Tag Archives: 2010

Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

“I guess I’m just not used to being around young women who talk about their private parts.”

Cast: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo

After the death of their teenage daughter, Doug and Lois have grown estranged in their marriage. When Doug goes on a business trip to New Orleans, leaving his agoraphobic wife at home, he meets Mallory, a teenage stripper whom he forms an unusual platonic bond with.

Welcome to the Rileys is directed by Jake Scott, son of famed director Ridley Scott. Unlike his father, Scott Jr. has a more toned down element to his films (his first since 1999) and seems to focus more on the message, rather than the size. While the film does employ the old ‘lost love’, ‘damaged hearts’ and ‘seeking solace’ themes, there are a few strands of originality mixed in which is a nice touch.

There is no question that this story is completely driven by its characters though, and this trio can certainly act. While the story can seem a bit predictable in places and the dialogue can be a little flat, the three of these bring it home.

Firstly we have James Gandolfini, widely known for his run on The Sopranos. As the heartbroken and troubled Doug, he seems to be constantly searching for some form of escape or relief for his heavy heart. The film mainly follows his story though is not restricted to it. Where he really shines as Doug though is when he’s acting off of Leo and Stewart. He manages to get the audience where he wants them, and make them feel his every emotion along the way.

Melissa Leo is fantastic too. Her chemistry with Gandolfini along with how she carries herself in the opening scenes are just great. As the film progresses we also see more from her character, which adds so much to the film and its story, giving both her’s and Gandolfini’s characters a nice developmental angle.

The most impressive acting however, came from Stewart. A lot of people know her from her lacklustre, emotionless and stiff perfomace in the Twilight Saga, though to really see how great she can be, I would urge the audience to watch her in something else. Welcome to the Rileys is just another platform on which she really showcases her talents, which I honestly believe have gone amiss thanks to those teenage films.

Welcome to the Rileys is not a film full of action, but one more of a humble nature with a strong message. Where the script and already-seen formula let it down in some respects, the perfectly cast trio of actors lead the way and pull it right back up again. Full of emotionally charged material, yet unfortunately leaving the ending feeling a bit rushed and unfinished, Welcome to the Rileys has a bit of a ‘take it or leave it’ element. I would recommend a viewing though, it’s nice to see Scott Jr. working the camera!

Star rating:   5.5/10

Directed by Jake Scott.

Running time 110 minutes.

Blue Valentine (2010)

“In my experience, the prettier a girl is, the more nuts she is, which makes you insane.”

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams and John Doman

The truth is this is what love is like, forget those sappy rom-coms.

Blue Valentine follows the lives of Dean and Cindy, from their first meeting right on through to their marital life. And romance isn’t all roses as some other Hollywood blockbusters may have you believe. No, this is the real stuff. The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

As I keep saying, and sorry to reiterate, but Gosling is becoming one of our generations greatest actors. He has such a fantastic charisma, presence and work ethic that you can see him give 110% effort with every role he takes.

And Gosling’s approach to the character of Dean is no different here. Somehow he manages to convey this sweet guy, very family-oriented and undeniably loving, intertwined with frustrated, heartbroken and anxious qualities. He occasionally has a few philosophical outbursts too and while some may deem it drivel, it’s actually a refreshing (albeit revealing) look at the harsh truths of love. The roundness of the character must have been a hard feat to pull off but Gosling does it with complete justice.

Williams is the perfect counter-part for Gosling. It has been a while since I have seen such a onscreen great couple, complementing each other so well. As the somewhat love-cynical Cindy, Williams captures this woman struggling with her relationship and growing evermore bored of the same old married routine perfectly. Another little star of the film was Faith Wladyka who plays Frankie, Dean and Cindy’s little girl. She is just adorable. For such a young age Wladyka can really act, there is this fantastic energy between her and Gosling (though I do think he has a lot to do with this). I didn’t doubt their relationship for one second, it was lovely to watch and completely endearing to see how well they interacted with each other.

Director Cianfrance is either one smart man or just incredibly lucky. He decision to take the script away from Gosling and Williams encouraging them to improvise was brilliant, and his method behind capturing the different stages of their relationship was also inspired. The scenes when Dean and Cindy were first becoming acquainted were filmed first. This meant the fresh, exploratory and tentative vibe they projected was honest; Gosling and Williams were truly trying to get to know each other and were careful what to say, as one would be at the start of a relationship. Then in preparation for married life, Gosling and Williams lived together for a month in the house they were later filmed in. They spent a lot of their time grocery shopping, cooking dinner and learning to pick fights with each other.

This method acting has worked wonders with overall quality and character development within the film. Gosling and Williams seemed completely at ease and natural around each other in the ‘later stages’ of their relationship, just like that of a married couple. Due to this, Blue Valentine, in my opinion, is one of the most realest and relatable relationships I’ve seen projected onscreen. Everything about the way Cianfrance had decided to approach the film was spot on.

Blue Valentine refrains from cliches yet this is a story we are so familiar with, probably because it is more closely aligned with real-life love than any other romance films so far. It depicts honestly what Hollywood’s blockbusters avoid and isn’t afraid about upsetting the norm. From times of true elation to times of deep heartache, the film manages to capture the most identifying factors of this relationship between Dean and Cindy, making it one of the best romance inspired films I have seen to date. Blue Valentine is the tragic romance to rival all tragic romances.

Star rating:  8/10

Directed by Derek Cianfrance.

Running time 112 minutes.

The Runaways (2010)

“You hear that? That’s the sound of hormones raging.”

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

The Runaways marked a massive change in rock and roll history, taking it in a brand new direction. The first all-girl rock band not only broke the rules but garnered huge success which saw the industry change for the better. This film is a coming of age biopic about the 70s band and shows the beginnings of one of the biggest all-girl rock bands to date, The Runaways.

Now, I’m too young to really know about The Runaways, but I’d definitely heard of them before the film was announced. What really enticed me was the casting of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie which happened to be Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning respectively.

Stewart has always been a bit ‘rock and roll’ so to speak, so I knew that she would be able to emmerse herself in the role and her somewhat toughened attitude would be of use as notorious Jett. Yet as people are getting used to seeing her as Bella Swan in the Twilight Franchise, this type of film ensures Stewart isn’t being completely typecast just yet. Fanning also had me really intrigued here. I was excited to see what she was going to do with the role of Currie given the content and attitudes carried by the rock industry back then. Having a bit of prior knowledge on the things the band also got involved in, I knew this role would be one to test both of their acting skills, perhaps Fanning more so as she had always seemed so innocent and sweet in her earlier films.

Regardless, Fanning did fantastically well. As we have all grown to previously know her as a huge child star, I bet she relinquished the fact she was now playing the sexy jail-bait, and with such conviction. She gave everything in her role and it was truly great to watch. Stewart was also brilliant. From her rough-edged demeanour to her foggy voice, everything about her screams Joan Jett. The songs they perform are also freakishly similar, and yes, they did re-record some of The Runaways’ songs for the film!

Another performance that stays with you came from Michael Shannon. As the eccentric and wild Kim Fowely, Shannon in no way over-plays his character as some might believe. From his actions to his beliefs and fashion, everything was just as Fowley had done, if not under-played in some ways. Obviously the soundtrack is fantastic too and the fashions are all superb, totally placing it in the zeitgeist of the time.

Unfortunately there are a few things that let the film down. Firstly it doesn’t give enough focus to the band as a whole, but instead brings both Jett and Currie into the spotlight, it would have been nice to see other band members explored too. Another element which I feel the film could have included was what happened with them in later years as they did continue, a further 3 years on from where the film leaves, with considerable success too. While I realise the paragraphs in the end credits kind of do this, I think it could have been better approached as only Jett, Currie and Fowley are mentioned. The biggest letdown here is the omission of Sandy West, The Runaways drummer who tragically passed away from cancer in 2006. She and Jett essentially started the band, as shown in the film, and it was a real disappointment to not see her mentioned.

While the film doesn’t stick to the literal truth about the ins and outs of the band, it does convey what it was like as an adolescent teen in the mid-1970s. The Runaways is a great account of the all-girl rock band that changed history and most definitely does the band proud.

Star rating:  6.5/10

Directed by Floria Sigismondi.

Running time 107 minutes.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

“I’d be lost without the weight of you two on my back. I ain’t going anywhere.”

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt

This must be one of the hardest games of hide’n’seek ever.

Ree Dolly is on a mission to locate her father, a deadbeat druggie who has declared his house as his bail-bond. With a severely depressed and unresponsive mother and 2 younger siblings to look after, Ree has struggled to keep her family intact, especially with no income. Now with the threat of being kicked out of their house, Ree must find her father and persuade him to make his court date otherwise they’re out on their heels.

Winter’s Bone is a truely unfinching and harsh film. Set in the Ozark Mountain’s, this hillbilly/ horror/ drug type genre takes no mercy. As Ree searches from one place to the next place, each less inviting than the one before, we are shown the lengths that these ‘clients’ of her father will go to, to keep Ree from finding the truth. It ain’t pretty. Ree is stubborn and tough, especially for a 17 year old, which often leads her into dangerous situations, but this is when we see her honest and true love for her family and their welfare shine through.

John Hawkes, who plays the terrifying Teardrop, does so with an ease and excellence. Maybe my favourite role in the film, he’s unforgiving, intense and completely nuts. Jennifer Lawrence also pulls off what I believe to be her best role yet. The connection between Ree and her 2 younger siblings who she’s having to raise is so natural and honestly a complete joy to watch. This little family is so tightly knit and has so much potential, the scene where Ree is teaching them how to shoot a crossbow is my favourite. The three of them were cast perfectly and this scene is a prime example of this.

Winter’s Bone, while in places seems slow paced, is full of a vibrancy intertwined in its dull setting. The stark background, out in the country and lacking the technology that seems to overwhelm modern day films, really does it a favour. It allows the story to be told boldly and nothing distracts from its harsh facts, the winter background is the perfect fit.

While it won’t be for everyone, you can’t deny this film does a great job. From the story to the setting to the casting of some great actors, Winter’s Bone is a fantastic film that allows Lawrence to shows us her stuff. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.

Star rating:  7/10

Directed by Debra Granik.

Running time 100 minutes.

Into Eternity (2010)

“Onkalo must last 100,000 years. Nothing built by man has lasted even a tenth of that time span.”

Cast: Carl Reinhold Bråkenhjelm, Mikael Jensen, Berit Lundqvist

Every day, masses of high-level radioactive waste is produced by nuclear power plants. Due to it’s high toxicity it’s placed in interim storage, though this isn’t the safest solution as it is vulnerable to natural disasters, man-made disasters, and societal changes.

The effects of coming into contact with radioactive waste vary. From nausea to brain damage to death, the best thing to do with the stuff is contain it until it becomes non-hazardous.

So what we have with this film is a documentary about the plan of action for the next 100,000 years, which is how long radioactive waste remains hazardous. It isn’t as easy as it looks either, finding a permanent solution to something so harmful and omnipresent is hard work.

The chosen place of solution lies within Finland, which is seeing the construction of the world’s first permanent solution to this extremely dangerous problem. Onkalo Waste Repository is currently being built underground out of solid rock. When it’s completed in 10 years, the tunnel will be used to store tons of nuclear waste and then in another 10 years, the tunnel will be sealed. Involving a huge amount of underground space, spanning 4 miles long and 1,600 feet deep, hopefully it will last 100,000 years. Though the main cause of grief is the fact that nothing manmade has ever lasted even a tenth of this time before.

The film looks at a timeline of the past and applies it to the future. From the time the first pyramids were built to the arrival of Jesus, around 2000 years passed. From Jesus to the present time, it’s been around another 2000 years. So look at the state of the pyramids, the longest lasting manmade thing ever, and now think whether they’d last to be 100,000 years old..

Into Eternity follows the construction of this site with director Michael Madsen raising questions about Onkalo to an audience in the remote future. It also touches on what society is doing now to help with this continually dangerous situation, the responsibilities of the authorities by ensuring they are compliant with the safety criteria legislation and the principle of waste control management.

One of the biggest worries about the future of Onkalo is protecting the vault from human intrusion. It’s so hard to determine the path of the future and whether we’ll even speak the same languages, look the same or act the same in 300 years. Will curiosity get the better of people, or will they be able to sense danger through images, writing and uninviting scenery. It’s too hard to tell. Another ice age is predicted in 60,000 years, will the facility even withstand the changes of weight etc. placed on it?

This film documentary is harrowing in that it really evokes these heavy questions about the future we just can’t answer. While it could have been longer or opened out to interview more people to get a better scope of this problem, Into Eternity hits the nail on the head throughout and really just stands as this great piece of material to inspire (hopefully) action on our behalf. Like what can we do about our future.

We’re producing nuclear waste continually as we rely so much on a ready supply of energy. Demands are only increasing as the standards of developing countries do too. Soon, more places like Onkalo are going to have to be built and face the same problems and difficulties as the ones presented in this film.

Like a sci-fi, horror, documentary flick rolled into one, Into Eternity is beautiful, thought provoking and terrifying all at once. Directed with true vision and a total focus on what is at stake, the stark alternative reality of this beautiful film juxtaposed with the potential downfall of mankind, Madsen has made a masterpiece that I hope lasts long enough to warn those in the future.

Star rating:  7.5/10

Directed by Michael Madsen.

Running time 75 minutes.

RED (2010)

“This used to be a Gentleman’s game.”

Cast: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman

Now this looks like a fun reunion. Dangerous, but fun!

Bruce Willis is Frank Moses and RED, “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”. From being a black-ops CIA agent all his life to suddenly becoming a retired old man with no semblance of a life, Frank is completely at a loss, bored, lonely and not knowing what to fill his days with. Luckily, (I use that term loosely) he is thrown back into the heart of the action when he discovers he is the latest target in a series of assassinations.

With this Frank seeks help from the old gang, agents which include the likes of Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren – all of whom are equally as bored and reminiscent of their previous lives as hot black-ops CIA agents.

RED is undoubtedly implausible, yet still a fantastic concept for a film. While some, or maybe most of the events are highly unlikely, the cast of A listers that front this movie provide pure cinematic gold, and maybe just enough that we may start to disregard the stretching storyline.

For me, the star performers were Malkovich and Mirren, definitely the ones to watch amongst the array of goodies we’ve already been given. They gave great, strong performances with Malkovich adding some fantastic comic relief. He had some great one liners that made sure the film was still lively in dialogue, while Mirren was a total bad ass, not what you’d expect from someone that had just won an Oscar for portraying Queen Elizabeth ll.

In comparison I felt Willis didn’t really match the standard of either of these gems, instead I found him to be in the same karate-grandad-still-got-it role that I’ve seen in many of his other films. He didn’t break any walls and stayed within his comfort zone, though I guess this can be overlooked when you see the role Willis was put in. When sat in a film surrounded by such an abundance of great actors though, it’s easy to be swallowed and forgotten about when the film ends and in that respect, I expected some sort of new fire from him. As for Freeman, he was kind of stuck between both the high standards of Malkovich and Mirren and the underwhelming performance from Willis. Though this isn’t to say that his performances was bad, he just didn’t excel in his role the way in which Mirren and Malkovich did.

We also see performances from Brian Cox, James Remar, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban and a bunch of other good actors too. The cast is really stellar which just makes the value of the film even better.

While the CGI isn’t outstanding and nor are the turns in the plot (you can see where it’s going if you pay attention) it is a satisfying watch. It pretty much winks at the audience and says: “Yeah, we know too. But wouldn’t it be fun if this did happen!”

With the 4 front runners of the film – Willis, Freeman, Malkovich and Mirren – having established their careers a long time ago, it’s almost like they’re coming together, kicking back, and having some well deserved fun. They’ve all definitely still got it!

Star rating:  7.5/10

Directed by Robert Schwentke.

Running time 111 minutes.

Inception (2010)

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange.”

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page

Inception

Inception has, quite simply, the wow factor. From the concept behind the film to the actors, the cinematography and the various locations, most people are just left with an undeniable interest and curiosity after seeing it. This is why it worked so well in generating hype surrounding the film that saw it do very well at the box office and Academy Awards, receiving much critical acclaim along the way.

Inception creates a world that sees people enter others’ dreams in order to extract information or, in the case of the film, plant ideas into their subconscious. By breaking the boundaries of logicality, the film shows us what the developing world could become with the levels of technology and science at our fingertips continually increasing.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, an undercover spy whose work consists of illegally entering people’s dreams and extracting secret or hidden information while they sleep. When he is presented with dangerous task of planting an idea into someone’s mind though, something that has never been done before, he is very aware about the risks of delving so deep into someone’s subconscious. With the promise of seeing his children if he succeeds – they were separated when he fled his country as a fugitive – Cobb accepts the job and starts to build a team of people to help him. Battling with his own demons, including the manifestation of his dead wife, he starts to become confused between reality and fantasy, compromising the lives of his team, but making for a fantastic film.

I think Inception is possibly the best film of 2010. There is a lot about this film that I love. Firstly the whole concept about the dream world is fascinating. While dreams have been the subject of films before, I think Inception exceeds other attempts with ease. Yes, it can be hard to understand in places, but the characters explain the physics and dimensions between themselves often enough, that you sort of start to understand the logic behind this concept. Sort of. The different levels of consciousness within the ‘dream world’ is fascinating too, as is the distortion of time that runs hand in hand with it.

The locations that the film uses are fantastic and diverse. With a film like this, they really can allow for all sorts of scenarios and locations to be thought up. From an abandoned city to a white sandy beach and then to the snowy Alps, each scene has a great setting and looks just as you would imagine or dream. They used this opportunity to its fullest and with great results, visually marking each stage as one to be remembered.

Another reason this film sits so well with me is that I quite simply love the actors. DiCaprio is great as the sneaky spy, haunted by his past and tormented by a lost love. Ellen Page as the architect does a fantastic job, I’ve loved her ever since Juno and I’m glad to say she doesn’t disappoint in this film either. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the one responsible for researching the target of each operation. The cheeky boy image works well on him and while his charming smile often reminds me of his character in (500) Days of Summer, his action and fighting sequences place him well within this film. Tom Hardy acts as the manipulator; he takes on the forms of people known to the subject in order to more readily extract information, with this he isn’t in the film as much as I’d hoped. I think Hardy is a great actor but obviously the people he morphs into are played by the actual actors themselves. Cillian Murphy is the target of the operation. He is the one that the team need to plant a specific idea into, but it isn’t as straightforward as just extracting information. He portrays the trouble heir very well and I think his performance is excellent. As a whole, the cast work very well together, a great cohesive unit with no weak links making this film strong in respects of performances.

The only negative thing I can comment on is the lack of character development. While we see strong emotions from DiCaprio’s character and the pain he has suffered in life, the film’s constant levels of action and pace override any sort of exploration and development on his character’s behalf. The film is simply embraced within the action, espionage, fantasy-like genre and I didn’t really mind. It is packed with so much action, information and subtle messages that it keeps the audience well engaged and most certainly entertained, there wasn’t really any time or space to explore the characters much further.

Inception was one of the most talked about films of 2010 and certainly made its mark within the film industry. From it’s lively pace to constant action and complexities – that even on the second watch, requires you to be paying attention – Inception is a great film and a definite must watch.

Star rating: 9/10

Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Running time 148 minutes.