm in your seat more than a few times throughout the hour and half of this film, and at times you will likely groan in pain at what you are actually seeing unfold. I have to say, I have some serious respect for a film that can make me feel so uncomfortable and yet still keep me so captivated. 

As you will have gathered, in my opinion this is a fantastic film, and a terrific piece of art – and, although won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I for one thoroughly enjoyed it.

8/10

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Broken Lizard, Broken Down [REVIEW]

For those who don’t know, Broken Lizard are an American comedy troupe, made up of 5 guys;  Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske. The group started out when they were all at college together and grew to write, star and produce a number of movies together. Now, I was aware of Broken Lizard, and had seen Super Troopers a fair few times, but never dived much further into their material. This week I’ve been catching up with their work and now have seen all 5 of their films. They have produced a few other films, but for now I have stuck to only those they wrote and starred in. So for this post I’m going to give a quick review of each film in reverse order leading to my favourite film.

BROKEN-LIZARD5. Coming in at number 5 is, Puddle Cruiser. This was the groups first feature film, funded almost entirely by themselves, and shot on their old college campus. The film follows a few different stories, from Steve Lemme’s up and down relationship with the lovely Suzanne, from Kevin Heffernan and Paul Soter’s trial for stealing from the kitchens, to Jay Chandrasekhar working through 80 possible phone numbers to get the girl.  Erik Stolhanske sees the least amount of screen time, but uses his time effectively as Freaky Reakey, providing some of the biggest laughs in the film. This might be the lowest in my list, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. It is obvious that this is the groups first film, it feels very independent and at times shows some inexperience. But, as a self funded project this is a very funny film and got the group firing to produce some fantastic comedies. In fact if you’re interested in hearing how BL catapulted from Puddle Cruiser to Super Troopers, give Fat Man Little Boy a watch, to find out. A solid first effort – 6.5/10

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4. Number 4 is Beerfest. Two German-American brothers discover an underground Oktoberfest fight club when they go to spread their grandfather’s ashes – taken in by the competition they strive to put together an American team, to return and stick it to the Germans.  This film is lower down on my list, as whilst funny, doesn’t quite provide the laughs like some of the groups other efforts. At times the film did feel a little slow, but quickened the pace when needed to keep me interested. What’s great about the BL films is, that it would be easy for them to fall into the trap of making the same film over and over again, yet each one is very different and showcases the talent of the actors to pull off a variety of roles.  Beerfest has a relatively simple plot, and pushes it a little bit by running for an hour and 40 minutes – this might have featured a little higher on my list had it been 20 minutes shorter, so the laugh to running time ratio was a little closer.  7/10

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3. Club Dread. This was the film I had the lowest expectations for, but was very pleasantly surprised. A slasher parody, the film revolves around a paradise island owned and run by has been music star, Coconut Pete. As the last group of tourists arrive for the holiday season, a vicious serial killer is on the loose and picking off the staff members one by one. The film is very funny, and does keep you guessing as to who the killer is. Another set of totally different characters, and also supported well by Bill Paxton and the very hot Brittany Daniel, this film moves at a nice, fast pace and whilst maybe not the funniest from BL, brings plenty of laughs. 7.5/10

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2. The Slammin’ Salmon. Set in the restaurant of former world heavyweight boxing champ, Cleon Salmon, the waiting staff must bring in $20,000 in one night or else lose their jobs. Michael Clarke Duncan shines in this film, he is incredibly intimidating, and outrageously funny! In my opinion this is closest to the comedy of Super Troopers, and as the groups most recent film (that they wrote and starred in) shows they are back on the up and up (not that the were ever on the down). Cobie Smulders and April Bowlby add to the comedy in this film, but it really is the Broken Lizard show. With each member getting a pretty even amount of screen time, everyone gets a chance to shine, and they all use the time effectively. Heavily underrated, more people need to see this film, although it has been out 4 years, I feel like this has the potential to gather a cult following the way Super Troopers did. 8/10

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1. Super Troopers. This was the second film the group put out, and the first BL film that I saw, and remains to be my favourite. What I love about this film is that it is just so silly. It’s guys, being guys, and just having a good time messing around – which really plays to my sense of humor. Super Troopers is probably the most quotable of the 5 films, and although didn’t perform overly well in the cinemas when it was released, has established a cult following, which is absolutely deserved – it is a comedy classic. Whilst the other 4 films are funny, ST brings the laughs thick and fast, and for me is the stand out performance for the group. The difference between Puddle Cruiser and Super Troopers is huge – from a production aspect, and if you didn’t know the order of the films, you probably would peg this as the latest from BL as it feels the most complete film produced by the group. This is a must see for any comedy fan. 9/10

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Broken Lizard are definitely worth looking into if you haven’t already. And on top of these 5 films there are a few standup specials to take hold of as well, Fat Man Little Boy, and Broken Lizard Stands Up (which I unfortunately cannot find anywhere to watch it!). Also if your a fan try the Fatty and Tatty mini series on YouTube.

Word has been flying around about a number of future projects coming from Broken Lizard, including a much anticipated Super Troopers sequel, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what the group will bring to the screen next!

 

Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind … [REVIEW]

This film has been on my radar for quite some time, yet I hadn’t actually got round to seeing. Despite hearing great things about it, I never found the time to actually sit down and see for myself. Finally, I have got round to seeing it.

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Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind is the story of a couple, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, who after a breakup, both decide to have each other erased from their memories.This film is technically very very good. The acting is fantastic. The story is compelling and deep. It looks great. It is smart enough without being too complex. It is everything a great film in its genre should be. Yet I wasn’t blown away by it. And I really can’t put my finger on why?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this film, and would watch it again (in fact I do want to watch it again), but it didn’t quite give me exactly what I was expecting. I have heard nothing but rave reviews about this film and with an 8.4 IMDB rating, quite easily sits in the top 100 films on their site, and I can understand why it is held in such high regard – but at the same time, I sort of can’t.

Perhaps I went into this film with too high an expectation, that it would never be able to live up to.  I was fairly tired when I watched it, so maybe it was that? But I was paying full attention, so not like I missed bits. And I did infact piece together what was happening relatively quickly – which I’m not quite sure if you are supposed to grasp it that easily or not – please let me know if you did the same, I’m not entirely sure if it was needed to be worked out, or it was just expected to be picked up on as part of the story.

So, as I said – I enjoyed this film, it did a lot things very well and ticked a lot of boxes. So rather than dwell on why it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I will talk about what I did like about this film instead.

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I recently praised Jim Carrey for his comedy, and now I am going to praise him for a serious performance. Carrey plays the straight role very well, and to the untrained eye, could easily be just a straight actor. You definitely can’t see any Lloyd Christmas or Cable Guy in Jim’s performance as Joel!  I never was that big of a fan of Kate Winslet, despite never actually seeing her in anything – although my opinion of her has changed now. I wouldn’t say I’m her biggest fan, but I now wouldn’t turn down a film just because she is in it – I was pleased with her performance in Carnage (2011) and now this. Winslet’s Clementine is a complex character, that I flipped from liking to disliking a few times, very quickly – and I think it is a credit to the performance that my opinion on the character kept changing as I saw and learned more about her. What is great about this film, is that with such an unbelievable concept – the characters are incredibly believable – and credit is due heavily to the writing, casting and performances.

I really loved the concept – although not a realistic idea (at least not in today’s world yet) it is really very interesting. And the difference in the characters as their motivation to have the erasing procedure done is a spectacle to watch. Winslet’s almost bipolar Clementine is compulsive and makes a rash decision, where Carrey’s Joel is slightly more collected is also driven by emotions, but in a different way – it is difficult to explain and I don’t think I can do the character portrayals of the two justice with my words – but if you watch the film you will see where I am coming from.

still-of-kirsten-dunst,-mark-ruffalo-and-tom-wilkinson-in-stralucirea-eterna-a-mintii-neprihaniteThe supporting cast are great, with big names such as Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson. And although supporting cast members, their stories are more central to story than might meet the eye, and adds a great deal to the film. The story is very philosophical, and whilst the story isn’t too complex, it will definitely make you think about things, and maybe even in a new light. It did for me anyway – which is always a huge win for a film to have that effect on me.

As I have said, I do want to re-watch this – maybe feeling a little but fresher before I set my opinion in stone.  I perhaps was being too critical, when I think back now about how the film actually did make me feel and think about, it is actually a bloody good film!

I would love to know how you felt it – immediately after viewing, and in retrospect. please let me know your thoughts!

I was going to rate this as a 7/10 to begin with, however I will bump this up to a 7.5/10 – with the potential to become an 8 – will have to see after a repeat viewing. Watch this space!

How I Met Your Mother … an inevitable decline? Yet I’ll watch anyway. [TV]

As How I Met Your Mother begins to draw to a close, 8 episodes into its 9th and final season, I am now growing weary of the show. It is incredibly disappointing as it was a show I used to eagerly wait the week to watch the new episode, and enjoy week in week out. But alas, this is no longer the case. I have run out of steam with it. I will of course continue to the end as I have come this far, and I am loyal. But as I sit here disappointed after another poor episode, I find my thinking – was this inevitable?

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HIMYM has been so strong for so long it seems at first glance that something has gone terribly wrong for it to fall so flat. However, at second glance – it actually isn’t that surprising when you think about it. We’ve all known from the very beginning exactly how the show is going to finish … Ted will meet the mother of his children. For crying out loud, it’s the title of the show … how did I not see this coming sooner! The lure of a final season is to find out how it will all turn out for everyone – what have the writers got in store for me? What surprises am I going to see? What’s going to make me feel some kind of emotion? But when you know what’s going to happen – the allure is gone, and with HIMYM it now just feels like we are going through the motions to get to the end point we’ve all been waiting the last 8 years to get to.

And it isn’t just Ted who we’ve known the score about for too long. The Barney-Robin storyline has had the writing on the wall for far too long. Frankly, I dislike this storyline anyway. Barney was always funniest as the freewheelin bachelor, and shackled by the Robin storyline just doesn’t work for me. I have never been a fan of the Robin character, she has had her moments, but I still don’t care that much for her. And honestly, I  still haven’t forgiven her for what she did to Barney during the Nora and Kevin era of the show. Maybe it is just me, but Robin is the one character I didn’t make an emotional connection with – the writers tried to do this in the later  seasons, but it was too late for me, she was too far gone for me to come all the way back.

The show has always been about Ted, however this season has seen him relegated to much of a second thought while we watch the wedding weekend playout. Far too much time is being spent focused on the wrong characters, and especially as they have lost their humour. The writers seem to have gotten lazy, the running jokes are getting tiresome, and most weren’t that funny to begin with – if I hear one more “Thank you Linus” come out of Lily’s mouth I may scream! Even the laughter track seems to be becoming less impressed!

Marshall is horrendously underplayed in this series – confined to the car he doesn’t have the freedom to be Marshall, and provide the heartwarming laughs he has for the last 8 seasons. I think that is one of the main problems of this season in general. By placing the whole season over one weekend, in one location, the characters are suffocated and have no room to manoeuvre, and I think is what has made them lose their spark. Only Ted seems to still hold his character and have the connection with the audience.

Perhaps showing us the mother at the end of season 8 was a mistake. We now all know who she is, what she looks like – what else do we have to wonder about? Unless the writers have a bombshell ready to drop on us, I can only see this season continuing plodding along until it falls over the finish line. I am now seriously doubting I will be able to feel satisfied when Ted finally meets the mother, because the show has taken that opportunity away from me by showing too much of its hand way too early.

It’s disappointing, the show has given me laughs, tears, highs and lows over the last 8 years, but I have barely so much as had a laugh, or felt any emotion for anyone thus far in season 9. However, I will continue to the end with crossed fingers for a glimmer of the former glory returning to the show I had dubbed a few seasons back as better than Friends.

But, as always this is just my opinion … how does anyone else feel about this season?

Gravity hits the screens tomorrow … but am I bothered?

So Alfonso Cuarón’s, Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock finally hits the cinema screen for the mass public tomorrow, well in the UK at least, I know it has been out for a little while in the States already. And I have found myself thinking … do I really care?

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To be perfectly honest, the answer is no. Gravity has to be one of the films I have least looked forward to this year. But this isn’t me trying to be ‘too cool for school’ by standing out for the sake of – I really just can’t see the attraction of the film! Maybe I’m missing something here, but it looks incredibly boring to me!!  That’s not to say anyone who wants to see it is boring, I just am so unexcited by all the hype I won’t be spending my £6.50 on this one, unless I am at a total lose end!

So, as I believe there will be a lot, if not the majority who will disagree with me – let me (try to) justify my reasons.

My first issue is – what actually is this about? The trailer has shown be bugger all, which is usually a good thing as you don’t want the plot spoiled, but Gravity has given me nothing to grab hold of and made me desperate to see it.

Secondly, I am not a huge fan of the stars. I don’t dislike them … I more just, nothing them. That sounds pretty harsh, but there isn’t a film I have seen of either of theirs that I have thought, WOW! that was amazing! But, I haven’t seen many of their movies, so am not really qualified to comment. I’m sure they are both probably very good.

My main problem I think is that this doesn’t seem to be marketed as story, more of a visual experience. And forgive me, but that isn’t my scene. I do enjoy a good looking film, but my primary expectations when I go to see a film are: does this have a good story and will this make me laugh, cry, squirm … make me feel anything. Now contradicting myself, I will be one of the first to come out of a movie and complain if it looks like crap, but at least give me a story!!!!

Gravity may have a fantastic story, and I may be jumping to conclusions – but then, is that a sign of bad marketing? My opinion from the trailer is that I have no interest in watching the film, as the story hasn’t pulled me in. All I have seen is Sandra Bullock cut off from the space shuttle and gasping for air. Now I may be being closed minded and again jumping to conclusions, but I can’t see that being strung out for an hour and half and be interesting.

This one just feels like another Avatar. Which was also marketed as a visual phenomenon, which I had no interest in seeing in 2009, and I have no interest in this in 2013.

Sorry Alfonso, you haven’t inspired this guy.

But hey, tell me if I’m wrong! If you can convince me this is a must see I will happily stand corrected!

 

 

The Cable Guy … Bueller takes another day off, but still funny! [REVIEW]

Inspired to rewatch this from a Youtube clip sent to me from a friend, having not seen this film in about 6 or 7 years I really couldn’t remember what happened in this film.  Which was actually a nice treat, as a comedy fan I always enjoy watching a new funny flick … although not strictly a new one for me, it did feel that way.

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The Cable Guy stars Matthew Broderick as newly single guy Steven, who having just been kicked out by girlfriend Robin (Leslie Mann), sees the wacky Jim Carrey fall into his life when he comes to install his cable.

Matthew Broderick is absolutely dreadful in this film. He is wooden, unfunny and so unnatural it is almost unbearable at times when he is on screen. However, that doesn’t spoil the film, despite his shoddiness, The Cable Guy is a very funny and enjoyable film. And this is pretty much down to one factor, and one factor alone.

Jim Carrey.

Jim Carrey is fantastic. Not just in this film … but in just about every film he stars in. He has a way about him that is just naturally funny. And it is that makes The Cable Guy such a good film. Carrey plays the Cable Guy to absolute perfection, mixing insanity with a lonely . Although quite clearly insane, you can’t help but root for his character. My only gripe with the character is that, he should have left Broderick alone, and sought a different character to stalk who would have actually helped him out in the comedy department!

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The Cable Guy is home to some of the funniest scenes probably of Jim Carrey’s career, and I think that is probably because it isn’t just in your face funny, that Carrey has made a career out of, but the comedy in this film is at time underplayed and very quirky … which makes it even funnier! Of course you still get Jim Carrey’s usual flamboyant humour, with his trademark movements and face pulling to boot which gave me endless enjoyment throughout the film.

From basketball star, to karaoke king, to medieval warrior, Carrey keeps the laughs coming a you thick and fast, not slowed down by his appalling co-star. One thing a few people may not know, is that this film was actually directed by funny man Ben Stiller, who also makes a cameo appearance. Although, once you know it makes more sense that you see partners in crime Owen Wilson and Jack Black make brief appearances in the film. Although it would be early in their careers the roles are almost insignificant and could have been played by anyone really.

First released in 1996, the film does show it’s ages at times, especially during the karaoke scene, where it is painstakingly obvious that Jim Carrey is not really singing, but lip syncing. Although this almost always the case when you see a character singing in a film, nowadays this can be tidied up in post-production, however 17 years ago, clearly wasn’t as easy to do. Not that I’m criticizing the film, or the scene – for me it is one of the funniest in the film, and actually was the clip that inspired me to watch the film tonight!

So, although let down by Broderick, who obviously was still in Ferris Bueller mode, felt like another day off, The Cable Guy is very funny, and worth a watch for any comedy fan, and Jim Carrey fan. Comedy doesn’t always stand the test of time, however 17 years on, The Cable Guy still demands to be watched. Although if you still aren’t swayed, I will leave you with the clip that convinced me, to give you that last push you need.

A very funny 7.5/10. Whether re-watching or first time viewer, let me know if you still think this film has it!