Movie Review Catch Up ~ October 2013

Runner Runner

Mini Review
Princeton student Richie (Timberlake) decides to gamble what little money he was saving for his tuition on an online gaming site, in the hope that he will win enough to pay for his tuition in it’s entirety. He loses everything, but rather than putting this down to bad luck, Richie is convinced that he’s been played by the site, and that they made sure he lost. He takes his grievance to the owner of the site, Ivan Block (Affleck), a man who has clearly made his fortune through more than running a gaming site or two. Block hears Richie out and offers to compensate him for his loss. But more than that, Block offers Richie a job, and with it, the chance to become richer than his wildest dreams.


I didn’t know much about Runner Runner going in. I’d only seen the trailer for it a week or so previously, and wasn’t particularly grabbed by the storyline or the stars. Although I have enjoyed Affleck and Arterton in their recent releases. My reason for seeing the film was simply that there wasn’t an awful lot to choose from that week. This probably worked in Runner Runner’s favour as I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who saw it for that very reason, and I’m not sure it would have made much of a dent in the box office if it had been released in a week when say Captain Phillips or Thor 2 were out.

I enjoyed it enough but I must admit that it’s not the most gripping plot or the greatest acting on display. I think Affleck’s best work these days is as a director, or when he’s directing himself. I don’t know if that means he tries harder or if the other directors he’s working with aren’t very good at getting the best out of him, but he certainly wasn’t at his best here, putting in a rather cheesy panto villain performance. Arterton had little to do other than look pretty, which she’s great at but she’s capable of so much more. Timberlake for me is watchable but can’t really carry movie, and with Timberlake as the lead, this leaves Runner Runner in a bit of a stalled state. 

It’s watchable, but the twist at the end is underwhelming. I’d only recommend it if you don’t have something better to watch. 6.5 out of 10.

 
Viewing Date – 1st October 2013
UK Release Date – 27th September 2013
Cast Overview:
Richie Furst ~ Justin Timberlake
Ivan Block ~ Ben Affleck
Rebecca Shafran ~ Gemma Arterton
Agent Shavers ~ Anthony Mackie
Director ~ Brad Furman
Writer(s) ~ Brad Furman and David Levien
~

How I Live Now

 

My cinema buddy asked my opinion as to what his 1000th cinema experience should be. The choice was this, or Sunshine on Leith. I suggested this but on reflection I think he maybe should have gone with a film with Sunshine in the title.

How I Live Now tells the story of what happens to a group of kids, who are left to fend for themselves after a nuclear attack. New Yorker Daisy (Ronan), is sent to visit her cousins in the English countryside by her father, who clearly isn’t going to win any Dad of the year awards. From the moment Daisy hits UK soil, it’s immediately clear that the world is on the brink of World War 3. Daisy’s Aunt Penn (Chancellor – who has an unspecified government position), is working hard on a peace process, and leaves the kids for a day while she goes to Geneva for talks. As the oldest child is Edmond (MacKay), at 16, Aunt Penn arranges for a neighbour to come check on the children in her absence. When a nuclear explosion rocks London, the neighbour never comes and the aunt is feared dead. The kids look out for each other, with Daisy and Eddie taking care of the younger siblings, and during this time, Daisy and Eddie fall in love. All is well in their little safe haven until the military comb the area for survivors and force the two girls to leave the boys for a “safe house”, where they are forced to work but looked after by a somewhat deluded couple. Will Daisy and Piper ever make it back to Eddie and Isaac?

 
Although How I Live Now is a very realistic and relevant film (and book), it’s not the most cheery of topics. Not all films are, and I appreciate the dark as well as the light, but there really is not an awful lot of light in this film, figuratively speaking. Daisy is a very hard character to like. I don’t know how she comes across in the book as I haven’t read it, but in the film she’s just really quite mean and spiteful for the early part and you’re never really sure what her motivation is for that. Her cousins, especially Isaac and Piper, are very accommodating to this American brat who has been thrust upon them, and for the most part she just comes across as ungrateful. 
 
I found this made it even harder to understand why Eddie fell in love with her, I mean first she’s his cousin, so that’s just all wrong to me. And second, she’s not very nice. So their relationship just seemed off to me the whole time. And as that is a massive factor in the movie, her whole motivation to get away from the safe house and back home is to get back to Eddie, I just found the whole movie to be a bit of a bitter pill to swallow.
 
The actors involved were all very convincing in their roles, especially as they are all very young, and most unknown. But their characters just didn’t really have a lot of depth. I would therefore only recommend How I Live Now to fans of the book, as I think only those people will understand the characters fully. 5.5 out of 10.
 
Viewing Date – 6th October 2013
UK Release Date – 4th October 2013
 
Cast Overview:
Daisy ~ Saoirse Ronan
Edmond ~ George MacKay
Isaac ~ Tom Holland
Piper ~ Harley Bird
Aunt Penn ~ Anna Chancellor
 
Director ~ Kevin Macdonald
Writer(s) ~ Jeremy Brock, Tony Grisoni, Penelope Skinner, Meg Rosoff (Novel)
~

Thor: The Dark World

Thanks to the geniuses at Marvel, the detailed teachings of my nephew, and the welcome into the Marvel fandom I have received through my blog, I have become a huge fan of the Marvel movies. As such, when I heard that my local cinema was showing not only a midnight screening of Thor: The Dark World, but also showing Thor beforehand, I had to go and be part of that. However, I then heard that another cinema a little further away was showing Thor AND Avengers Assemble before a midnight screening of Thor: The Dark World, and I knew that was the one for me. I convinced my Avengers midnight screening buddies to come along too and before you can say ‘For Asgard’, we were on our way to a 7 hour Thor-a-thon. You can read my previous reviews for Thor and Avengers Assemble by clicking the respective links.
 
Firstly allow me to say how great it was to see Thor in 3D IMAX, which I did not when it first came out. Wow. It looked great, it was funny, Asgard looked more shiny and sumptuous than ever. And then Avengers. You can’t top it. Or can you?
 
Thor: The Dark World opens by telling the tale of the dark elves, lead by Malekith (Eccleston). His goal is to destroy the universe by unleashing a powerful weapon known as the Aether. In the tale, Malekith and the dark elves are faught to extinction by Odin’s (Hopkins) father Bor, and the Aether is moved to a safe place, far from the reach of those who might mis-use it’s dark power. We move forward to present day London where we find Jane Foster (Portman) and Darcy Lewis (Dennings) discovering strange goings on in an abandoned warehouse; trucks that can be flipped in mid air by the lightest of touches, items disappearing and reappearing when dropped down a stairwell. In the midst of all these strange goings on Jane disappears into one of these voids and finds herself in another dimension, face to face with the Aether. As Heimdall (Elba) is unable to ‘see’ Jane in the other dimension, Thor (Hemsworth) makes the decision to return to earth to find Jane. But he takes on more than he bargained for when the dark elves return, forcing Thor to join forces with his imprisoned brother Loki (Hiddleston), in order to defeat them and return the Aether to safe hands.
 
I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World greatly, but sadly, not as much as I liked the first Thor. I wasn’t keen on the villain this time around, I just found him to be rather lacking in charisma, and as you never really know his motivation for wanting to destroy the universe, it’s hard to ever really see things from his perspective. Plus the name for the race, the dark elves, I’m sorry but I just couldn’t take that seriously. I can’t find elves something to be feared, no matter how ‘dark’ they are.
 
Having said that, I enjoyed the humour of the movie and I particularly enjoyed Loki’s scenes this time around. Bearing in mind that this is the third outing for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, this is the first time in three movies that I have had any empathy for him, and this time I found that I was actually rooting for him a lot of the time. You can tell that Hiddleston relishes this role and has a lot of love for the character and I think this really comes across in this movie. The scene in Loki’s cell with Frigga was just heart wrenching, while Loki’s scenes with Thor are filled with enjoyable banter. 
 
In terms of the Marvel universe and the continuation of things from Thor and Avengers, Thor: The Dark World does not disappoint. Asgard still looks sumptuous and spectacular, while the scenes on earth have moved to London as the main setting. I for one really enjoyed seeing the UK play such a big part in a movie as mainstream as this, and especially as superhero movies tend to always take place in America, with very little mention of the world outside of that. Little touches such as the digestives on the breakfast table, and the ITV news story made me smile and I hope that the US audiences enjoyed it as much as I did. 
 
I must also give praise to the artists who’s work is featured in the end credits of the film as it really is quite stunning. If you don’t want to stay for the mid credits or post credits sequences I would at least recommend staying until the artwork has finished being showcased. Another great edition to the Marvel movie universe, just don’t expect it to surpass Thor. 8 out of 10. 
Viewing Date – 29th October 2013 (Midnight)
UK Release Date – 30th October 2013
 
Cast Overview:
Thor ~ Chris Hemsworth
Jane Foster ~ Natalie Portman
Loki ~ Tom Hiddleston
Odin ~ Anthony Hopkins
Malekith ~ Christopher Eccleston
Sif ~ Jaimie Alexander
Fandral ~ Zachary Levi
Volstagg ~ Ray Stevenson
Hogun ~ Tadanobu Asano
Heimdall ~ Idris Elba
Frigga ~ Rene Russo
Darcy ~ Kat Dennings
Erik ~ Stellan Skarsgård
 
Director ~ Alan Taylor
Writer ~ Christopher Yost (Screenplay), Christopher Markus (Screenplay), Stephen McFeely (Screenplay), Don Payne (Story) and Robert Rodat (Story)
 
Based on the comic books by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby
~

A Nightmare On Elm Street

The first time I saw A Nightmare On Elm Street was around Christmas time. I remember this because I have a really vivid memory of watching it with the lights off as my mum hung Christmas decorations around the living room of our old house. 
 
I must have been about 16 or so. I wasn’t scared, in fact I found most of the sequences laughable, but I loved it. And so when I saw that my local Cineworld was showing a one off screening of the film on Halloween, I simply had to be there! 
 
For those who are not familiar with the story of the dream killer with razors on his fingers, allow me to initiate you. School friends, Nancy, Tina, Rod and Glen discover that they keep having nightmares about the same scarred man with a razor glove. After Tina is killed by the man during a particularly violent dream, and her boyfriend is accused of her murder, things start to take a disturbing turn for the remaining three teens. When Nancy discovers that the man in her nightmares was not only real, but known to her parents as child killer Fred Krueger, she starts to do some investigation into his death, and how he could be attacking a new generation of children from within their dreams. 
 
If you are going to watch Nightmare for the first time there are a couple of things you’ll need to know. First is that all of the ‘kids’ look about 30. There is one scene in particular where Nancy comments that she looks “20 years old”, you could probably double that. The second thing to bear in mind is that the acting is terrible. Nancy’s mom got a lot of laughs in the screening I saw. 
 
But, if you put those things aside and consider that this movie is nearly 30 years old, you can better appreciate how ground breaking it was at the time. The make up effects alone are still tremendous to this day. And after one of my friends dressed as Freddy for Halloween, I’m sure she now has a better understanding for how long those make up effects took and how much more impressive they are for not being done in CGI. I know I certainly have a greater appreciation for it just from seeing it done. 
 
One of my favourite parts of the movie is towards the end when Nancy is trying to set booby traps for Freddy. I just love the set up of all the traps and the fact that she supposedly did that in under 10 minutes. So unrealistic but so much fun. 
 
It’s kinda silly, parts of it make no sense at all, but it’s a fun horror that will have you laughing as well as jumping. A horror classic, just don’t expect to be terrified. 8 out of 10.
 
Viewing Date – 31st October 2013
Original Release Date – 16th November 1984 
(USA – couldn’t find a UK release date)
 
Cast Overview:
Lt Donald Thompson ~ John Saxon
Marge Thompson ~ Ronee Blakley
Nancy Thompson ~ Heather Langenkamp
Christina ‘Tina’ Gray ~ Amanda Wyss
Rod Lane ~ Nick Corri
Glen Lantz ~ Johnny Depp
Fred Krueger ~ Robert Englund
 
Director/Writer ~ Wes Craven
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