Archive for July, 2016

Do people in wheelchairs always interrupt? 

Year Released : 2015men-and-chicken.36041
Director : Anders Thomas Jensen
Cast : Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling  and Nicolas Bro

A few weeks ago I moved to a new area of Leeds (hence a lack of reviews recently as I am STILL sorting out my things), and I recently started attending a cinema that is a 20 minute walk from my house to watch films that aren’t being shown at the ones I work at.

If you’re ever in the Leeds area then I’d recommend a trip to Hyde Picture House. You can find out more information about them and the films that they’re showing on their website.

Whilst this has proven to have mixed results so far as one of the two I’ve watched is currently third in my Top 10 for 2016, and the other is in my bottom 10, I am enjoying the chance to see smaller films in the cinema.

I read the programme of what they have coming on and noticed the name Mads Mikkelsen, one of my favourite actors, and from that point onwards I was sold on the film, even though I had no idea what it was about. It’s very rare I go to a cinema without having a clue what I’m about to watch, but that’s what is about to happen (I write this bit before I watch each film I review).

So can Mads make it a trio of positive reviews of his films for this site (the other two being The Hunt and Valhalla Rising), or will it go the way of a lot of films I’ve reviewed recently and steer well clear of my approval stamp?

Plot

Elias (Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (Dencik) are very different brothers. Elias is a self-obsessed and sexually obsessed person, where Gabriel is fair more practical and has a far more realistic view of the world. One day Gabriel visits their father at the hospital, only to see him die. Gabriel informs Elias and the two discover that their father had left them a video. The pair watch it and discover that he wasn’t actually their biological father, revealing the name of their real father.

Gabriel decides to go in search of his father for answers, and reluctantly agrees to take Elias along with them. When they arrive at the large house on a remote island, they are viciously beaten by three men who eventually turn out to be their half-brothers, Franz (Malling), Josef (Bro) and Gregor (Kaas). The brothers are initially horrified by the animal filled house and Gabriel in particular is frustrated at the three’s insistence that they can’t see their father.

Elias starts forming a relationship with the brothers, but nevertheless agrees to help Gabriel upstairs, but what they discover, followed by a later trip to the basement, raises more questions than answers.

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So was it better not knowing the plot going in?

I must admit that if I had read the plot before going in then chances are that I wouldn’t have actually gone to watch it in the first place, but I’m sort of glad I did it this way because “Men and Chicken” is a very enjoyable, if somewhat unusual look at five very different men that are simply trying to find their place in the world.

Let’s start with the story and whilst it might not sound that interesting, there is a genuine level of not really knowing where you’re going to end up. The story keeps evolving as time goes on and that is something that I rarely see in films these days. Often there will be a central plot and it won’t really develop much further, but that’s definitely not an issue for “Men and Chicken,” so much to the point where the title only really takes significant meaning in the final five minutes.

The comedy throughout may not be laugh-out-loud, but it is definitely enough to keep you to the odd chuckle every now and then, but that’s what I like in my comedies, jokes that aren’t obvious. You’ll notice when I eventually get around to my Top 10 of 2016, or indeed the top tens I produced in 2014 and 2015, that not only do I not place many comedies highly, but that I don’t watch many at all, but “Men and Chicken” found the right humour for me.

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Towards the end of the film there is an hilarious scene in which Gabriel has been trying to change the behaviour of his half-brothers by introducing them to the Bible, even though he is atheist himself. The brothers have only ever been exposed to non-fiction books and when reading the story of Abraham and Isaac they sit there summarising why it is ludicrous, rather than simply enjoying it, and the frustration that you feel from Gabriel is genuine and delightful at the same time, especially when you remember the part about him being atheist and a man of science himself.

The acting from all concerned is excellent, and it won’t come as any surprise that I’m about to praise Mikkelsen, who is taking on a very different role from what he normally does. He brings a great depth and level of sympathy to a character that isn’t really that likable, and is actually downright deplorable at times. But for me the highlight comes from the fact that whilst they have a genuine Hollywood star in their cast, the story doesn’t purely focus on him, and each of the characters are given plenty of time to develop, giving the actors concerned a great opportunity to shine.

With five very different characters, you get five very good performances that are very far apart from each other, and for me the surprise came from Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who plays the interesting character of Gregor. Gregor is much like Elias in that he is sexually starved, and he is desperate for love, but he practices by, and there’s no nice way of putting this, having sex with chickens. Much like Elias, you actually get a genuine liking for Gregor because Kaas plays him so well, and with a surprising level of emotional depth.

There aren’t really any negatives I can think of during the film. It kept me interested for 100odd minutes, never felt like it was dragging and just got pretty much everything right.

Mænd og Høns Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen Produced by Tivi & Kim Magnusson M&M Production Photo Credit Rolf Konow

Summary

It’s a rare thing for this site that I review a film that is at the cinema at the time of writing, but when I do they tend to be good, and “Men and Chicken” has continued to the trend. This should be an example to approvedHollywood that you can create a film that has zero special effects and still create a exceptional bit of film.

There is a chance that this will make my Top 10 for the year, so if you get a chance I would definitely recommend it, but be prepared for 100 or so minutes of one of the most unusual plots that you will ever see, especially in the final 20 or so minutes.

 

 

The cheese inspectors beat the crap out of us!

Year Released : 2007lars-and-the-real-girl
Director : Craig Gillespie
Cast : Ryan Gosling, Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer, Kelli Garner and Patricia Clarkson

Another film from my Youtube playlist of films that I want to watch, “Lars and the Real Girl” is a comparatively well known film to the ones that I usually review for this site, and I’m pretty certain it’s the first one that I didn’t write as part of the Halloween special that has over 100,000 votes on IMDB.

To be fair, despite being on the aforementioned list, I was probably never actually going to watch this film. There a few films on there that whilst I would love to watch them, I just can’t ever see myself actually doing it, and there are a few that I imagine I won’t review even if I have seen them. The reason that I have done so though is that I was in a charity shop with one of my new housemates earlier and I spotted the DVD for a massive 50p. SOLD!

So I sat down and watched with the aforementioned housemate to enjoy what I hoped would be a wonderfully offbeat comedy as I was in the need of a chuckle following an incident at work on Friday evening.

As you can probably tell, I’m writing this bit after watching the film, which is a very odd occurrence for me.

Plot

Lars (Gosling) is a very shy young man who prefers his own company. He lives in the garage that is attached to the house he and his brother Gus (Schneider) inherited from their mother. Karin (Mortimer), Gus’ heavily pregnant wife, is very keen on Lars finding someone and is thrilled when he reveals that he has started a romantic relationship. That thrill becomes shock and dismay when Lars introduces them to a sex-doll and acts as though she is alive.

Gus is particularly appalled and struggles to deal with the realisation that his brother might be insane. He tricks Lars into seeing a psychologist (Clarkson), and as time goes on she theorises that he is compensating for something and just to ride it out until the doll, which Lars names Bianca, is no longer needed.

As time goes on more and more people become aware of the situation, but whilst everyone is supportive, a lot struggle with the concept. Bianca is given a job of teaching children how to read (via a cassette player on her lap) and is given make-overs, but it isn’t long before Lars grows jealous of the attention given to the doll, especially as he is now partially interested in co-worker Margo (Garner).

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Worth watching?

“Lars and the Real Girl” is one of the most original films that I think I have ever seen, and it is one of the more enjoyable efforts I have watched in recent weeks. For me, it’s not necessarily the dark comedy aspect of the film, but more the element of a family and community trying to deal with the mental illness of someone they love.

It makes you question how you would react in the same sort of situation, and there are two characters in particular who are very interesting to watch, Gus and Margo. Gus has the greater depth out of the two characters as he struggles to deal with the fact that his brother is in love with a sex doll, and more worryingly that he thinks it’s real. There is a brilliantly acted scene between him and Karin in which he finally breaks down and I love that unlike a lot of other films, the character isn’t really focused on how it will make him look, he genuinely cares for his brother.

The reaction from Margo when she realises that Lars is dating a doll is hilarious and very genuine. She stand there aghast as she sees that Lars has brought a sex doll into church and realises that Lars is in love with it. She stands there long after everyone around her has sat down and the look of horror on her face is exceptionally well portrayed by Kelli Garner.

But unquestionably the star of the show is Gosling, and he nails it. There are a few roles in Hollywood that are cast so perfectly that you couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role, with some examples being Heath Ledger’s taken on the Joker in “The Dark Knight”, Chris Pratt in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Brad Pitt as Tyler in “Fight Club.” Gosling nails it so well that it’s hard not to like the character. He plays him so humbly that you actually see exactly why everyone in the town likes the character, he’s almost perfectly humble.

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The pacing is great, although it does start dragging a bit towards the end and it does become slightly predictable what will happen, but that is my only real complaint with the film. It feels very natural and could have the potential to happen in real life.

Visually the film is what you’d expect, there’s not really a lot going on except for the environmental shots that you see throughout, and the town that they are in is gorgeous.

If you a chance then I would definitely recommend that you watch this unusual black comedy, it’s one of the most unique films you’ll ever see and that’s definitely not a bad thing.

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Summary

“Lars and the Real Girl” is everything that you would hope it would be, and the feel a genuine connection to each of the characters, especially the “what the fuck?” look on theapproved face of some of the characters that can’t believe what they’re witnessing.

Whilst it will probably never get mainstream coverage like most of Gosling’s films these days, “Lars and the Real Girl” is about as close as you’re likely to see to an actor nailing a role perfectly, and to the point where you couldn’t picture anyone else doing it.

I would definitely recommend “Lars and the Real Girl”.

David smells really great, and also I am very bad at sexual intercourse!

Year Released : 2016buddymoon
Director : Alex Simmons
Cast : David Giuntoli, Flula Borg, Claire Coffee and Jeanne Syquia

So it’s been two weeks since my last review. I hadn’t intended to have a two week gap but I generally couldn’t be bothered, I started a new job and I have moved again (to another area of Leeds), so I didn’t really have the time or the desire to review a film for a while, but after watching a film at the local cinema the other night, I really needed to watch something else.

I went to watch “The Neon Demon”, a film I had no interest in watching before hand, and it hasn’t exited my head since. I’m sure anyone who has seen it will know what I mean when I say “the morgue scene”. That and the final act have stuck with me and it’s now more than 48 hours later.

So to take my mind off of it (don’t get me wrong, I did like it), I scoured the internet for something recent that came out to lighten the mood and I found this comedy. I don’t often review comedies so I thought it’d be a nice change….even if it does look a little bad.

Plot

David (Giuntoli) has just split up with Frankie (Syquia), a girl who he was going to marry a few days later. Whilst drinking away his sorrows, his best-man Flula (Borg) tries to cheer him up and eventually comes to the realisation that the two of them should still go on David’s intended honeymoon, a walk through a forest in Oregon.

Despite being initially skeptical, David agrees and intends to use it as research on Lewis and Clarke, the famous explorers, as he hopes to land a role in a new movie about their lives. Flula eases into the hike, whereas David regularly becomes exhausted, and this isn’t helped by Flula constantly acting in an unusual fashion, such as recording the sounds of the forest so he can create a song.

Eventually the pair meet up with another group of hikers, and David falls for Polly (coffee), but Flula’s unusual behaviour continues to irk at David and it puts their friendship at risk.

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Has it taken my mind off of Neon Demon?

Well, no. Throughout the entire runtime of “Buddymoon” I was completely disengaged and it felt more like an advert to get people to visit the state of Oregon (which looks beautiful by the way) rather than an actual attempt at a film.

Let’s start with the characters and where better than the main character, David? Now David is a reasonable character in principle, but there is very little development in his throughout the entire run time of the film and you never really get to a level in which you feel sorry for the situation he finds himself in. It’s hinted in a flashback that he is abusive to Frankie and yet it’s rarely addressed again. The character was more suited to a supporting character rather than the lead, and this doesn’t make for a strong start.

Then we get onto Flula, a character that is basically the equivalent of someone who is going begging you to like them, and the film tries to make you find him funny, but he just isn’t. Very little about his character drives you to like him and I wish filmmakers would realise that being zany isn’t necessarily enough to make a character not only likeable, but also engaging. He is very similar to the main character in “Frank”….infact he even copies his attempts to record random noises in order to create a song.

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At not one point during the film did I felt like I was getting the most out of either of them as characters, and this is a shame because it’s a missed opportunity for a life-affirming buddy-film, and the comedy throughout feels forced. Nothing about the film feels natural, especially the scene in which David and Flula encounter another man in the woods and the latter goes along with the joke that they have just been married to each other, and in many ways I think the actual character of Flula is the main reason that I never considered this for recommending.

He is basically a stereotype of the German people, such as what he is wearing during the entire trip, his sense of humour and so many other aspects to the character that it makes it genuinely surprising that the actor playing Flula (also called Flula…..seriously, why do filmmakers bother doing this?) is German himself. Whether it’s self-referential mocking I do not know….but what I do know is that it just isn’t particulally funny.

Visually the film is stunning, and the environment is beautiful, but again it often feels like this is intended more as an advert for Oregon rather than a film. You know those scenes in movies in which it’s obvious that there are companies paying their products to be there? Well that’s what it’s like in “Buddymoon”, there are shots that seem to be there simply to say “hey, this is Oregon, please visit us…..please.” I know nothing about the state of Oregon, other than some of the cities that are in it, but it’ll state more than being the setting for a poor film to encourage me to go.

But for me the biggest sin of the movie is that it is just predictable. I was able to accurately state how the film would end before I had even started. It’s very formulaic and just downright easy to call.

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Summary

An unfunny film that fills 80 minutes of your life and yet offers very little in terms of enlightenment or enjoyment. It’s just kind of there.

The characters aren’t particularly likeable, the story isn’t particularly interesting and the situation is non-engaging. It’s a comedy that tries hard to be different, but it ultimately fails miserably as has very little original ideas or story to it.

If you must watch it, just remember that at least it’s not even an hour and a half long.