Film Review: Runner Runner

Runner Runner

Runner Runner features an interesting enough premise, but the execution belies this fact.

Princeton postgraduate student Richie uses online gambling as a way to pay for his tuition fees. When he gambles his savings hoping to make his next instalment, Richie notices something unusual about the online casino. Richie travels to Costa Rica to track down the site’s owner, the mysterious Ivan Black…

Director Brad Furman’s film had the potential to be an entertaining and competent picture. The set up is interesting enough. However, the narrative is not particularly smart; shifts can be spotted a mile off.

The narration does not do Runner Runner any favours. The voiceover would have been fine as an introductory device, but it is carried the whole way through the film. The dialogue is poor at times, and the gambling analogies are overplayed. There are a couple of humorous lines, but more that are unintentionally funny.

For a crime thriller, Runner Runner lacks the tension required to really grip viewers. Furman fails to give the film a sense of apprehension in pivotal scenes. There is no sense of danger, even in what should be perilous situations. Similarly, despite the ongoing theme of corruption, the film feels sanitised rather than seedy.

Richie is a suitable protagonist, functioning as an everyman out of his depth. The constant voiceover does not really endear him to viewers however. Ivan is more of a caricature than anything else. Rebecca functions as a pretty face but not much else; the character is flimsy at best.

Performances in the film are adequate. Justin Timberlake is fine as Richie, while Gemma Arterton is given little to do besides wear flattering dresses. Ben Affleck offers a little swagger as Ivan, but is never really nasty. This is the fault of the material more than the performance.

Runner Runner is not irredeemable, but it is not a successful thriller either. A rather forgettable movie.

Trailer Round-Up

Plenty of new trailers this week, including The Call, The Frozen Ground,and Only God Forgives

The Call

Halle Berry plays an emergency call operator in The Call. Also starring Abigail Breslin, film looks like a fast-paced thriller, from the trailer at least. It at least serves as a warning to always keep your phone adequately charged. The Call is out in UK cinemas on 20th September 2013.

The Frozen Ground

Watching this trailer, it’s hard to believe that John Cusack is the same guy who was in Say Anything. The Frozen Ground is based on the true story of the hunt for a serial killer in Alaska. Also starring Nicolas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens, The Frozen Ground hits the big screen on 19th July 2013.

Only God Forgives

Here is the latest trailer for Only God Forgives. Kristin Scott Thomas is barely recognisable. And Nicolas Winding Refn really does seem to like neon. Starring Ryan Gosing, Only God Forgives is out in UK cinemas on 2nd August 2013.

Pacific Rim

Monsters! Robots! Action writ large! Pacific Rim (I can’t with this name) is Guillermo del Toro’s future-set action blockbuster. If gigantic monsters started popping out of the ocean, I think I would just hide under the bed. But perhaps this would not make for a very exciting film. Pacific Rim hits the big screen on 12th July 2013.

Runner Runner

Justin Timberlake plays a college student who pays for his tuition through online gambling in Runner Runner. In fairness, he could be a mature student. The film also stars Gemma Arterton and Ben Affleck,  in his second role since his Argo success. Runner Runner is out on 27th September 2013.


Hawking is a new documentary on the life of the most famous living scientist in the world, Stephen Hawking. His fame seems to concentrate on his work as a physicist and his disability, so perhaps this film is an opportune chance to discover more about the renowned scientist. Hawking is released on 20th September 2013.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of movie stuffs this week, including the latest Man of Steel TV spot, Disney’s Big Hero 6, the Coen Brothers’ latest and a Herzog re-release…

Man of Steel

Here is the new Man of Steel TV spot. Although the film looks exciting, the TV spot fails to answer the question everyone is asking; is Gus Gorman in this latest Superman film? Really, that’s what we want to know. Man of Steel, with or without Gus Gorman, is released in UK cinemas on 14th June 2013.

Big Hero 6

Here is the first look at Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6. I want to live in San Fransokyo, it looks amazing! The film is about a robotics prodigy who finds himself in the grips of  criminal plot that threatens the city. Big Hero 6 is due for release in the US on 7th November 2014.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Ethan and Joel Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis is about a young folk singer in 1960s New York. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. But who knows, the breakout star may be the cat in the first seen in this trailer. Inside Llewyn Davis is due for release in UK cinemas on 24th January 2014.

The World’s End

Edgar Wright’s latest offering is The World’s End, starring past collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The film seems like exactly what one would expect from the trio; comedy and some very strange shenanigans. The World’s End hits UK screens on 19th July 2013.

The Internship

The Internship reunites Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. The comedy is about two advertising salesmen who start an internship at Google. The trailer reminds me of that episode of Friends where Chandler starts an internship at an ad agency and he’s so much older than the rest of the interns. The Internship is out in UK cinemas on 4th July 2013.

About Time

Here is the first trailer for Richard Curtis’ latest film, About Time. The comedy stars Bill Nighy, Rachel McAdams and Domhall Gleeson. I’m getting Groundhog Day vibes from the trailer, although I think the film is going to weigh heavy on the whole consequences theme. About Time is released in UK cinemas on 6th September 2013.

Aguirre, Wrath of God

I wish Werner Herzog was narrating this trailer. Werner Herzog should narrate everything. Anyway, the director’s 1972 film Aguirre, Wrath of God gets a re-release as part of the BFI’s retrospective of Herzog in June. Aguirre, Wrath of God will be screened at the BFI and selected UK venues from 7th June 2013.

Film Review: Trouble with the Curve

A baseball drama, Robert Lorenz’s film appears to be all about promoting traditional American pursuits.

Veteran baseball scout Gus has increasing problems with his vision. Cranky in his attitude, he has a strained relationship with lawyer daughter Mickey. Sent on a recruiting trip, Gus may reluctantly need Mickey’s help if he is to save his job…

The narrative of Trouble with the Curve is fine. The story concerns itself with a father-daughter relationship set to the backdrop of baseball. The pace, however, does slacken on occasion. The film is rather predictable, but the main characters are sufficiently engaging to hold the audience’s attention. There is some awkward expository dialogue at the beginning of the film, but otherwise the script is sound.

Lorenz’s film appears quite clear-cut in this message. Everything traditionally American is promoted as positive, whether this is baseball or hot dogs. Anything else appears to be a subversion of some kind; a form of straying from the path. This is played out through the character of Mickey. It is a rather black and white viewpoint.

The romance strand definitely adds something to Trouble with the Curve. There are some nice scenes between Mickey and Johnny. The prevalent theme of following gut instinct is apparent through all of the film’s strands.

Clint Eastwood plays cranky well as Gus. Sometimes the character’s aggression is overplayed, however. Amy Adams offers a solid performance as Mickey. Adams has good chemistry with Justin Timberlake’s Johnny.

Trouble with the Curve is suitably entertaining. It is questionable, however, whether something so focused on a particular aspect of American culture will have mass appeal elsewhere.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of stuff this week; a new Oz The Great and Powerful poster, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters trailer, something from Stoker and more…

Trouble With the Curve

Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, Trouble With the Curve is a drama about a baseball scout. After Clint Eastwood films received a mixed reception at best, it will be a relief to some that he is not directing this one. Trouble With the Curve is out in cinemas on 30th November 2012.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel was always a disturbing fairy tale, so it is really no surprise that the filmmakers have chosen to go down the violent fantasy route with this cinematic adaptation. Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks like a lot of fun. The film is released in the UK on 15th March 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

This week the first poster for Oz The Great and Powerful was released. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Disney’s last foray into Oz territory was the cult classic Return to Oz, so it will be interesting to see what this new film brings. Oz The Great and Powerful is due for release in March 2013.


This is not a trailer for Stoker, but a video that depicts the creation of the poster, along with clips from the film. I’m not entirely sure what Stoker is, but I am interested to find out more. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, Stoker will be released on 1st March 2013.

A Good Day to Die Hard

John McClane is back for another adventure in A Good Day to Die Hard. The last instalment did not quite match the much-loved earlier trilogy, so it will be interesting to see how this one does. Bruce Willis returns as McClane on 14th February 2013.

Django Unchained

Above is the latest trailer for Django Unchained. The trailer has director Quentin Tarantino’s stamp all over it. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained is released in UK cinemas on 18th January 2013.

Film Review: Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits is a lot of fun. Like its protagonists, the film is imperfect. Nonetheless, it is still a very enjoyable romantic comedy.

Both recently out of relationships, headhunter Jamie meets creative director Dylan as she tries to persuade him to take a job with GQ Magazine. The two become friends, as they bond over their mutual derision of romantic clichés. One evening, Dylan and Jamie decide that no strings sex won’t complicate their friendship. The arrangement works, but only temporarily…

Friends with Benefits is very funny in places. The humour is consistent, which makes the film more enjoyable throughout. It can be crass at times, but this isn’t a bad thing. The comedy is always on the money.

Will Gluck’s film is particularly interesting as it overtly references many romantic-comedy clichés. Friends with Benefits playfully makes fun of these conventions, and even at the stars of recent rom-coms. Nevertheless, the second half of the film then adheres to these same stereotypical traits. It is a little disappointing that Friends with Benefits does not try to be a bit more original in this respect. The sense of predictability is however outweighed by the comedy; the numerous laughs negate the lack of innovation.

Part of the reason that Gluck’s film works so well is that the characters are likeable. Dylan and Jamie are believable in their relationship; their interactions appear natural and spontaneous. Moreover, the supporting characters function well to keep the emphasis on the two protagonists while providing some back-story.

Another interesting facet of Friends with Benefits is its use of technology. The film is very contemporary, with its reliance on mobile phones and the internet as integral to the narrative. It is also rather amusing that T-Mobile is slated in the film, and yet the flash mobs (which the company used to publicise its campaigns) are used to great affect.

Performances in the film are good. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have great chemistry, which makes them very easy to watch. Both seem to have a flair for this type of comedy. Elsewhere, Patricia Clarkson delivers a star turn as Lorna and Emma Stone is fantastic in the opening scene.

The soundtrack to the film is also very good. Music is used to great effect, as well as being referenced within the film.  All in all, Friends with Benefits is a bit of a rarity; a formulaic rom-com that will actually make you laugh.

In Time Trailer

Here is the trailer for new sci-fi thriller In Time. The film stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy and Olivia Wilde. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the film offers a rather interesting premise: a world where time is the ultimate commodity. For very busy people (like myself, when not enjoying copious naptime) it feels as if we may already be heading that way… Anyhow, the film is out on 1st November 2011.

Film Review: Bad Teacher

Cameron Diaz is on top form in entertaining comedy Bad Teacher. It is definitely one of the better recent adverts for females taking on central comedic roles, proving that women can hold their own and should not be confined to cheesy, predictable rom-coms. Unless they are Jennifer Aniston.

Elizabeth Halsey is foul-mouthed, unprofessional teacher, concerned only with finding a rich man to marry. When her fiancé dumps her, Elizabeth is forced to go back to her old job. She sets her sights on rich new teacher Scott Delacorte, but her behaviour attracts the attention of the successful colleague Amy Squirrel…

Given the premise, Bad Teacher could have gone down a similar path to School of Rock. Thankfully, Jake Kasdan’s film eschew this option, choosing to focus on a character that does not want to redeem herself or help others. The aim of Bad Teacher is to generate laughs; other aspects are secondary to this.

What works so well in Bad Teacher is the frequency of the humour. Comedy in the film balances carefully between being accessible and being raucous. Jokes are not too close to the bone as to offend anyone but the most sensitive of souls, yet humour is often garnered from shocking or surprising comments.

As such, Bad Teacher exudes an admirable attitude. It is not offensive for shock value; the humour more often than not is better than this. Rather, the crassness is present simply because it is genuinely funny, immature as this may be. Although there is a romantic angle, this never overshadows the humour. Plenty of comedies feature more serious or poignant scenes, which can become overly sentimental if not executed well. Writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg avoid this trap in Bad Teacher. Any moments of realisation or emotion are handled with the lightest touch; there are no heavy-handed scenes where the protagonist realises the error of her ways. The film is all the better because of this.

Cameron Diaz is great as Elizabeth. The actress clearly seems to be having a lot of fun with the role, and the style of comedy suits Diaz very well. She gets fantastic support from most of the cast. Lucy Punch is fantastic as Amy, while Jason Segel is wisely cast as gym teacher Russell. Segel’s role is fairly minor but provides sufficient humour. Justin Timberlake is a lot of fun as Scott, and is given some great lines.

Bad Teacher is not the greatest comedy ever made. It is, however, great fun and a lot better than many of the other comedies released this year.

Film Review: Yogi Bear

An inoffensive live-action feature of the beloved Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Yogi Bear is sure to satisfy the young audience it is intended for. Older cinemagoers would be wise to view it as the harmless fluff it is.

Jellystone Park is due to celebrate its 100th anniversary, but Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo Boo are more interested in stealing picnic baskets, as usual. When Mayor Brown threatens to close Jellystone, Ranger Smith enlists the help of Yogi and Boo Boo, as well as zoologist Rachel…

The premise of Yogi Bear is fairly standard; most of what occurs is predictable family movie fare. Nevertheless, the pacing is good, and with a sprightly running time of eighty minutes, the film is just the ticket. Although there are some very apparent messages, the tone of the film never becomes heavy.

Much of the humour will appeal to younger audience members, although there are some jokes that have a wider appeal. Yogi Bear does not seem to have the emphasis on entertaining adults as well as children, unlike Toy Story 3 or Megamind, for example. Notwithstanding, the light entertainment the film offers is certainly watchable for an older audience, even though is more amusing than hilarious. Furthermore, Yogi Bear makes references to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Superman, which are probably lost on younger viewers.

At its heart, Yogi Bear is unequivocal in the messages it sends. Characters are predominantly painted in contrasting colours. Mayor Brown is greedy and not enterprising, while Ranger Smith is honest and endearing. Yogi Bear promotes environmentalism over capitalism; unabashedly depicting those in power as corrupt, and elevating green issues above financial gain. However, Yogi Bear does not appear overly political in this endeavour; rather the film provides young viewers with a strong moral to the story.

The CGI effects used to create Yogi and Boo-Boo look decent in 3D. The characters are very detailed, particularly in the contours of their fur. Although the two appear natural in their surroundings, at some points it is clear that the actors are performing with green screen. The 3D is employed with gimmicky effect, functioning in much the same way as its use in The Final Destination or My Bloody Valentine.

Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake sound appropriate as Yogi and Boo Boo. Nonetheless, they are parts that could have been given to any unknown voice actors; it is unclear what they bring to a feature such as Yogi Bear. Anna Faris brings her usual quirkiness as Rachel, while Tom Cavanagh is uninspired as Ranger Smith.

Yogi Bear is an entertaining film, but one that clearly has young children in mind. Although it is unlikely to be classed as one of the year’s best films, it is nevertheless an enjoyable eighty-minute watch.