Vice – Review

The world is in an horrendous political climate. It is, for want of a better word, a hellscape. With the rich and powerful well and truly in charge, it’s fun to explore just how horrendous it all is, has always been, and how bad it will be in Adam McKay’s brutal new movie.

Vice revolves around the life and career of Dick Cheney. For those whose extent of knowledge on Cheney doesn’t extend beyond this vince, Cheney found up in charge of some shady political stuff. Following him from his humble beginnings, the story shows how the bureaucratic Washington insider became the puppet-master behind a lot of wars and soon became Vice-President to George W. Bush. The film shows the implications of the dastardly deeds that are going in the White House. All the while, the film is narrated by affable soldier Kurt.

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Adam McKay has had a long history of comedies from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy to Academy Award winning The Big Short. For those who enjoyed the latter, a gimmicky drawl of a movie that uses celebrities to part financial exposition, then Vice is more likely to appeal to you. Certainly, the film is a lot funnier than The Big Short, and a lot more darker too. Yet McKay’s over-reliance on his shtick becomes over-bearing. Flitting between news-reel footage to fishing metaphors to restaurant metaphors, Vice derails it’s own narrative and it crashes out early on.

The problem with having so many gimmicks is that it becomes dull really quickly, which has the opposite effect of what the film is aiming for, especially as it twirls off into many different tangents. Vice feels like your drunk friend on a night out trying to tell a story but can no longer keep their place. Burping, slurring, and jabbering on, the end product is a mess of a tale you are no longer interested in. That’s exactly how Vice feels.

Christian Bale does his usual trick of morphing into the despicable lead character and also does well enough to echo some sort of empathy for the guy. To the extent where he feels human and, therefore, feels more horrendous as a person. As mentioned, Bale doesn’t use his make-up or “fat-suits” as a crutch and implements enough realism to make you intrigued.

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In fact, all of the players here are brilliant. Steve Carrell is particular sadistic as Ronald Rumsfield and Jesse Plemmons makes a great turn as the affable narrator Kurt. Amy Adams, in a year when Hollywood wasn’t filled with other exceptional performances, would’ve been the leader for Best Supporting Actress. Truth is, she is more terrifying than Dick here as Lynne Cheney. She’s an immediate “ball-buster” and her steely reserve helped propel our lead to power, asking the question as to who really was the mastermind from the beginning.

Vice has a lot of interesting components but it is a narrative mess that wastes a good Nicholas Britell score. That being said, there is something ultimately enjoyable about McKay mining the absolute bastardy about people in charge.


Vice is out 25th January 

Wild Rose – Brand New Trailer!

Jessie Buckley’s star is already on the rise. The Irish actress and singer has wowed us, particularly in recent dramatic movie Beast – earning her a BIFA award and a BAFTA nomination.

Now she returns in the eagerly anticipated film Wild Rose.

Leading alongside Julie Walters, Wild Rose tells the story of a Glaswegian tearaway and mother who dreams of stardom as a country singer in Nashville.

With absolutely incredible reviews, we’re excited for this one. What do you think?


Wild Rose is out April 19th! 

The Best Of: 6 Incredible Roles by Amy Adams

Amy Adams is one of my favourite actresses. I know it’s a bit unprofessional to start an article so deeply personal but I recently spoke to the great Adams at a press conference. Replying to me in such an astute and intellectual way, I instantly blacked out and cannot quite recall what she said because I was overcome by her perfection (Hooray for Dictaphones!)

Anyway, there is a great presence to Amy, no matter what role she tackles. Whether it’s a joyous naïve princess or a brooding art gallery owner, Adams masters them all. And though I know I am sadly missing tonnes of her work including The Fighter, Junebug, The Master and Catch Me If You Can, here are the six best roles of Amy Adams.

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

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Look, when having to chose between Amy Adams’ best roles, I had a tricky decision to make. One could feel drawn to The Fighter and The Master. Oscar nominated roles, indeed do need a lot of mentions and if I didn’t hate David O Russell, I’d pop the former on and if I had seen The Master, I’d have popped that on too. Regardless, they are truly incredible roles.

Instead, I decided to punt for Adams debut role which is a terribly underrated dark comedy. Drop Dead Gorgeous is a mockumentary revolving around a deadly group of girls who are pining for a pageant crown. Adams plays the sexual cheerleader who can put her whole fist in her mouth, which she does as a talent. Stereotypically dumb, Adams executes the role with great affection, gifting us with a hilarious character that stands out alongside the sea of crazy hilariousness!

Enchanted (2007)

enchanted_movie_image_amy_adams__11_Adams’ work as a Disney “princess” saw her shoot to fame in 2007. The film revolves around a young wannabe princess named Giselle who is transported from her animated role to the real live-action one and has to deal with the hard-knock-life that grimy New York offers. In the role, Adams is impeccable. Bouncy and fun one minute yet full of sorrow the next, Adams encompasses every single Disney Princess whilst similarly crafting a new and exciting one. Yes, she technically isn’t a princess but, well, sod it, she’s the best one! Just listen to “How Do You Know?” and tell me you don’t come away with sheer glee at Giselle’s heart-warming optimism.

Doubt (2008)

aa-amyadams-doubt-hallwayPlaying opposite heavy-weights such as Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is challenging. Tackling paedophilia in the church is more so. The young Amy Adams, coming off her commercial and critically acclaimed Disney work plunged deeply into this hefty drama and earned an Academy Award nomination for her troubles. She plays young Nun Sister James who suspects that a Father at their parish is abusing a young student, setting off a campaign against him despite there being no concrete proof. Amy Adams is stellar as the earnest young Nun who wanted to do good despite the circumstances. Greatly solidifying her as one of greatest actresses, this is a fine performance from Adams.

No Doubt.

The Muppets (2011)

amy-adams-as-mary-in-green-with-envy-theProving a favourite with audiences and critics alike, Amy Adams completely immerses herself in a colourful and Muppety world opposite the likes of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and Fossy Bear. Here she plays Mary girlfriend of Gary whose affections for her are pulled by his loyalty to brother Walter.  Bringing the charms of Giselle to a brand new character, Adams is somewhat side-lined by the hilarious puppet pals. Within this fuzzy world, however, she has standout moments including her venture across LA by herself singing the vivacious Me Party that y’all need in your lives. Helping to bring the Muppets back for a whole new generation to enjoy, this a fun and fantastic role!

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

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Although the film was only released last week, it is sure enough one of her more accomplished roles. In fact, if the Academy doesn’t shove an award in her face because of it, then it will be a bitter disappointment. As Susan Marrow, she plays a disjointed gallery owner stifled by her loveless  marriage and the façade of people around her. When she receives a manuscript by her ex-husband, she becomes embroiled in the novel and it’s contents, leading to an emotional act of revenge. Adams is ethereal in the role, transcending into many different facets of Susan including her bubbly and charming younger self and the aged, sleep deprived forty-something person she doesn’t recognise. It’s a gifted almost silent role that Adams  elevates into a gripping poetic noir.

Arrival (2016)

ARRIVALAgain, the movie was only released yesterday but it is such a bloody brilliant performance that you can’t help but mention it. In fact, I urge you to fling your computer to one side, grab your nearest jacket, and head out to your local cinema because this is one film you aren’t going to want to miss on the big screen. As linguistics professor Louise, Adams’ plays a key role in unlocking the secrets of other-worldly visitors in Denis Villeneuve’s impeccable alien film. She’s astonishing. Absolutely perfect. Understated, emotionally charged, and full of clarity, Adams is bountiful in this stunning depiction of humanity’s need to work together to survive. Surely now, Adams is destined for legendary status.


Vice is out in cinemas now! 

A who’s who in Destroyer

Nicole Kidman’s latest film, Destroyer (in cinemas 25th January), sees the A-list actress taking on one of her most transformative roles to date. It’s a riveting and gritty crime thriller with an ensemble cast whose past credits include everything from superhero fighting powers and award-winning science fiction storylines. With the film coming to cinemas next Friday, we’re taking a look at the actors and actresses who have transformed on-screen.

Nicole Kidman

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Australian actress and producer, Nicole Kidman needs no introduction. With over 80 projects under her belt, she’s been nominated for multiple awards and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Kidman began her acting career in her native Australia with the 1983 film Bush Christmas and has grown to become one of the most recognised actresses in Hollywood. She’s known for her excellent commitment to the characters she portrays, going method and transforming her appearance with prosthetics.

 

Sebastian Stan

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Known mostly for his portrayal as Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier in Marvel’s Avengers, Sebastian Stan is captivating alongside Kidman in Destroyer. In addition to being part of the Marvel Universe, Stan co-starred with Margot Robbie in I, Tonya which saw him play Jeff, the on-off boyfriend of Tonya Harding.  Stan got his start in acting having spent a year at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London before moving back to America to pursue the big screen.

 

Toby Kebbell

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English born actor Toby Kebbell is no stranger to an action-packed film. He’s starred in Dawn of the Planet Apes, Fantastic Four and Wrath of the Titans. Kebbell’s most critically acclaimed role in Control won him the award for Best Supporting Actor at the British Independent Film Awards.

 

Tatiana Maslany

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Canadian actress, Tatiana Maslany shot to fame in the science fiction series Orphan Black. The role earned her an Emmy, as well as TCA & SAG Awards.  She’s the first Canadian actor in a Canadian series to win an Emmy in a key dramatic category. Maslany is also a big fan of improv, having done comedic improv for 10 years and participated in the Canadian Improv Games. Maslany is just starting to climb the Hollywood ladder and her future is looking very bright.

 

Karyn Kusama

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While not appearing on the big screen, director Karyn Kusama has certainly left her mark on the film industry. Her directorial debut, Girlfight (2000) starred Michelle Rodriguez as a troublesome teenage girl who uses her anger in boxing after discovering the sport while picking up her brother up from training. Kusama not only directed the film but she also wrote and produced it. Having graduated from NYU, she spent her early years of her career working as an editor on documentary films and in production on independent film and music videos. Kusama’s films have had strong feminist themes, with female protagonists who are flawed. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of her work soon!


Destroyer is in cinemas 25th January.

Destroyer – Review

Nicole Kidman has had a long history of transforming in her roles. From her Academy Award winning performance in Hours saw her wear a crooked prosthetic nose to her scruffy look for The Paperboy,

Look at her gaunt and sunken face in the brittle Destroyer, it looks as though Kidman goes to great lengths for this gritty thriller.

Directed by Karyn Kusama, who also gave us phenomenal films such as  The Invitation and Jennifer’s Body, the film revolves around LAPD detective Erin Bell. When she was young, she was placed undercover with a gang of grungy bank thieves. However, the whole operation went haywire and now Erin suffers from the consequences. Alcoholic, gruff, and estranged from her daughter, when a murder arrives on her beat

Like a combination between True Detective and Point Break, Destroyer is a formidable piece of work that is anchored by Kidman’s gruelling performance. It really is the actress who keeps this piece moving and, in a similar way to Atomic Blonde, when she takes the punches, she truly takes the punches. She is affected by everything and Kidman makes us feel every bruise. There’s great support from Sebastian Stan and Tatiana Masalany but Bradley Whitford’s performance is the true scene-stealer here as a pompous and crooked lawyer.

Nicole Kidman in Destroyer

Toby Kebbell’s villainous Silas should stalk the whole film. His menace or craze should be haunting, just as Kidman’s Erin is stalked by the mere thought of him. But he is barely seen and underused (as per the norm in Kebbell’s portfolio.) With a ridiculous hairstyle reminiscent of a Charmed villain, It’s a shame because the film has to have Erin brood on a proper monster of a man but, instead, it never comes to fruition.

Karyn Kusama’s previous work The Invitation was an adept and different look at the horror/thriller genre but with Destroyer, it feels like a step back because there is a lack of originality. The story does twist in an unpredictable manner and is shot gorgeously but then falls back on usual clichés. For once it would be nice to see a film with a detective who isn’t gruff nor an alcoholic but still has the battle the seedy underground. The genre-tropes, much like the punches, are felt here.

It is the same with the music. Theodore Shapiro’s score is reminiscent of Johnny Greenwood’s for You Were Never Really Here which gives it this generic feel. Synth heavy night time scenes with some softer violins – it’s like composers have the archetype and it doesn’t feel original in Destroyer. That being said, the sound design is impeccable and every crunch of bone upon bone

Overall, the film is a good maudlin police drama where you are gripped enough to follow the story to the bitter end. There are some absolute gorgeous scenes here including a snow-scape that is one of the most beautiful shots I’ve seen. Kidman goes to massive depths in order to transform into this character and it shows here. Though the film may feel somewhat predictable in places, the emotional and physical heft that Kidman goes through is enough to keep you invested.


Destroyer is out in cinemas 25th January! 

Second Act – Review

It is some time since Jennifer Lopez headlined a crowd pleasing Hollywood comedy. But you glance at the poster for Second Act and there’s nothing on it that suggests 2019. Indeed, it looks like a film released ten years ago. You might find yourself asking, ‘have I seen this already?’

On the face of it, you have. Back in 1988, Melanie Griffith was sandwiched between Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford in the comedy, Working Girl, about a receptionist, Tess McGill, who steals her boss’ life after the villainous Katharine Parker (Weaver) took Tess’ idea. At its heart is the struggle of a working class girl: can someone without a college education succeed in business? You could ask Diane Hendricks, the co-founder and chairman of ABC Supply, a wholesale supplier of roofing, siding and windows in America with net worth of $6.2 billion.

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In Second Act, Lopez plays Value Shop assistant manager Maya Vargas. She has turned an ailing store around by allowing customers to choose cuts of meat online and providing a space with free coffee where shoppers can talk. Maya knows customer taste. When a promotion comes along (no, not a two-for-one), she is disappointed to be overlooked in favour of a college-educated white guy whose buzz words attract flies. Maya quits in disgust. Then a husband of a friend creates a social media profile for her complete with a degree from Harvard Business School and some Peace Corps volunteering experience and suddenly she has a job interview at a cosmetics company where she is hired as a consultant. Her criticism of the current line of products draws ire from some of the staff, notably the boss’ daughter Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens). The women are placed in opposing teams to come up with the next exciting revenue earner.

The writers Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas give us the set pieces that we expect, notably when Maya’s lack of coxing experience is exposed. Then there is a plot twist that is something out of a telenovella, Lopez having one eye on the Latin audience.

Does it work? Well, in spite of the twist which does at least overcome the problem of some antagonistic female-led comedies – one woman having to supplant another to be successful – much of the film feels tired. There is the guy in the firm who tries to unpick Maya’s past and a dance sequence choreographed by Mandy Moore (La La Land) that is a stand in for a fist fight. Then there a bunch of doves that are released only to collide with traffic, a gag that would not be out of place in director Peter Segal’s 1994 directorial debut, The Naked Gun 33 1/3 – The Final Insult. Personally, I prefer the police light tracking shots during a space dog-fight.

Lopez is an empathetic presence but the comedy heavy lifting is provided by the supporting cast, including Charlyne Yi as an office worker with a fear of heights and a kinky side, Annaleigh Ashton as an unconfident researcher who trips a woman over to better talk cosmetics and, best of all, Leah Remini as the straight-talking best friend, Joan. Remini has an inspired moment when during a conversation in the kitchen with Maya and to show how relaxed and ‘blown-out’ she is undoes her trouser button. Okay, it is not on a par with Marisa Tomei illustrating her body clock in My Cousin Vinny but it takes you by surprise.

The film is backed by STX, which has predominantly Chinese finance behind it, so there is the obligatory scene where, for a business meeting, Maya pretends to speak the language, having words recited to her through an ear piece by a veterinarian.

It’s not just the plot that feels retro. At one point, Maya’s trying-too-hard-to-impress make over causes Joan to remark, ‘oh my God, you look like Mrs Doubtfire’. The film has one eye on the audience who first enjoyed Lopez in Anaconda.

As far as a trip to the multiplex goes, Second Act feels second choice. It doesn’t have anything interesting to say about social media makeovers. Yet, I didn’t hate it. I know that’s faint praise, but there is something enjoyable about Maya’s Value Shop colleagues pretending to be her friends from Harvard. You’ll smile at least once – honest. If I haven’t mentioned Milo Ventimiglia as Maya’s love interest, Trey, it is because he isn’t germane to your enjoyment, though he cheer-leads well.


Second Act is in cinemas from Friday 25 January 2019