Focus – Transparent

Focus banner

The problem with a “con” film is that, by its very nature, all is not what it seems. So we expect the so-called “unexpected” and should “delight” in the moment it happens. The thing with Focus is, while such things happen at regular intervals during the proceedings, we’re neither delighted nor surprised in the “con” mechanism. You see, there are “tells” within the narrative construct signalled with such dumbfounding obviousness that even a blind person can see them.

Focus poster v01

While the directors – Glen Ficarra and John Requa – delighted me with their Steve Carell vehicle Crazy, Stupid, Love, Focus is a bit of a dud. It could be that the former was from a script by someone else, while the latter is their own material. Either way, I’m guessing writing isn’t really their strong-point. There were moments during Focus when I hoped to be elevated beyond my malaise, even a point early on when I almost had an epiphany, but alas twas not to be. Focus slipped back into its standard, by-the-numbers formula and the moment passed. There are no whistles and bells in the direction department either, but sometimes a well shot, classically edited movie is all that is needed. A couple of flourishes here and there were a welcome distraction as the film progressed and when you’re shooting Will Smith and Margot Robbie it’s always going to look great.

I’ve seen Margot Robbie in two films now – the first being The Wolf of Wall Street – and I’m getting the feeling she’s really only present on our screen for a bit of eye-candy. Granted, any actor worth his or her salt will do almost anything to get a gig with Martin ScorseseJonah Hill took rock-bottom minimum wage to be involved – so it’s no real surprise that Ms. Robbie used all her assets for that role. The thing is, while it’s never that revealing during Focus, I’m sure the costume department didn’t have to worry about the amount of fabric needed to clothe her. I’d like to think she’s a damn good actor and hope to see her in something that doesn’t just rely on the viewer gazing upon her assets and not worrying about whether she can actually act.

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Margot Robbie as Jess

As for Mr. Smith, well there’s only so many average films he can open these days before people start to finally cotton on. He’s made some interesting movies in the intervening years, but quite frankly he’s in desperate need of a hit and this, unfortunately, isn’t it. Playing someone with underlying issues – seemingly “broken” so-to-speak – is the de rigueur stance these past few years. Same-old-same-old and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Some may point to MiB 3 as a change from the norm, but quite frankly there’s no polishing that turd. If Mr. Smith wanted to do a sequel, then why not jump aboard the good ship Independence Day and watch the money come flooding in? Now, you may not like Roland Emmerich, but he knows how to get bums-on-seats and his films are always enjoyable! And that’s what cinema is all about, right? To leave the theatre feeling something; to experience an emotional connection.

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Gerald McRaney as Ownes

As for the supporting cast of Focus, well special mention should definitely go to Brennan Brown (yes, the guy from the Orange 2for1 ads), Adrian Martinez (he’s so excited to be in Focus his IMDb profile pic is a selfie with Will Smith) and the always excellent Gerald McRaney (catch him in the wonderful House of Cards on Netflix). In all fairness, I’m sure there will be worse films on release when Focus comes out on 27th February, so it won’t be an utter waste of your time. At least half the audience I watched it with – and there were quite a few – did all the right things in all the right places. Just don’t be surprised that you’ve probably seen it all before.

Thank you for reading 🙂

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One Word Review recap + stuff!

Phew! And there was I, worried I may not be able to catch 5 films in the space of a couple of weeks. In fairness, I still haven’t seen Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Enemy, but that seems to be on a limited release and it hasn’t reached the homeland of Hertfordshire. 9 movies in 15 days isn’t bad though and I’m still enthusiastic to see more and write more. That’s got to be good. It’s also nice to write a post that isn’t a review, which is maybe why I’m waffling a little bit. Just trying to keep things fresh. It can’t all be a list of reviews and nothing else.

So, for your delight and delectation this morning – in addition to my Whiplash review – I thought I’d have a recap and post a trailer or two. Here goes…

One Word Review recap

Birdman poster v01

BirdmanPerceptive

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Exodus: Gods and KingsVapid

Imitation Game poster v01

The Imitation GameAffecting

Tak3n poster v01

Tak3nCrass

Wild poster

WildPresumptuous

Foxcatcher poster v04

FoxcatcherAbsorbing

Theory of Everything poster v02

The Theory of EverythingMoving

Selma poster v01

SelmaRighteous

Whiplash poster v02

WhiplashResonant

American Sniper poster v02

American SniperPatriotic

Ex Machina poster v03

Ex MachinaIntriguing

Gambler poster v01

The GamblerConfrontational

Kingsman: The Secret ServiceAstute

A Most Violent Year poster v02

A Most Violent YearEngrossing

Paddington poster v01

PaddingtonCharming

And now, here’s a trailer and poster for Sean Penn‘s latest The Gunman.

Gunman poster v01

Ho-hum! Now, don’t get me wrong. This thing’s got a great cast, but a wholly uninspiring poster (they just LOVE Photoshop!) and…

  • Proudly announcing “FROM THE DIRECTOR OF TAKEN” mid-way through the trailer is not a good thing!
  • The trailer has got almost the same running time as the film! I feel like I’ve already seen it and don’t need to go to the flix to see what happens!

So, my interest was piqued but quickly quashed. Of course, I’ll still go and see it, but not because of these promotional pieces.

As for something that did pique my interest and continues to do so, here’s Jennifer Aniston‘s latest Cake. No, it’s not a hot-looking middle-aged woman in a “light” comedy getting down to her undies at every possible opportunity. Although, in fairness, it is kind-of a comedy…well comedy/ drama thing…just watch.

Cake poster v01

This too has a great cast and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. It’s got a James L. Brooks vibe to it and I like that Ms. Aniston is “playing against type“. A somewhat brave move and one which I hope works out. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing it.

And that’s all for today, dear readers. It’s nice to get a piece out there that’s a bit different.

Thank you for reading 🙂

Foxcatcher – Absorbing

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Steve Carell‘s performance in Foxcatcher is transformative – both literally and figuratively. The general consensus among the reviewing community is that he excels in this role. You get the feeling there’s something of a surprised tone attached to these comments, but we shouldn’t be surprised at all. Mr. Carell’s career is steeped in comedy; and what harder form of acting is there? I find him highly watchable, whether in The Office, Date Night (yes I liked it) or Crazy, Stupid, Love and he has grasped this dramatic role with fervour.

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Steve Carell as John du Pont

Telling the story of super-rich John du Pont and his relationship with Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling champion Mark Shultz, Foxcatcher had me utterly transfixed. But let’s not kid ourselves, the epithet “Based on a true story” – which appears at the start of a seemingly increasing number of movies these days – is not a pointer towards the subsequent film being “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” I think Maxwell Scott in The Man That Shot Liberty Valance summed it up best; “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Much has been said regarding the validity of the “truths” told in Foxcatcher and I’m not going to bring them up again. As a viewer we must ascribe a soupçon of salt to these retellings; it is entertainment after all. The central facts regarding actual documented events cannot be refuted – everything else is frosting.

That said, I do not wish to take anything away from this production. I was extremely excited to see Foxcatcher and it certainly lived up to my expectations. This is by no means a one-man-show either. Both Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo shine in their roles as the wrestling siblings Mark and David Shultz. If you’ve seen the trailers for Foxcatcher, the sense of “oddness” to Mr. du Pont’s demeanor and his relationships with others within his life is clear to see. This uneasiness is palpable throughout the 129 minute running time and makes for a fascinating treatise on the machinations of those privileged few who believe money can buy anything, including friendships.

FOXCATCHER

Canning Tatum (L) as Mark Schultz & Mark Ruffalo (R) as David Schultz

This is Bennett Miller‘s third directorial feature and it would not be out of place sitting next other great sports films such as Seabiscuit, Any Given Sunday or The Wrestler. Mr. Miller is certainly building a catalogue of top quality films, having previously directed Capote and Moneyball. I for one am looking forward to his next offering. Foxcatcher is an utter success, cinematically and for those involved in its production. I’m glad I saw it and urge you, dear reader, to try to catch it at your local cinema.

Thank you for reading 🙂

Three out of five ain’t bad

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So today, dear reader, I thought I’d have a little catch up on my previous post. Of the 5 films I wished to see, I’ve already managed to see 3 of them, plus another I thought I’d missed on the big screen, namely The Imitation Game. I’m pretty pleased with that! I’m looking forward to seeing Foxcatcher this week as well as The Theory of Everything and Wild. I don’t think Enemy is going to be coming to my local multiplex, but it is available online through Curzon Home Cinema.

As for future releases, here’s a poster and trailer for Neill Blomkamp‘s next release, Chappie.

Chappie poster v01

The wonderful Sharlto Copley is on motion-capture duties to bring the title character to life and is joined by Huge Action (always entertaining & easy on the eye), Sigourney Weaver (probably getting more screentime than Exodus) and Dev Patel (if you haven’t seen how goood he is in The Newsroom you’ve missed a real treat). From the look of the trailer I’m hoping we’re in for something special and we haven’t got that long to wait as Chappie hits the UK on March 6th this year. Enjoy the trailer.

Thank you for your continued readership. I hope you’re enjoying reading this blog as much as I’m enjoying writing it 🙂

Things to see, things to consider…

So, the festive period is over and I’m back on it. Too much turkey, too much turkey dripping on toast (Google it), too much chocolate…still, it was FUN! I never get a chance to enjoy the flix at this time of year – but I’m not complaining – so there’s a bit of catching up to do. What I thought I’d do is give you a little rundown of what I’d like to see and at the same time share some posters with you. Here goes…

Exodus: Gods and Kings – middling reviews and a totally uninspiring ad campaign can’t quash my desire to see Mr. Scott’s latest offering. Here’s some posters to back up my views on big budget posters.

Taken 3 or Tak3n – depending on what poster/ banner you see. Begs the question “Why?” but I’m sure Mr. Neeson knows what he’s doing; or it’s just the wads of cash he was offered that persuaded him. Mind you, Forest Whitaker is in it as well, so perhaps they blew the budget on their fees or… Anyway, it’s actually this poster that I saw on twitter which got me to thinking about this post, so there you go. It’s not groundbreaking but I like the way it’s formatted.

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That’s the “dull” ones out of the way. Now onto the more interesting stuff. Why is it most small budget, sometimes independent features have the most interesting posters? No, I don’t know either. In fact, now I think about it, perhaps it’s the “under the radar” aspect of these kinds of films that warrant the additional effort afforded to the poster campaign. Lay your mince pies (see what I did there?) on these.

Birdman – I’ve been looking forward to this for ages. And the posters are great too. Here’s just one I found on the web. Once I’ve seen it I’ll give you a few more to enjoy. Enjoy.

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Enemy – I’m hoping that Mr. Gyllenhaal is on a roll after the wonderful Nighcrawler. It’s certainly got an interesting premise; I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough whether this one confirms Mr. Gyllenhaal’s ascension to the “A List”.

Foxcatcher – my excitement levels for this one are up there alongside Birdman’s. Here’s hoping. At the very least this poster is wonderful and probably my favourite in this post.

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Phew. It’s a tough ask to see all these in the next couple of weeks, but watching at least 3 from 5 would make me happy. I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you for reading 🙂