DVD

Debug…

I’ve just watched Debug.

Here’s the trailer:

Don’t bother with the film itself, unless you want to wonder what you’ve just watched and where the plot thinks it was going.

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Poltergeist – Remade, Rebooted, Reimagined?

The Bowen family move into a new, perfect, family home, only to find that it’s the source of a paranormal terror.

Poltergeist is one of my favourite horror films.  I first saw it on TV, late at night and it terrified me.  It showed Steven Spielberg’s masterful ability to capture craft a family story, inject it with horror, yet stop short of it being too fantastical.  There was weight to everything, every performance and every moment.

“Without judgement or cynicism.”

In this 2015 remake of the 1982 original, we get the original film seen through modern sensibilities and expands on some of the themes of the original – a loving family, a threat that starts out as fun but slowly becomes darker and a fight against an unthinkable terror.  It goes further, introducing an all-too modern psychological issue for the son and enhancing the fun side of the haunting for Madison contrasting with the more terrifying side through Griffin.

There’s plenty to marvel at in this film as the mundane becomes terrifying, but the use of CGI over physical effects still takes us away from the “realism” of the original.  Yet, there are ample physical effects at which to marvel, it’s the CGI that gets in the way.

Poltergeist has a solid cast led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt.  Kennedi Clements and Jared Harris have the hardest tasks of all as Madison and Carrigan Burke, this film’s Carole Anne and Tangina – she brings the same wonder to the role, whilst Harris is a powerful performer in his own right, bringing a different, modern take on the role of the medium.

Technology plays an extended role in the film, beyond the television.  Streaming technology, GPS, drones, tablets – it’s a modern world, after all.

“This is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.”

The biggest disappointment is one of its newest additions – a look inside the paranormal dimension.  It’s better to not see, to only catch glimpses of what’s beyond, that’s what made the 1982 film so effective – whilst we could be scared by what we saw, it’s the terror of what we can’t that’s truly horrific.

The family in peril, the home invasion, the disbelief turned into belief are all well executed, until the rather slapdash ending.  It’s a great story (because it always was) and a relatively effective update, but this could have been a film in its own right, instead of Poltergeist.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sonny, the owner of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, seeks to expand his business for those in their golden years, which leads to a case of mistaken identity, new loves, an inadvertent recruitment of a hitman and friendships anew for the residents of the hotel.

“See the old crumbling ruins.”

The cast of crown jewels in British acting returns, with Richard Gere added to the cast along with Tamsin Greig.

As with the first film, this is a gentle story – even with the perils of the hitman and Sonny’s inadvertent neglect of his bride-to-be (it’s nothing bad, he just pays much more attention to his business than to her, with his jealousy of family friend, Kushal brims over).

Dev Patel and Tina Desai, as Sonny and Sunaina, are the youthful driving force of the film, and the acidic Muriel (Maggie Smith, in fine form), the love struck Madge (Celia Imrie) and the business-minded Evelyn (Judi Dench) are all on fine form.  Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and David Strathairn add to a glorious cast.

 

“Some you win…”

Perhaps not as charming as the first film, with some story threads that don’t ring true, the strength of the story comes from the actors and the roles that they romantically fill with life, their interactions and the sheer joy of seeing the various combinations on screen together.

Beautifully performed all round, beautifully shot on location, it’s a gentle film that will entertain anyone looking for something different.

50/50

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with cancer and must navigate the road to recovery with assistance from his lad of a best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and his therapist Katherine (played by Anna Kendrick), who happens to be new to her role as a therapist, alongside his overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston).

“These are really good.  How strong are they?”

Balancing the world he knows with the world he doesn’t – Adam discovers a kinship in his disease with fellow sufferers, Mitch and Alan (Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall) who offer him their own form of therapy.

With a 50% chance of survival and a close circle of friends, old and new, Adam sets out to beat the odds.

“You’re not joking.”

Based on a true story, 50/50 has a superb cast – Gordon-Levitt lights up the screen wherever he goes, Rogen may not be too far away from familiar territory thought breathes life and likeability into Adam’s crude best friend, whilst Kendrick and Huston are wonderful on screen.

Cancer will always be a sensitive subject – it destroys lives, not just for the victim, but for those around them – but 50/50 handles it in a humane, honest and humorous way as we follow Adam on his journey and the highs and the lows.

Will Reiser’s script, based on his own story and encouraged by the support of Seth Rogen, gives us a film described as a comedy.  It certainly has its laugh out loud moments, though is more of a lighthearted drama and is never overly sentimental.

Without a doubt, this is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film, once more proving that he’s one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation.

A powerhouse of a film that deals with its subject in an open way, 50/50 is highly recommended.

 

This Is The End

The End of Days approaches and the celebrities of Hollywood are ill prepared for the chaos that ensures.  Thankfully, Hollywood’s modern day Brat Pack are spared, but must fight their way through the final days of the world.

Playing exaggerated versions of themselves, Seth Rogen (and his sensible friend, Jay Baruchel), James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson must fend themselves, totally unprepared for real life, let alone the events that transpire.

“I don’t want to die at James Franco’s house.”

The overly artsy Franco, a far too nice Jonah Hill, the reliable friend-t-all Rogen and the sensitive Robinson form a wonderful cast of characters.  Save for Baruchel, the principle cast are deliberately dislikeable, playing on their lack of real world experience and over-sensitive reactions to everything that goes on around them as they try to survive the apocalypse, boredom and fracturing friendships, especially when the arrogant Danny McBride joins the fray.

“You guys act like you’re so high and mighty.”

The film could have been a self-indulgent mess, designed to rub the ego of it’s young, popular cast, but it manages to be highly entertaining.  It’s self-deprecation at its finest, showing Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s skill as writers, whilst also showcasing the cast.

There’s a touch of Shaun of the Dead in This is the End, a knowing, self-deprecating script, comfortable with its cast and not afraid to take a few pot shots.  It revels in its silliness and excels in the story it tells.

 

The Railway Man

I was never a fan of films set during wars – I think it was because, as a kid, my father would make me watch them and I never enjoyed them because of this.

Recently, however, I’ve found myself drawn to a number of films set during conflict – Hotel Rwanda, Unbroken, War Horse, Private Peaceful, they’ve all found their way onto my viewing list and I’ve been moved by the stories that they’ve told.  They’ve not been stories of the conflict, more stories of humanity.

“You can talk about it, why can’t he talk to me about it?”

That is where The Railway Man comes in – Colin Firth (and Jeremy Irvine) deliver truly heartbreaking performances as Eric Lomax, a man who was held captive by the Japanese and driven close to breaking point with the consequences still haunting him decades later.  Nicole Kidman has really come into her own over the years, with an emotional, if somewhat reserved, performance as Eric’s wife, Patti, who acts as our conduit into Eric’s world, uncovering the past he fights to keep contained.

As a prisoner of war, Lomax and his comrades are forced to complete construction of the River Kwai bridge, a monumental and ambitious undertaking by the Japanese who used their captives as slaves, treating them inhumanely.

The crippling emotional pain, the lasting mental and physical scars, that Lomax has suffered are brought to bear with such might by Firth that it’s impossible not to feel his pain.  As the younger Lomax, Irvine is on form as the resourceful soldier and railway enthusiast, working with his fellow soldiers to build a railroad, whilst planning an escape and trying to maintain his humanity – it’s not, as would have been told in past generations, a story of heroism, it’s a story of overcoming the harshest of conditions and the unthinkable brutality of captivity.

“This wasn’t a tragedy, this was a crime.”

The meeting between Lomax and Nagase, decades in the making, explores Lomax’s hatred of Nagase and the justifications the Japanese officer, now a tour guide, of his actions.  As Lomax seeks retribution, we him at his darkest, the rage that he has kept pent up for so long finally exposed and, from this, we are shown reconciliation and hope.

In the same vein as Unbroken, also based on a true story, The Railway Man is a haunting tale of the human spirit and excels in this narrative with its understated realisation of the story, driven by an powerhouse cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada (and Tanroh Ishida as the younger Takashi Nagase), in which few come out undamaged, but humanity triumphs.