Film Review: The Place Beyond The Pines

The Place Beyond The Pines

Derek Cianfrance’s crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines is utterly compelling.

Luke is a motorcycle stunt driver who performs in a travelling show. When he returns to Schenectady, New York, he aims to reconnect with former lover Romina, who has secretly had his child. Luke’s means of providing for them will have monumental consequences to the lives of several people…

The Place Beyond The Pines ticks all the boxes in terms of being well crafted, well acted, well paced and aesthetically pleasing. Despite a running time that nudges towards two and a half hours, Derek Cianfrance’s film engages the viewer for its entire duration. The narrative progresses in a way which one may not expect, having viewed the trailer. Nonetheless, this is by no means a bad thing. The Place Beyond The Pines covers a significant timeframe, but one that evolves at a suitable pace.

Thematically, The Place Beyond The Pines is circular. The film focuses on the areas of crime, culpability, guilt and pre-destination. This themes are played out in a way which is believable. They are revisited in the film; with a feeling that some of the issues have come full circle. Cianfrance does not depict these themes as black and white, and the film is much stronger for this.

The Place Beyond The Pines is beautifully shot. Frenetic camera work, with lots of movement and a high cutting rate, is combined with slower, pensive shots. The thought that has gone into the look of the film is abundantly clear. The Place Beyond The Pines also boasts an impressive soundtrack. Ryan Gosling offers a convincing performance as Luke. Bradley Cooper is solid as Avery. Eva Mendes and Dane DeHaan are suitably cast in their respective roles.

The Place Beyond The Pines is a fantastic follow-up to Blue Valentine, and highly recommended viewing.

Stuff To Look At

Some trailers, some posters and details on the End of Watch tweet-along…

End of Watch Tweet-Along

To celebrate the release of End of Watch on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday 18th March 2013, a tweet-along event has been organised. Those who buy copies of the film are invited to take part on Twitter, starting the film at 8pm GMT, using the hashtag #WatchYourSix. I have know idea what this refers to (I haven’t seen End of Watch yet) so don’t spoil it for me!

The Place Beyond The Pines

The Place Beyond The Pines

Oh look, here’s a poster for upcoming crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines. I have heard good things about this film, so I am really looking forward to it. Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, The Place Beyond The Pines hits UK screens on 12th April 2013.

A Late Quartet

A Late Quartet

I have seen A Late Quartet and I can report it is a good film (review to follow). With an enviable cast which includes Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, A Late Quartet is a drama about the lives of a string quartet. The film is released in cinemas on 5th April 2013.

The Hangover Part III

For the third and final instalment of The Hangover series, the gang return to where it all started – Las Vegas. I really enjoyed the first film but was not a big fan of the second, so I am hoping this third film will be a return to form. The Hangover Part III is out in UK cinemas on 24th May 2013.

Papadopoulos and Sons

Papadopoulos and Sons is a British comedy drama about two brothers re-opening the fish and chip shop they ran in their youth. This film stars Stephen Dillane and his son Frank Dillane as father and son. Papadopoulos and Sons has a limited UK cinema release from 5th April 2013.

Trailer Round-Up

While the Oscar-nominated films may already be out or due for imminent release, there are plenty of films still to look forward to this year…

Trance

Following 2010’s immensely tense 127 Hours, Danny Boyle returns with Trance. The film is a psychological thriller featuring an art auctioneer, a missing painting, a hypnotherapist and a criminal gang. Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson, Trance is released in UK cinemas on 27th March 2013.

To The Wonder

As the above trailer exhibits, To The Wonder is teeming with the kind of beautiful images we have come to expect from director Terrence Malick. Starring Ben Affleck as a man torn between Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams, To The Wonder is released on 22nd February 2013.

Sammy’s Great Escape

Sammy does not seem to have aged a day! Sammy’s Great Escape appears to be the sequel to A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures. The first film had a definite environmentalist angle, so it will be interesting to see the spin of this new film. Sammy’s Great Escape is in UK cinemas from 15th February 2013.

The Place Beyond The Pines

Ryan Gosling reunites with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance in The Place Beyond The Pines. The crime drama features an all-star cast including Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper and Ray Liotta. The Place Beyond The Pines is released in UK cinemas on 12th April 2013.

DVD Review: Limitless

Limitless features a pill that can open up the brain’s full capacity. Rather than offer enlightenment, the film instead offers pure entertainment. This is by no means a bad thing.

Eddie Morra is a struggling writer who lacks motivation. When a face from the past offers him a mysterious pill which will allow him to become the best version of himself, Eddie takes it. Eddie sees an immediate improvement to his capabilities, but things aren’t so rosy when he realises he is being followed…

Read the rest of the I Heart The Talkies review of Limitless here…

DVD Features:

Alternative Ending – The alternative ending sequence is actually around 6 minutes long, lengthier than some others that are supplied as bonus features. However, the first few minutes are the same as the finished film. What is interesting about it is that it offers a very different outlook to the original ending.

A Man Without Limits – This short featurette focuses upon the character of Eddie Morra and the casting of Bradley Cooper. Cooper’s passion for the project is made clear; the featurette is short but sufficient.

Taking It To The Limit: The Making of Limitless – Slightly longer feaurette that concentrates on the story and the production of the movie. The documentary features a number of the film’s cast and crew, talking to the producer about the original story, and detailing the location shooting. Although it is quite interesting, not enough is said about visual effects, which are plentiful in the film.

Director’s Commentary – Neil Burger provides a commentary soundtrack for the movie. The director provides the rationale behind some of the choices made, as well as insight into the production process. Nevertheless, it would have been more absorbing if Burger had offered more anecdotes about the making of the film.

The Limitless DVD also features a trailer of the film. Overall, the features are pretty much what you would expect from a standard DVD release. It is a shame that the commentary was not more engaging, but the features provide a suitable package for fans of the film.

Limitless is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 1st August 2011.

Film Review: The Hangover Part II

After the enormous and unexpected success of The Hangover, it seemed inevitable that there would be a sequel. Although some sequels rival the original in terms of quality, sadly this is not the case with The Hangover Part II.

Stu, Phil, Alan and Doug travel to Thailand for Stu’s upcoming wedding to Lauren. Stu is not keen on having a bachelor’s party, but the guys convince him to have one drink on the beach. When Stu, Phil and Alan wake up the next morning they cannot remember a thing. Moreover, Lauren’s little brother Teddy is missing…

The Hangover Part II follows the exact same formula as its predecessor. It is practically identical, except for the fact that it is set in Thailand for most of the duration. As such, the film offers no surprises; it is incredibly lazy story telling. It lacks the fresh ideas that made the original film so entertaining.

The only aspect of innovation to be found is the pushing of boundaries. Those who thought the first film was debauched will be even less impressed with this effort. In attempting to go one bigger, director and co-writer Todd Phillips includes material that may be offensive to some.

There are some good humorous moments, but these are not enough to sustain the entire film. In re-treading the same steps as The Hangover, Part II makes the aspects that were funny in the 2009 film appear tired and unoriginal. Moreover, elements that worked well in the first film have been pushed too far in this sequel. Alan was a genuinely funny character; an oddball who stole a lot of the scenes in the 2009 film. In realising the character was a hit, Phillips, Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong have amplified the character’s more unusual traits. Rather than making Alan more comedic, this has the opposite effect; his childlikeness grows annoying quickly.

Performances in The Hangover Part II are fine. Ed Helms is energetic as Stu; at times the actor seems desperate to make scenes funnier than they actually are. Bradley Cooper is again attractive but of dubious morals as Phil. Zach Galifianakis is a good comedy actor, but is hampered by the writing. Similar to the 2009 film, Justin Bartha has a small role as Doug. It seems a shame to sideline this character; perhaps his inclusion in Bangkok would have added a new and interesting dimension to the fold. Ken Jeong’s over-the-top Mr Chow is hit and miss.

The Hangover Part II will probably be a success because fans of the first film will flock to see it. Many will surely be disappointed however, as the film is more Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 than The Godfather: Part II.

Film Review: Limitless

Limitless features a pill that can open up the brain’s full capacity. Rather than offer enlightenment, the film instead offers pure entertainment. This is by no means a bad thing.

Eddie Morra is a struggling writer who lacks motivation. When a face from the past offers him a mysterious pill which will allow him to become the best version of himself, Eddie takes it. Eddie sees an immediate improvement to his capabilities, but things aren’t so rosy when he realises he is being followed…

Limitless is an enjoyable action thriller that combines the right amount of action, suspense and drama. The film moves at a good pace; it never really drags or goes off on a tangent. It is not obvious how Limitless will conclude. The film retains enough mystery to make the ending unpredictable. Twists in the film are subtle rather than defining, and as a result are more effective than many films that use the shock twist device.

The idea of a pill that could expeditiously improve cognition to an uncharted degree is a very interesting concept. Although the film can certainly be classified as science fiction, it does not really explain how the pill was formulated. This lack of rationale is not a problem as the story is really about Eddie, and what he does with his newfound power. The choices the protagonist makes are personal rather than what could be seen as more universal decisions. It is this that makes the character interesting; he does not necessarily plump for the sensible or considered option.

The cinematography and editing in Limitless are superb. The film has a very individual look to it; the stretching through the landscapes and locations is quite unusual. Director Neil Burger appears keen on using the visual to convey the mindset. The multiple Eddies indicate the speed at which his mind is working, just as the zooming through locations suggests how muddled the character has become. Effects throughout the film are good.

Bradley Cooper is a fantastic lead in Limitless. More often found in comedies, Cooper is just as adept in this action thriller. Hopefully his performance here will lead to more challenging roles for the actor. Robert De Niro is capable as ever in a small role, while Anna Friel looks very unlike herself as Eddie’s former wife Melissa.

Limitless is a highly entertaining film that should satisfy a wide demographic. It is certainly one of the better recent action thrillers.

Film Review: The A-Team

The A-Team is an action blockbuster that entertains, for the most part. If you are expecting a movie that engages your brain, or one that will rival your fond memories of the television show, disappointment will surely ensue.

An elite army team are accused of a crime they did not commit. In order to clear their names, the four men must find the real perpetrators of the crime, whilst evading the unit sent to bring them back to jail…

Based on the popular television show of the 1980s, the film provides the well-known characters with an origin story of how the team first came together. It is updated to the modern day, with the Iraq conflict as a backdrop to unfolding events. The story is unapologetic in its straight-forwardness – do not expect character development or any attempt at emotion to get in the way of the big action set-pieces.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of The A-Team is the decision to include a love interest for the character Face. Charissa, played by Jessica Biel, is in charge of the unit sent to recapture the A-Team. She is also a former girlfriend of Face, played by Bradley Cooper. Given the testosterone-fueled nature of the film and the television show, her inclusion rings hollow. In an attempt, it seems, to attract a female audience, the filmmakers try to generate interest in this angle of the narrative. There is, however, a lack of authenticity to this love story; the film would have benefited to omit this element.

Performances are adequate in The A-Team. Cooper is charming, and Sharlto Copley does well as Murdock. Whilst the four display a sense of camaraderie, this does not match excitement generated by the original A-Team. This is particularly pertinent when both Liam Neeson (Hannibal) and Quinton Jackson (B.A. Baracus) voice the famous catchphrases. In this way, the film screams ‘inferior imitation’ rather than ‘loving homage’.

The action sequences are frequent, outlandish and entertaining. So much so that director Joe Carnahan should have dispensed with the half-baked attempts to add depth (the identity crisis of B.A., for example), and aimed squarely at those who like their plots simple and their explosions big. On the upside, children of the 1980s will want to revisit the series to be reminded of how it should be done.