Tag Archives: 5.5/10

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.

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Woman In Black (2012)

“Don’t go chasing shadows.”

Cast: Daniel Radcliff, Janet McTeer and Ciarán Hinds

Well this is strange.

When a solicitor is sent to a remote village to organise the estate of the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow, he discovers a vengeful ghost who is preying upon local children. Being shunned by the community who believe he is bringing about this bad omen, Arthur Kipps (Radcliff) sets about trying to exorcise the scorned spirit before his young son arrives in town.

The first thing that struck me about the film was how well it establishes an ominous feeling that manages to stay with you throughout. From the initial pre-credit scenes to the drained colours and depressing, dreary setting, the dynamics of the film in terms of its set and music was spot on. The old-timey town in which the film is set was also great. It establishes a real sense of isolation and vulnerability that is hard to overcome, especially when the ghost is introduced, which all works to build on the nature of her demise and vengeful streak.

Being Daniel Radcliff’s first major film out of Harry Potter, he has a certain stake resting on him. After starring in the franchise for over 10 years, which spawned a total of 8 films, he had to really break this typecast for the film to be successful. Radcliff, unfortunately, is a disappointment though. Growing up in the Potter role certainly had its advantages, the main one being that they’d never change the lead actor of an established franchise. He had nothing to prove until now.

It’s strange to say I know, but I have never really liked him. Shock-horror. I don’t think he really manages to connect with scripts. His recent claims that he was drunk on a fair amount of his Harry Potter sets might have been a valid explanation for this though, so I was excited to see what he could do, given something totally different from his wizarding world. Unfortunately I don’t really like him in this film either. He seems stiff and unwilling to really convey emotion to its full extent. I don’t think my attitude on him will change until I see him in something that he wows me with either. I honestly feel like he wasn’t a good lead or able to carry the film that successfully. Perhaps because he was trying to act as a widower and father, totally different to his usual schoolboy role, and also the fact that he was interacting with people at least twice his age as his equal. Things just didn’t seem to fit all that well and it had me a bit distracted.

As Arthur, Radcliff is stiff and unconvincing. His difficulty in conveying emotion and making the audience feel for his character is apparent; he doesn’t seem to connect with the script in ways that he should. All we really see him do is run around a haunted house like he’s solving a mystery with Scooby Doo and the gang.

Maybe because he was acting as a widowed father or maybe because he was interacting with people at least twice his age as his equal, but his transition from Potter to Kipps was hard to accept. Maybe he’s just not that great an actor. One thing’s for sure, Radcliff didn’t fully engage with the script and his inability has the audience distracted. Or making countless quips about why he doesn’t just get his wand out.

The Woman in Black is a film full of jumps and surprises that are bound to shock the audience, but this horror isn’t like that of what we have recently become accustomed to – that being countless gore and slasher films. The film relies more on its reputation – being the book and play adaptation – to please its fans, rather than creating new ones through an innovative take on the story. It does have genuinely scary bits though and is a good old throw back to traditional ghost stories, but that is its only real mechanism of scaring the audience. It’s a semi-successful horror with a few jumpy bits and unless you’re an avid Radcliff fan, it won’t leave you feeling any better for watching it.

Star Rating: 5.5/10

Directed by James Watkins.

Running time 95 minutes.

In Time (2011)

“How can you live with yourself watching people die right next to you?”

Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy

This is a world where the rich live forever and the poor must do whatever means necessary to live a day longer.

In this futuristic dystopia, time is literally money. At 25 people stop ageing and are given just one more year to live. Will, being poor (or you could say being one of the 99%) is just trying to get through each day as it comes..

When Will is gifted one hundred years by a rich, old man though, the timekeepers (aka the authoritarians) suspect foul play and set off after Will, who they accuse of murder. Wanting to rebel against the system that favours the rich and neglects the poor, Will finds an unlikely alliance with Sylvia, daughter to tycoon Philippe Weis, and works his way to becoming a modern day Robin Hood/ Bonnie and Clyde.

Niccol’s an anti-capitalist allegory, while maybe seeming promising, turns out to be a bit heavy handed and clunky. We never are told why everybody is living by this time constraint device or as to who is in charge, so to speak.

The acting is okay, but nothing Oscar worthy. Justin Timberlake is certainly establishing his name in the acting industry rather than being the kid who sings, and he does seem to have developed from his early days. He was actually alright in the film. But seeing Olivia Wilde as his mother really freaked me out. I thought they were gonna get it on when I initially saw the two of them together. And then I couldn’t concentrate.

Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser also made an appearance as a time-tycoon. I think he should stick to 60s America though, he didn’t seem too motivated or emotional in any of the ‘distressing’ scenes. Amanda Seyfried was a bit boring for me too. The ginger wig is plain awful and if the people of this dystopian future are really in a literal race against time, why is she still wearing 6 inch heels?

Good concept, well executed, but it lacked in character development and overall roundness, there was no real foundation for the film to be built on. Just a bit meh.

Star rating:  5/10

Directed by Andrew Niccol.

Running time 109 minutes.