The Way Way Back (2013)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Writers: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Starring: Steve Carell, Liam James, Toni Collette, Allison Janney

Rating:★★★★

The Way Way Back to my surprise was a film that I saw on a lot of lists come the end of 2013 but since watching I can certainly agree with its inclusion. Surprisingly warming, pleasant and funny it sways from the stereotypical “teen-comedy” and produces a refreshing much welcome change. Good solid performances from the whole cast along with a witty well-written script The Way Way Back is entertaining and defiantly deserves its praise.

Duncan (Liam James) is a shy, in-the-background 14 year old who doesn’t have a conventional lifestyle and is forced to go on summer vacation with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), her horrible arrogant boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his equally annoying and spoilt daughter. Whilst his mum is busy putting herself “out there” meeting  Trent’s vacation friends Duncan finds himself left out and unable to fit in. Riding around on an a pink little girls bike he discovers the Water Wizz  Park and quickly forms a bond with manager Owen (Sam Rockwell), finding an unexpected friend in Owen, Duncan soon finds out how to enjoy his summer vacation but he still has to face is overbearing and disastrous family.

The story is pleasant, although at first it looks to be the typical comedy of the neglected family member getting revenge or becoming a hero or a romanticist it changes and somewhat becomes more serious. Duncan’s relationship with Owen is hilarious and obviously the highlight, he is given power and earns a reputation at Water Wizz and with that Duncan comes out of his shell and turns out to be a funny and “cool” kid. The relationship though is also pleasant as it is obvious that the two have a bond and Duncan looks up to Owen as a role model in ways, the way that the Owen looks out for Duncan is very warming too. The other relationship storylines in the film are not as good but decent, Duncan and his mother obviously need to repair their broken relationship so we follow that throughout, whilst Pam actually has her own problems with the very easily dislikeable Trent and finally a small subplot follows Duncan having a romance with his neighbour however it is very cheesy and for me unnecessary.

Liam James plays Duncan very well, he is easily likeable and we route for him throughout and he provides plenty of laughs, one very memorable scene is when Duncan is made to dance (including the classic robot) in front of a huge crowd at the water park. Rockwell’s Owen however is my favourite character; he provides the main comedy and in a way makes this film very easily watchable.  Steve Carrel also deserves credit for his role as obnoxious Trent and likewise for Collette’s Pam.  Although small characters in the film, neighbours Betty and (eye-patch) Peter are absolutely hilarious and provide even more likability to The Way Way Back so they deserve a mention.

The ending to The Way Way Back is very warming and wraps up the film nicely however for me there are still picky criticisms. I would have liked to see a quicker start, although it opens with great introductions it attempts to trick us with Duncan’s romance whereas I would have liked to seen Owen introduced much more quickly, and on the note of the romance I would have scrapped it all together as it isn’t “Duncan”.

In a whole The Way Way Back is a bundle of laughs and fantastic comical moments, with a well-written script and characters it makes for a surprisingly great watch. Standout performances from Liam James and Sam Rockwell add to the entertainment and create a pleasant feel to balance out the comedy. The Way Way Back is a worth-while experience that is easily watchable and enjoyable.

The Call (2013)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Brad Anderson

Writers: Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio, Jon Bokenkamp

Starring: Halle Berry, Evie Thompson, Abigail Breslin

Rating: ★★★★

The Call is a surprisingly tense and thrilling watch which thrives off a fantastically written and unique storyline. Slightly overlooked when released in 2013 The Call certainly deserves a lot more recognition and credit than it has been given. Halle Berry giving a solid performance alongside Abigail Breslin adds to Brad Anderson’s good direction, making for a very entertaining experience.

The story surrounds Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) an experienced 911 operator but after making a bad error which leads to a shocking incident she is doubtful of her future and ability. However when an abduction call takes centre stage in the operating “hive” room Jordan has no choice but to step up to the occasion and take charge. On the other end of the phone is Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) a young teenage girl who’s been thrown into the back of a man’s car, trapped inside the boot she soon realises her kidnapper is more dangerous than first thought and Jordan is her only link between death and survival. Jordan uses all her experience and quick thinking to protect Casey but being on the end of the phone there’s only so much she can do, but she will not stop until justice is served.

What amazed me so much about The Call was its somewhat unique insight into what happens between 911 operators and their callers along with what happens within the centre itself. It was eye-opening to say the least showing the emotional impact that operators have to go through every time they answer a call which is actually tragic. It was also a different perspective to follow a “crime thriller” story from, knowing that our only connection to Casey was through the phone made it even tenser to watch. How thrilling it was to watch was a massive highlight of the film, leaving you constantly intrigued.

The acting for me was another stand-out, Halle Berry a famous name but one that has not been too seen in recent years gives a great performance that really dramatized the events occurring. Her co-star however Abigail Breslin was even better, a young actress who has been making a name for herself appearing in August: Osage County most recently shows again signs of a promising career.  Anderson’s directing too was at times outstanding along with the cinematography by Tom Yatsko; one scene that blew me away was when we saw our antagonist beat a man to death with a shovel, with the actions being shown through a gap between a passing truck, it was a quick flash and was so effective. It was just a shame that the majority of scenes were not as amazing and eye-catching but average.

The things that stop The Call being a really standout film mostly happen in the final act as the film comes to its climax. It slips into the conventional horror ending where things become too unrealistic to perceive and plot devices are far too obvious. The way Halle Berry’s Jordan is portrayed too is a downfall, her character like most in films goes from being reactive to proactive however in this case it was unnecessary and the transition was not at all disguised. She becomes clumsy and takes risks when at the beginning she is calm, composed and successful. The ending however was a real surprise and although it can be seen as too on the nose or out of the blue I think it just about worked and the writers pulled it off.

The Call thrives of a very successful storyline which is surprisingly thrilling and tense, also being well captured and portrayed by the two lead characters. Although it isn’t an award winning film to shout about I still think it was a very good film which is easily watchable and enjoyable. In a year where many released disappointed, The Call deserved much more credit as it was for one of the most intriguing thrillers to watch being totally entertaining too.