Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Juno" Review


The latest of the comedy/drama releases, Juno (directed by Jason Reitman) is the story of a 16-year-old girl (played by Ellen Page) who is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy – the father being her long-time friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).

After initially deciding to have an abortion and avoid letting anyone else but her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), the local store clerk Rollo (brilliantly played by Rainn Wilson), and the aforementioned Bleeker know of her predicament, she has a change of heart and immediately sets about proceeding with her pregnancy – and then giving the baby up for adoption to a family of her choosing.

After finding the “perfect couple” of Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) in a local free-ads paper, she goes to meet them and strikes up a friendship with Mark before some things begin to get more complicated than they initially appeared to be.


First off, I’d like to give a BIG thank you to the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show and Today FM for inviting me along to see this special advance screening at Dublin’s Savoy Theatre. It’s greatly appreciated and I’d strongly encourage everyone to listen to Ian’s breakfast show if you ever have the pleasure of visiting Ireland. Good music and always great entertainment!

Anyway, back to the review….

Going in to see Juno, I’d be lying if I said my expectations were not high. After all the positive buzz beforehand and the incredibly high-rating on Rotten Tomatoes (currently standing at 93%), I was looking forward to the movie and was anticipating something wonderful. I’m happy to say that I got that…. sort of!

Regarding the picture itself, I don’t think that there is an awful lot that I can say. There are no glaring faults, yet nothing spectacular to get really excited about. It’s a relatively simple story told in a simple way. That said, the picture is by no means boring. I found myself thoroughly entertained throughout.; it’s nicely shot and well-paced. We get some good drama and conflicts in which our characters can sink their teeth into and give them that extra dimension of reality that we can all identify with. It does have some very funny moments also to which they got a great reaction from the audience. There are also some very nice and tender moments which Juno shares with her father and Bleeker.

One problem I did find with the film was how little Bleeker featured. I found it very odd that the person responsible for getting a young girl pregnant would show very little interest in either her or the child she was carrying. While they had agreed not to keep the child, surely Bleeker should have been more attentive and supportive towards Juno in her obvious time of need, instead of downing orange Tic-Tac’s and jogging endlessly.

Ellen Page is wonderful as the title character Juno. She nails her role as the sharp-tongued, smart-mouth teenager. As the movie progresses, she begins to show a real growth in maturity. However, if I had any one complaint about the character of Juno, it’s that she never really appeard to be scared of being pregnant. Sure, she was scared about telling her parents – but I felt they could have made her character to be that little bit nervous and apprahensive at being another “teenage pregnancy”. I find it hard to believe that anyone could remain so calm and flippant regarding an unplanned pregnancy.

There are strong performances down through the cast list too. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are well cast in their roles as the prospective parents. They serve as a great device in allowing us to get to know Juno better – be it her tastes in music and movies, and how she deals with certain problems which may arise.

J.K. Simmons is brilliant as Juno’s father, Mac. He has some really great one-liners and he once again demonstrates how good his comic timing is, as we have seen before in the Spider-Man series and The Ladykillers. Not only does he provide us with great comedy moments, but he is very convincing in the role of a loving father who respects his daughter enough to allow her to make her own decisions and stand by her in support, rather than trying to make her choices instead.

Allison Janney also gives a very good account of herself as Juno’s step-mother Bren, and Olivia Thirlby does well in her relatively small role as Juno’s friend Leah.

For me the only weak link in the cast was Michael Cera as Bleeker. Acting-wise, there was nothing “wrong” per se with his performance. The problem is that every time I looked at him or every time he delivered a line I just thought to myself “that’s Evan from Superbad”. His voice, mannerisms, movements; everything was just the same as his character in Superbad. It will be interesting to see him in future roles to see if he has any greater range to display, or will he be typecast as the tall, skinny, quiet guy from here on in.


So did Juno live up to the hype and positive reviews? Yes and no. Some interesting characters and equally good performances are certainly the film’s strongpoint. The flow of comedy and drama work well together and as a result we get a nicely balanced film. With the exception of the character of Bleeker and his involvement, it’s hard to find much fault. Everyone else gives strong performances, and there a few seeds sewn throughout to cast some doubt in the viewers’ minds as to how the picture will turn out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the immense hype and expectation for me, but it’s still a very good little film that is worthy of 96 minutes of your time.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Welcome all....

For no particular reason, I have decided to create my blog. For all I know, this may never be read by anyone.... but nonetheless, I'll update it every so often. Feel free to leave any comments on the random shit I post.

Enjoy your stay!

Also, I've put up my Top 10 films of 2007 and my review of "I Am Legend" which were kindly published over at Filmstalker. I've backdated them on here to the date published so they show up in order.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Top 10 of 2007

Admittedly I didn't get to see anywhere near enough films as I'd have
liked this year, so apologies if my Top 10 seems littered with "big

Anyway, it's my list and I'll cry if I want to! :) Away we go.......

Top 10

Ratatouille - Walt Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille just makes it onto my list at number 10. Despite not being a child or having any children to bring to see kid's movies, I will always make an excuse to catch a Pixar production, simply because they consistently make pure entertainment for adults and children. Ratatouille is certainly no Toy Story or The Incredibles, but it is a very entertaining tale with beautiful animation (which we've all come to expect from Pixar). There are moments when I was looking at the scenery shots of Paris, and but for you knew it was an animated film, you just might be fooled into thinking that they were real.

Transformers - As a kid of the late-80's/early-90's, I grew up with the Transformers on the TV. Admittedly, I wasn't a HUGE fan but I had a few toys lying about the place. The addition of Michael Bay as director seemed a perfect fit, but to me it didn't turn out that way. While I was entertained by Transformers, it also had it's problems. For one was the common theme running through Michael Bay's catalogue of movies - unnecessary characters. Another thing that really annoyed me was the inability for him to zoom out a bit so that we could see the Autobots/Decepticons in more detail. Despite it's flaws, there was enough entertainment, coupled with a shred of a plot and some nostalgia to get this into my top 10.

Knocked Up - While I HATE the advertising for this and other subsequent comedies from Judd Apatow ("From the guys who brought you 'The 40-Year Old Virgin'...", etc), I cannot deny that he has been the brains behind some of the best comedies to emerge in recent times.
Knocked Up is no different. I got more that I expected from this movie. It had it's moments of big laughs, but also had a softer side which I really didn't expect.

The Simpsons Movie - Although the movie came about 9 years too late, I did enjoy The Simpsons Movie. It was essentially a 90-minute episode of the TV show, which is certainly not a bad thing - despite the standard of the show dropping in recent years. I can only imagine how amazing a Simpsons movie could have been if they'd made it back in the 90's when the show and it's writers really were at the top of their game. But that wasn't to be, however we still got an entertaining and fun movie with the world's favourite family (and town). The voice-acting was top-notch as we have come to expect, and there were some very nice references to seasons past. Plus the sequence where Bart skateboards to Krusty Burger naked had to get one of the biggest laughs in the theatre which I have witnessed for a long

300 - After the positive build-up Richard had given 300 on Filmstalker, my hopes were high. Luckily the film was kick-ass and exceeded all my expectations. Zack Snyder did a wonderful job in transferring Frank Miller's vision to the big screen. The Spartans actually look like they have been lifted from the pages of ancient Greek literature. They are glorious and larger than life, and led by a superb performance from Gerard Butler who truly embodies King Leonidas and the legend of the 300. Of all the films in my list, this was probably the most pleasurable on the eye, as every scene was crafted to almost-perfection - from the costuming to the effects and the scenery. Truly magical cinema.

Hot Fuzz - I have literally just finished watching this for the third time. From the wonderful creators of Shaun Of The Dead, came Hot Fuzz and despite it not being what I was
expecting, it was still good enough to make my top 5. Given that it was the Pegg/Wright/Frost team behind it, we knew we were guaranteed entertainment and laughs. The laughs weren't quite as abundant as one might have expected, but there were some really fabulous moments of comedy in the movie, along with some nice one-liners and homages to some of the great Hollywood cop movies (Frost's obsession with jumping
through the air while firing a gun never ceases to make me laugh). Timothy Dalton is in fine form as the "bad guy" of the picture, and we also have a fine ensemble of great talent such as Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, Bill Bailey, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent and Paddy Considine. Not to mention cameos by Cate Blanchett and Peter Jackson (see if you can spot them for yourselves).

Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free Or Die Hard) - This was a strange one for me as I had a kind of "I want to see it / I don't want to see it" feel for this movie. The reasons in favour of seeing it were, obviously, it's Die Hard and it has Bruce Willis - which translates into "we are guaranteed some great one-liners and some kick-ass action." However, against was the lack of John McTiernan being at the helm. Of the initial 3 Die Hard films, McTiernan did not direct Die Hard 2: Die Harder which was my least favourite of the trilogy. So, I was apprehensive that 4.0 might go the same way with a different director in the chair. I'm happy to say though that I was quite impressed with Len Wiseman's effort. For me the weakest part of the movie was Timothy Olyphant's villain, but other than that the cast gave good performances and Willis was great as McClane, as always! Also, who'd have thought that a Mac would be so good as a PC whizz?

Mr. Brooks - This movie was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I wasn't overly-pushed on seeing it at first when I heard that Kevin Costner was attached to star. Although upon viewing some of the trailers, I became slightly more interested. So when I eventually did
get the courage to be seen in public attending a Costner movie, I was most-pleasantly surprised. Costner gave a great performance, and the scenes involving himself and William Hurt were a pleasure to watch. Backed up with some good performances by Demi Moore and Dane Cook (he seemed to be everywhere this year), Mr. Brooks is certainly one I would recommend catching.

Letters From Iwo Jima - I went to see Clint Eastwood's second epic war drama way back in February and unfortunately have not got around to re-watching it yet despite picking up the DVD. It was simply a masterful motion picture, with great performances throughout and some wonderful directing by Eastwood. It's a perfect (and superior) companion to Flags Of Our Fathers, and I would urge anyone who has not seen either of these to get around to watching

The Bourne Ultimatum - I have been a big Bourne fan since the beginning of the series. The Bourne Supremacy was my favourite film of 2004, so naturally I was looking forward to the conclusion of Robert Ludlum's "trilogy". The trailers had set up the movie nicely and I'm happy to say that it did not let me down. Unlike others, the shaky cam did not bother me quite as much. At times it was frustrating, but I also felt it added to the frenetic pace at which Bourne had to carry out all of his objectives. It reflected that he was constantly on the move and had no time to slow down or stop. It completed the trilogy nicely and had some very strong performances, namely David Strathairn making his debut appearance in the series. The scene in London's Waterloo Station was also one of my favourites of the year in terms of maintaining tension and suspense.

Biggest Disappointments

Spider-Man 3 - After initially setting the bar so high for what a superhero/comic book movie can be, Sam Raimi let the execs take way too much creative control which in turn destroyed the 3rd part to what could have been a fantastic trilogy. Both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were fantastic movies, with just the right balance of action, drama, romance an wonderment. Spider-Man 3 really lost it's way though. It was over-packed with characters, time was devoted in the wrong areas and the ending became so obvious and cheesy that it really left a bad taste in the audience's mouth. Unfortunate, as the trailer had promised so much and instead we got very little.

Pirates Of The Caribbean - At World's End - I'm not really a fan of the Pirates series. The Curse Of The Black Pearl exceeded everyone's expectations and there's no denying that Johnny Depp was magnificent as Captain Jack Sparrow. Despite that, I still would have only rated it as being good, not great as seen by so many people. Dead Man's Chest for me was weak, with a wandering narrative and plot, stumbling through different set pieces and leaving us with a cliffhanger ending. The highlights were undoubtedly ILM's visual effects on Davey Jones, and the surprise ending with Captain Barbosa returning. So with the end of Dead Man's Chest somehow managing to ramp up my hopes for At World's End, I was left
bitterly disappointed when I saw it. Again we had little plot and more set pieces in which ILM displayed their creative abilities. We also had another shockingly bad performance from Orlando Bloom. I have now watched him in the majority of his films, and can honestly say he
cannot act. Why can he not deliver a line without squinting slightly?! I also had enough of Keira Knightley in her "more B.A. than B.A. Baracus" non-damsel in distress charade.

I Am Legend - It had so much potential and was pretty poorly executed. You can read my full review here over on Filmstalker (I'll also add it to here later).

Biggest Treats At The Movies in '07

Back To The Future - Yes, that's right! My local Cineworld has taken to showing one classic movie on the final Monday of every month and I was thrilled to discover that they were showing Back To The Future. What can I say that hasn't been said about this movie? It is simply great, great entertainment and one of the all time classics.

The Nightmare Before Christmas : 3D - Almost 14 years to the day after I originally shuffled along to see it for the first time, Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas was back in theatres!
While the 3D element did not add a whole lot to the experience, it certainly (and thankfully) did not detract from it. It was wonderful to once again see Jack Skellington sing and dance his way across the screen in front of a packed cinema.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"I Am Legend" (IMAX) Review


I Am Legend is the latest in the spout of post-apocalyptic movies to have hit the worldwide box office in recent times. Following after Dawn Of The Dead, 28 Days / Weeks Later and Children of Men comes Francis Lawrence's IAmLegend.

The project has travelled a rocky road in coming to our screens, having initially entered development back in 1994 with Ridley Scott attached to direct, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to star. However a spiraling budget signaled the end of Warner's plans. Since then, others were approached to direct (Rob Bowman, Michael Bay, Guillermo del Torro) but nothing materialized until Francis Lawrence and Will Smith came on board.

I Am Legend is the 4th adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name. It follows after previous adaptations 1964's The Last Man on Earth, 1971's The Omega Man, and the 2007 straight-to-DVD release IAm Omega.


Set in 2012, IAmLegend is the story of virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith), the last survivor on earth. He lives in New York City with his German Shepherd, Sam, as he seeks to gain contact with any other remaining survivors, and to create a vaccine for the devastating man-made virus, KV.

The movie opens with archived news footage of an interview with a scientist (a brief cameo by Emma Thompson), discussing how she has found a cure for cancer, and has successfully treated over 10,000 cancer sufferers.

Cut to 3 years later, and Manhattan is derelict. What was once a sprawling concrete jungle is slowly becoming an actual jungle, with weeds, grass and brush lining the streets and wild animals inhabiting the island.

The cure for cancer has somehow degenerated into the man-made virus known as KV, becoming air-born and wiping out 90% of the world's population instantly. Of the entire world's population, less than 1% of people were immune to the virus. The remaining survivors were infected with the virus, degenerating into a primal state of being, devoid of all human behavior.


Going into I Am Legend, I knew very little about it. I have never read Richard Matheson's original novel, nor have I seen any previous adaptations. In fact, I had only watched one trailer for this movie. So, I wasn't entirely sure what I was to expect from the last "blockbuster" of 2007.

As mentioned above, the film begins with a brief clip of the unveiling of the much-sought-after cure for cancer, modern civilization's Holy Grail. Cut to 2012 and we get a very quick view of how the world now looks - a world abandoned.

The shots of an empty New York City are striking and very well done. Most people will associate Times Square with being full of neon lights and people, so to see Will Smith hunting a deer through an overgrown Times Square is quite surreal.

The film moves along at a rather slow but acceptable pace to begin with, and we get acquainted with Smith and his German shepherd quickly.

As Smith moves through the city, we get to know little pieces of back story as he talks to his dog. The images of an abandoned Manhattan pack real power, and so too does the image of a collapsed Brooklyn Bridge. One can't help but think back to September 11 as another of NYC's famous landmarks no longer stands to prominence.

As night falls, Smith begins to lock down his house, and we wonder what exactly is he barricading himself in from?

This is revealed in quite a tense scene as Smith is forced to follow Sam into an abandoned building after she has chased a deer. For me this was probably the best scene in the movie. We are restricted of seeing much apart from Smith's flashlight and the odd glimpse of his face as he desperately searches for Sam. The scene feels quite claustrophobic and tense, and was well executed.

Unfortunately though, it's not all good. As this is where we get our first look at the "Infected", and I was far from impressed. While the CGI of New York City is extremely convincing, the same cannot be said for the Infected. To me they looked like they were lifted from a video game. The texturing and shading was off, and they just looked like they were CGI (I know that they are, but we shouldn't be able to tell). This was the first thing I commented on after the movie - I thought human actors wearing prosthetics and makeup (maybe combined with moderate CGI) would have created a far better and genuine horror effect. Instead we get poor CGI models which really took me out of the movie at times.

As the movie progresses, we see Smith interact with mannequins which he has set up around the city and named. This was another thing which I was not a fan of. These moments came across as far too comedic, and as though Smith was doing this merely for his own personal amusement as opposed to his own psychological breakdown due to isolation. While this may have been how the director intended it to be, it certainly came across as "comic relief" and got some laughs from the audience.

As we enter the final-third, the movie trails off. Some things become too convenient and predictable, and as mentioned above - the Infected do nothing to instill real fear into the viewer.

Another thing that bothered me about the movie was the lack of having the audience feel much emotion. We see flashbacks to Neville's wife and daughter leaving Manhattan, along with their goodbyes to Neville and their ultimate fate - but I never felt like I cared. I'm not heartless. Sure I felt "that must be a terrible thing to have to do", but there was no connection. In fact, the only scenes in the movie which had any emotional impact were between Neville and his dog, Sam.


So, is this film "Legend"? Not quite. I enjoyed it for the most-part, and never felt at any stage that it dragged or that I was "bored". But in saying that, it certainly could have been better, and could have given us some answers (how did the cure degenerate, how was Neville "immune" to the virus, how was everything still "working", etc).

Will Smith gives a very good performance, and manages to hold our attention for the duration - not an easy feat given that he's alone on-screen for the majority of the 100 minute running time. Also, the spectacle of a derelict and empty New York City is worth seeing.

In the hands of a different director (Ridley Scott comes to mind), this tale of isolation could have amounted to being "legendary". Unfortunately, I'd say it's more a case of "I Am Worth A Watch".