Tag Archives: 2009

Mary and Max (2009)

“When I was young, I invented an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli. My psychiatrist says I don’t need him anymore, so he just sits in the corner and reads.”

Cast: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana

Mary and Max

Mary Daisy Dinkle is a lonely 8 year old girl living in Australia. She has no friends, comes from a broken home and is often teased at school for a birthmark on her forehead. One day she decides to write to a random person from the phone
directory and by pure chance, chooses Max Jerry Horowitz. Max is a 44 year old obese man who lives in New York. He suffers with severe mental problems that have left him without many close friends of his own.

After the exchange of a few letters an unlikely friendship is struck up between the two, and so the story follows their letters back and forth over a period of 20 years.

Mary and Max, hands down, has to be one of the best claymation films I have ever seen. I also
never really expected a film like this to leave such a lasting impression on me, but it has.

As a dark comedy, Mary and Max is such a step away from these glossy, generic animations pouring out of Hollywood that it makes you sit up and take notice. What we have here isn’t a cliched piece of work, but something that feels original, personal and innovative. Rather than going for the biggest audience possible, the story has stuck to some of its more heavy plot lines and kept true to its roots. Whether than means sacrificing some of its potential audience, never mind, as it secures the film as one above the rest.

The first wonderful feature you will notice about the film is that it is narrated (by Barry Humphries). It gives the film a beautiful ‘storybook’ feel and really suits its nature. It must be noted though, that just because Mary and Max is an animation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s aimed at a young audience. The film surprisingly tackles issues ranging from depression to
alcoholism and in my eyes, could be classed as more of an adult’s film. However, the scenes in which these heavier things happen aren’t too traumatising and with a nice narrater giving us the low down, it distracts from some of the heavier topics.

The film is also wonderfully funny. With Philip Seymour Hoffman as the voice of Max, we get a great delivery of Max’s lines, which are accompanied by a strong New York accent, very suited to his burly figure. This bumbling, naive man is a real treasure and having him struggle throughout life with a mental illness is really heartbreaking. However it does ensure a sense of innocence follows, which is perhaps why he connects with Mary so well.

Bethany Whitmore voices a young Mary and it just fits superbly with the character. Managing to get to the core of Mary, Whitmore really understands the young, troubled girl and gives a wonderful performance. Toni Collette and Eric Bana play smaller roles yet they are as equally as impressive as the bigger ones; this cast has been well thought out and it shows.

Mary and Max is a brilliant adaptation of a true story. Told through claymation, it has to be one of the most endearing stories and is voiced by some great people. I can’t recommend this film enough.

Star rating:  8.5/10

Directed by Adam Elliot.

Running time 92 minutes.

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Paper Man (2009)

“Does this couch make me look fat?”

Cast: Jeff Daniels, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds

A story about relationships, friendships and loneliness, Paper Man is an indie-flick that is maybe trying too hard to be the oddball film of 2009.

We meet Richard (Jeff Daniels) and Claire (Lisa Kudrow) at a time of strain and tension in their marriage. With Richard trying to write his second novel but struggling to beat his writers block, Claire suggests he stay in their Long Island beach home for the winter period, while she is off being a super-surgeon.

With only his imaginary friend Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds), to annoy and taunt him, Richard hires a babysitter – the only weird thing being that it’s for a kid that doesn’t actually exist. Never mind though, home cooking, story telling and genuine bonding see teenager Abby (Emma Stone) finding a new best friend in Richard, resulting in a very unconventional friendship.

Both the main characters suffer from a sense of isolation and insecurity. Richard is pretty much friendless and Abby has a rough, abusive boyfriend who cares for only himself. This immediately sets an opportunity for some bonding, which is obviously what secures these two as friends.

With a fairly plain setting and plot, Paper Man obviously needed to make its mark someway, and what other way than to put Ryan Reynolds in a tight superhero costume with the brightest hair ever. As I mentioned earlier, it’s trying to be the oddball film of the year. Unfortunately it’s a bit hit and miss with this. Reynolds was good, but I feel he was just a bit too stupid. Very dramatic and overly cheesy, I see why this needed to be an element of the film – so ridiculous it’s acceptable – but it was just a bit too much for me. Perhaps an unknown actor in his place would have been better suited. Not saying his performance was bad, just that it didn’t quite fit.

The performances in the film were, as a whole, on the good side. Stone’s acting was great, as was Daniels, which was fantastic seeing as they were carrying the film and their relationship was key. A surprising Kieran Culkin also gave what I think was the best supportive performance. Kudrow, although having a small role, gave it a good go though I think she suits funny better.

As an independent production, Paper Man is a sweet film that explores companionship – which shows can transcend age if you allow it to. Not quite the successful indie film it was hoping to be, but on its way to becoming just that, debuting directors Kieran and Michele Mulroney certainly have talent that I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of.

Star rating:   6/10

Directed by Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney.

Running time 110 minutes.

The Hangover (2009)

“Would you please put some pants on? I feel weird having to ask you twice.”

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Justin Bartha

When Phil, Stu and Alan take friend Doug (Justin Bartha) on his bachelor party to Las Vegas the night before he’s to get married, they strike trouble when they wake up the next day to find him missing. As they slowly piece back together the events that occurred the night before, they battle through their horrible hangovers to try and find Doug and get him to his wedding on time.

What unfolds is a hilarious film, full of great one-liners that most guys love to quote back to you. With a surprising cameo from Mike Tyson too, the film is nothing but entertaining.

The Hangover is a very male dominated film and the humour can be seen as fairly sophomoric, just as you’d expect from a typical ‘bro comedy’, yet I myself loved it. The representations within the film are very misguided and stereotypical though, which women may find offensive. Yet if we are to go down that route, even the men have stereotypical roles to fill so I guess there is an equal amount of misguided representation between genders. Besides, it’s not a ground breaking movie with deep messages or profound complexities, but one to make you laugh and full of great scenes that keep you thoroughly entertained.

I thought it was fantastically filmed. Las Vegas is made to look enticing and magnetic, the casinos are huge and inviting and the colours from the wider shots of the city pop with a brilliant vibrancy.

The three main characters are spot on too. They carry the film at a brisk pace and have great chemistry together. Cooper suits playing Phil to a tee; he’s a slick, good-looking guy with all the talk. He was fairly unknown before this role so it really did put him on the map. He was surprisingly funny and manages to charm the audience each time he’s the focus of a scene. Helms is great a Stu too, in the film he undergoes a transformation from being a whipped boyfriend to an independent man. Helms does this with superb elements of hilarity that make it one of the funniest ‘personal growth’ transformations I’ve ever seen. My favourite character though is Alan who is played by Galifianakis. I’m sure many would agree with this too. Slightly brain-damaged with hints of self-proclaimed Asperger’s, Alan is the “glue that holds them together”. He’s just great.

One thing I felt slightly ruined the film for me was the over-exaggeration on Ken Jeong’s behalf, who plays Mr Chow. While his character is a great addition to the film and the personality of Mr Chow had to be played with some degree of exaggeration, in some places I think he goes a little too far. That is my only real complaint about the film, which isn’t much of a complaint at all.

I just sat back and really enjoyed the film for what it was. You should too.

Star rating: 8.5/10

Directed by Todd Phillips.

Running time 100 minutes.

Zombieland (2009)

“The first rule of Zombieland: Cardio. When the zombie outbreak first hit, the first to go, for obvious reasons… were the fatties.”

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson

Zombieland

The best horror-comedy zombie flick I’ve seen since Shaun of the Dead.

Zombieland is a fantastic film that follows four survivors of a zombie apocalypse. They all have plans to move somewhere that doesn’t harbour the undead and where they believe they can live without fear.

The film focuses on Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) on his journey to Ohio to see if his parents have survived the apocalypse. He soon meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) whose only real mission is the find the last twinkies on Earth, and shortly after this, sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). They choose not to share their real names with each other but instead, use the names of places that can be related to them, this way they won’t get too attached if one should be killed by a zombie.

Following a set of rules that Columbus has created, the four travel across America together trying to enjoy the “little things in life”, while avoiding the thousands of roaming zombies.

Zombieland has been filmed fantastically. The smooth editing and beautiful wide shots of a ruined and abandoned America give the film a fresh spark, revitalising the seemingly grim and tiresome zombie genre. The ability for the film to point out the usual conventions of the zombie genre through the use of “The Rules” such as, “When in doubt, know your way out” or “Check the back seat” give it a sense of originality too. The only other horror films I have seen do this were within the Scream franchise.

The four principal characters are fantastic. With the main focus being upon weedy yet intelligent Columbus, the film shows us a different side to the usual protagonist we would normally see. He obviously knows his horror films and has taken inspiration for his survival from this, one of his rules being “Don’t be the Hero”.  Eisenberg is great with this role, though due to his tiny frame and geeky appearance, I feel as though he is starting to be typecast in the role of unlikely protagonist.

Wichita (Stone) is a ballsy and brash character, concentrating on fulfilling her younger sisters dreams of going to the “Pacific Playland” amusement park. She doesn’t seem to have made any plans after this, and as the film progresses her vulnerability is slowly revealed. Tallahassee (Harrelson) and Little Rock (Breslin) have a great chemistry together, taking on an almost father daughter bond as the film progresses. There is also fantastic cameo from Bill Murray that had me laughing.

Zombieland is a smart zombie comedy that is original and crisp in its plot, dialogue and cinematography. It points a finger at all the usual conventions that you would normally find in the zombie genre, but is funny and clever with it. This allows it to stand apart from the usual dire consequences people face in zombie flicks, death, and enhance the comical strands that run throughout. The film finishes with an open end, leaving room for a second instalment, and after the success of the first I really hope they act on it!

Star rating:  8.5/10

Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Running time 88 minutes.