Showing posts with label John C. Reilly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John C. Reilly. Show all posts

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Gangs of New York

It’s been a couple of years since my last viewing of Martin Scorsese’s historical epic, Gangs of New York. It’s a movie I’ve seen several times since I first saw it in 2002 as my first ‘18’ rated movie at the cinema. It’s a film I’ve always had a lot of affection for. I found it strange then that on this particular viewing, the movie had lost a lot of its charm.

Loosely based on the 1928 book of the same name, Gangs of New York is a dirty and blood-soaked account of the various gangs which vied for control over New York City’s Five Points in the middle of the 19th Century. Focussing specifically on two characters, it takes historical context and real names, mixing them into a world of fact and fiction with some glorious set pieces and cinematic design. Having witnessed his father’s death at the hands of Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a young child, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo Di Caprio) comes back to the Five Points as an adult to reap revenge. He finds the Points much the same as he left it; a squalid and rat infested mismatch of languages and races, the very thing which Cutting despises about the area in which he is King.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Wreck-It Ralph

Walt Disney Animation Studios 52nd feature and my personal favourite for nearly twenty years, Wreck-It Ralph is a love letter to the video game. Expertly combining cutting edge animation with 8-bit, 2D and classic arcade styles, the film is chock full of references and in jokes to the thirty or so years of the video games industry which it celebrates. The film tells the story of an arcade game villain who wants to be liked and leaves his own game, travelling to others in the hope of winning a medal. It’s this medal that he hopes will aid his inclusion with the good guys of his own game, Fix-It Felix, Jr. While outside this game, he enters the candy themed cart game Sugar Rush in which he meets a glitch who has struggles of her own.

Wreck-It Ralph is a sweet and funny film that rewards concentration and multiple watches but doesn’t alienate the casual viewer or gamer. As well as being targeted at those with specific game knowledge, it also features a surprisingly emotional plot and some likeable and well drawn characters. It cleverly appeals to both boys and girls with its combination of gender centric games and characters while mums and dads will get a lot of the references to gaming history that will go over the heads of younger audience members.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Boogie Nights

Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, Punch Drunk Love) Boogie Nights is a story of talent, fame, success and excess set in and around the San Fernando Valley during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The script focuses on the rise and fall of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) a young porn star known for his physical similarities to Michael Fassbender. Diggler is spotted while working at a nightclub by famed porn Director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and soon becomes a star of the adult entertainment world. With the help of a select crew and actors, Horner attempts to go beyond making pornography and tries to create movies which people will stay to watch when they’ve ‘completed the task in hand’. With the aid of his adept crew (William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman) and on screen talent (Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle) Horner’s films become actual movies and the stars get rich.

This is the forth of Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s six feature films I’ve seen and unsurprisingly it is excellent. Anderson creates a wonderfully vivid and detailed world which changes gradually with the story. The characters are well written and the soundtrack is perfectly chosen. Anderson’s films have a tendency to attract awards recognition and even this story of sex, drugs and moustaches picked up three Oscar nominations including nods for Anderson (screenplay) as well as Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds. In fact Anderson’s six films have thus far picked up seven acting nominations at the Oscars. Here the acting is superb from the top to the bottom of the cast.

Friday, 3 February 2012


Imagine a middle class version of Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle. Swap the Blue WKD for eighteen year old, single malt Scotch, the tracksuits for sharp suits and sharper tongues. Takeaway the child with six possible fathers and introduce an argument regarding a child’s fight and you have Carnage, the brilliant new film from Roman Polanski.

Set in Brooklyn though filmed in Paris due to Polanski’s ongoing legal problems, Carnage is set around two middle class couples meeting to discuss an altercation between their eleven year old sons. Almost the entire film takes place in the Brooklyn apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet who are played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly. They are joined by Alan and Nancy Cowen, played by Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, whose son is seen attacking the Longstreet’s boy in the films opening scene.

What starts off as a civil conversation, albeit with subtle antagonistic undertones soon unravels into a hostile; vomit strewn mess with arguments covering everything from hamsters to Darfur by way of toilet flush mechanisms. The angst of middle class political correctness is felt as both sides desperately try to remain calm and polite while losing control of their tongues more and more with every sentence. One of the best things about the script is how the arguing and bickering isn’t contained between the two couples. Every now and then it will switch so that perhaps it is three against one or drawn on gender lines. This enriches the film and stops it from stagnating. It is often when one person in particular is turned upon by two or three of the others that they shine, John C. Reilly for instance although excellent throughout, is at his best when backed into a corner by Winslet and Foster.

The acting on the whole is outstanding and the ensemble cast works very well together. Each actor is given at least a couple of moments when they can come to the fore and show what they’ve got but the other three are always ready and waiting in the middle distance for their turn. If I had to choose I’d say that Kate Winslet gives the best performance overall but both Reilly and Foster have scenes where they are sublime. Waltz, plays the role of an arrogant, slightly slimy lawyer who never fails to say what he thinks and while I don’t believe this is a stretch for him, he plays it rather well, especially considering he is not performing in his first language. Inglorious Basterds was no fluke.

What adds to the wonderful script and acting is the setting. While the apartment helps to intensify the tension and feeling that all are trapped, it never feels overly claustrophobic. On a few occasions, the Cowen’s are on the verge of leaving and get as far as the elevator. You can feel yourself urging them to get in and run but something always stops them. This is both adds to the tension and is comical.

The comedy is where the film really had me. The dialogue is cutting and sharp-witted and there is a laugh almost every couple of minutes. In fact, I laughed more during this film than in any since I saw Black Dynamite maybe two years ago. The looks between each couple are also perfectly timed. The whole thing feels very natural which makes it even funnier. Nothing seems forced. The more farcical moments are timely and spread thin.

If I did have one complaint about the film it would be in its marketing. The trailer features a scene in which a mobile phone is ‘disposed of’. The phone plays an integral part in altering the casts emotions during the film and each time Waltz answered it I was waiting for what I’d seen in the trailer. This distracted me somewhat as I was thinking to myself “this must be it…” each time I saw it emerge from his inside jacket pocket. While this isn’t a major problem, it annoys me when films give away too much in a trailer. Christoph Waltz’s and John C. Reilly’s reaction to what we see makes up for having seen it so many times however, is one of the funniest parts of the film and also where it turns into Carnage.