Film Review: Side Effects

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller Side Effects is finely executed. The film is absorbing viewing.

Emily Taylor is a young woman living in New York. With her husband being released from prison, Emily is struggling to cope. She is prescribed medication by her psychiatrist, but the pills start to have unwanted side effects…

Released in cinemas before the majestic Behind the Candelabra, Side Effects shows a return to form for director Steven Soderbergh after the lacklustre Haywire and Magic Mike. Side Effects is absorbing, and keeps viewers on their toes.

Soderbergh’s film features a great narrative. Scott Z. Burns’ screenplay retains a sense of mystery. The film continually keeps the audience guessing as to which way the story will turn.

In the first thirty minutes or so, it seems as if the film will be something of a satire on the pharmaceutical industry. However as Side Effects develops, the emphasis shifts further on the story and the psychological element. The film still conveys the same message that seems to be set out in the first half of the film, but with a much meatier plot.

Pacing in the film is good. The characters are well developed, and seem authentic. Pyschiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks is particularly interesting. He functions as a multi-dimensional character in his own right, and not just a conduit for the audience to view proceedings.

The cinematography is great in Side Effects. The sense of ambiguity in the narrative is replicated in the choice of unusual angles. There is a feeling of the uncanny which permeates the film. The flashback sequences have a nice hazy quality to them.

Performances are good all round, especially Jude Law’s psychiatrist. It seems as if the role of Dr Victoria Siebert was made for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Side Effects is a most satisfying film, which Soderbergh elevates above other recent psychological thrillers.

Side Effects is out on DVD and Blu-Ray from 29th July 2013.

Film Review: Broken City

Broken CityDirector Allen Hughes’ Broken City is a solid thriller with very contemporary themes.

Former cop Billy Taggart is a private detective who needs to chase his clients for unpaid bills. When he is hired by the mayor of New York City to tail his wife, Taggart sees it as an easy case. However, it may not be simple adultery that the private detective uncovers…

Written by Brian Tucker, Broken City is very competent in what it does. The film is not wildly innovative, but it is executive well enough to satisfy audiences. Tucker sets up a decent thriller with sufficient twists and turns. There are a few moments of humour and some violent action. However it is the narrative which makes the film tick.

There is a sound level of ambivalence over the motivation of the main characters. This is effective in keeping the audience engaged with the plot. Allen Hughes paces the film well, with the election giving a necessary sense of urgency key to making a thriller such as this work.

Given the setting, it is hardly surprising that Broken City concerns itself with the political world. This theme feels both contemporary and resonant given the growing public awareness of political corruption in the last few years. The financial background of the film is rooted in this period.

Broken City has the polished look of a slick thriller. The film features a good use of music. Performances from the main cast are admirable. The casting of Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones in their respective roles is great. Mark Wahlberg has been cast as a cop several times before, but it is a role he plays well.

Although Broken City does not break any mold, it is well-crafted and entertains throughout. The film is recommended for those who like their political thrillers to contain some action.

Stuff To Look At

A feast of trailers and images. A feast for the eyes, I say. Whether it is horror, Disney animation, or crime thriller, there is something here for everyone…

Monsters University

I want to go to Monsters University! Human universities are so boring in comparison. A prequel to Monsters Inc., Monsters University tells the story of how Sully and Mike met as students. The film will be released in UK cinemas on 12th July 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and PowerfulLook at this monkey! Surely he is reason alone for seeing Oz The Great and Powerful? Given that the film is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, it seems unlikely that hot slice Toto will appear. Not to fear, we have Finley in his little uniform to beguile us. Oz The Great and Powerful is released on 8th March 2013.

Identity Thief

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy star in Identify Thief. When Sandy tracks down Diana, the woman who has stolen his identity, hijinks ensue when he tries to bring her to justice. Identity Thief is out in UK cinemas on 22nd March 2013.

Olympus Has Fallen

Well this all looks rather tense. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua brings together Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett in action thriller Olympus Has Fallen. The film hits UK screens on 19th April 2013.

Mama

A TV spot for Mama was on the other night when a friend (who shall remain nameless) could not bear to watch it. Guillermo del Toro is the executive producer of supernatural horror Mama, which stars Jessica Chastain. Mama is released on 22nd February 2013.

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh reunites with Jude Law and Channing Tatum for thriller Side Effects. Also staring Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the film is about a depressed patient who is prescribed the latest medication by her psychiatrist. Side Effects is out on 8th March 2013.

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

Here be the latest poster for The Lone Ranger. I am not quite sure why Johnny Depp has a bird on his head; I am hoping that this will be explained in the film. The Lone Ranger will hit UK cinemas on 9th August 2013.

Evil Dead

When I first saw a trailer for Evil Dead, initially I didn’t realise it was a remake of the 1981 film. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell act as producers for this new version, so at least it gets their seal of approval. The trailer above is rather graphic, so brace yourself if you are squeamish. Evil Dead is released on 19th April 2013.

Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer

This is the latest poster for Warner Brothers’ Jack the Giant Slayer. Jack and the Beanstalk is not one of those fairy tales that has had a plethora of film adaptations, so it will be interesting to see what is done with it. Released in 3D, Jack the Giant Slayer hits UK screens on 22nd March 2013.

Dark Skies

Another horror! When the Sandman is mentioned, it is unlikely that things are going to go well. Dark Skies is giving me shades of The Birds. However, the trailer indicates more supernatural activity than this. Dark Skies is released in the UK on 5th April 2013.

The Paperboy

Having already been released in America, a certain scene in The Paperboy has been discussed a lot. I won’t spoil it, for those of you who don’t know what I am talking about. Nicole Kidman heads a stellar cast in thriller The Paperboy. The film hits UK screens on 15th March 2013.

The Heat

Sandra Bullock plays a FBI agent and Melissa McCarthy a Boston cop. This old couple comedy comes from Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids. The Heat is released in UK cinemas on 5th April 2013.

Stuff To Look At

A bumper edition this week, with plenty of releases for 2013…

Man of Steel

I have always been more of a Batman child than a Superman one, but I did love the Christopher Reeve movies (maybe not the last one). After 2006’s underwhelming Superman Returns, this new version looks more appealing. Henry Cavil stars as the title character in the first full trailer for Man of Steel, due for release in June 2013.

Oblivion

Ageless Tom Cruise has been getting action-heavy recently, with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher and now Oblivion. This futuristic thriller sees Cruise’s character Jack Harper battle to save mankind. Also starring Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion will be released in UK cinemas on 12 April 2013.

The Wolverine

The follow-up to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine is due for release in July 2013. The film sees Hugh Jackman reprise his role from the X-Men franchise. This adventure is set in Japan, as the above poster suggests. I’m sure a trailer for The Wolverine will be released shortly.

The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter together again, but not in a Tim Burton film? The emphasis in the above trailer is on the fact that it is the same team behind Pirates of the Caribbean. If executed correctly, The Lone Ranger should be a lot of fun, like the first film of that earlier franchise. The Lone Ranger is due for release next year.

The Croods

The latest animation from DreamWorks is The Croods, a prehistoric adventure film. The Croods features the voices of Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone. From the above trailer, I am liking the monkey. The Croods will be released in UK cinemas on 22nd March 2013.

Broken City

Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in Broken City, a crime thriller set in New York. My first thought on viewing this was ‘Russell Crowe’s weave!’. That aside, this tale of corruption could be quite good. Broken City is out on 1st March 2013.

The Last Stand

What is The Last Stand, you ask? Well it is Arnold Schwarzengger’s return to lead roles on the big screen. Schwarzenegger plays the sheriff of a small town where a notorious drug baron is trying to make his escape. The Last Stand, which also stars Forest Whitaker and Rodrigo Santoro, is out on 24th January 2012.

Hitchcock

Everyone loves a bit of Alfred Hitchcock, don’t they? The eagerly anticipated Hitchcock tells the story behind the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins stars as Alfred Hitchcock in the film which also features Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson. Hitchcock is released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2013.

Stuff To Look At

New trailers for Iron Man 3 and Playing for Keeps and a live stream from the Royal World Premiere of Skyfall are featured here for your viewing pleasure…

Skyall

Above is a live stream from the Royal World Premiere of Skyfall, which begins at 5pm (GMT). All the stars of the film are expected to attend, along with a host of other celebrities. Skyfall is released on 26th October 2012.

Iron Man 3

After the enormous success of Avengers Assemble, next up on the Marvel roster is Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow return for the next instalment of the Iron Man series. The film, directed by Shane Black is due for release on 26th April 2013.

Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps boasts a stellar cast which includes Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  The film looks like a standard romantic comedy, but it may hold some surprises. Playing for Keeps is due for release on 1st January 2013, an ideal release for light, non-committal post-Christmas viewing.

Life of Pi

Ang Lee directs Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s bestselling novel. Above is a short clip from the film. Due to be released in 3D, Life of Pi‘s visuals are immediately attractive. The film will be released on 20th December 2012.

Rust and Bone

I am disappointed to have missed Rust and Bone at the BFI London Film Festival this year. Rust and Bone won the Best Film Award this past weekend, and has been receiving good reviews. Above is a brief clip from the film. Rust and Bone will be released on 2nd November 2012.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is an ensemble piece featuring six different stories. The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. Above is a featurette about the film featuring the cast and crew. Cloud Atlas is due for release on 22nd February 2013.

Film Review: Rock of Ages

Based on the successful musical, Rock of Ages is a lot of fun. The film’s tone makes it hugely enjoyable.

New in Hollywood, Sherrie dreams of making it as a singer. Drew, a barman at the infamous Bourbon Club, has similar dreams. When Drew gets Cherrie a job at the club, the pair are smitten. Others, however, are more preoccupied with Stacee Jaxx’s upcoming gig…

Set in 1987, Rock of Ages is a homage to 1980s hair metal. Understandably, music of this genre features heavily, so those not keen on it will instantly be put off. The rest of viewers should find Rock of Ages‘ soundtrack entirely appropriate, and fun in a sing-a-long kind of way.

What makes Rock of Ages work well is the tone, which is evident from the very beginning of the film. It is clear from the outset that this musical does not take itself too seriously. There is humour to be found throughout the film, from the hokey dialogue and use of music to some deliberately excessive performances.

In spite of this lightness in atmosphere, there are some more serious themes present in Rock of Ages. Sherrie’s time in Hollywood is not quite the dream that she expected, while Drew struggles with chasing his dream and the reality of the music business. Comment on musical creativity and its relationship with corporate domination is played out unambiguously.

Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are well cast as leads Sherrie and Drew. It is the supporting cast who overshadow, however. Tom Cruise is fantastic as Stacee Jaxx. Cruise playing a strung-out but seductive rock star probably raises some eyebrows, but his performance is entirely in keeping with the tone of the film. Elsewhere, Alec Baldwin brings the humour, as does Catherine Zeta-Jones. Russell Brand is not quite as amusing, and his patchy accent can be a distraction.

Fans of 1980s music and pop culture should find Rock of Ages immensely entertaining. It is the sort of film that will leave viewers with a smile on their face.

Stuff To Look At

There is still some time to go before the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is unleashed (4th May, to be shown before The Avengers in US cinemas). I am trying to avoid the TDKR scoops/spoilers like the plague. In the mean time, here is some stuff on other upcoming releases.

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is out in cinemas on 11th may 2012 and I am really looking forward to it. Warner Brothers have released this fun featurette about vampire history and the film’s televisual past. Dark Shadows is Tim Burton’s first film since 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. The director also has Frankenweenie coming out later this year.

Prometheus

It’s all about the build up to the trailer nowadays. It was announced yesterday that a brand new trailer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus would air on television during Homeland on Sunday evening. I might have to wait a little longer than that, as I don’t actually watch Homeland. While we wait for that, here is a short featurette on Prometheus and Ridley Scott. Prometheus is out on 1st June 2012.

The Dictator

The Dictator is due for release on 18th May 2012. Sacha Baron Cohen is stepping up promotion for the film, which will hopefully bring the laughs. Above is footage of an Australian television interview with Cohen (in character). Needless to say, there are some silly jibes.

Snow White and the Huntsman

After Mirror Mirror was surprisingly good, Snow White and the Hunstman needs to step up its game. Above is the latest TV spot for the film. I am really looking forward to the film because I like fairy tales and Charlize Theron looks like an amazing Queen. The Florence + The Machine song ‘Breath of Life’, which features in the film, can be heard here. Snow White and the Huntsman is released on 1st June, with previews from the 31st May 2012.

Rock of Ages

I for one am hoping that Rock of Ages will be the hot mess Burlesque was supposed to be. It has all the right ingredients; Tom Cruise as an ageing rocker, an eighties rock soundtrack boasting Journey and Def Leppard, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I have never seen the musical, but I am looking forward to seeing the film. You can view the trailer hereRock of Ages will open on 15th June 2012.