Labor Day (2014)

Genre: Drama

Director: Jason Reitman

Writers: Jason Reitman, Joyce Maynard

Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith

Rating: ★★★

Labor Day is a film which will most likely get overlooked as it dwells in its last weeks of cinema release; but I think that this more than heartfelt drama deserves some recognition and praise. A Jason Reitman adaptation from the award winning novel of the same name written by Joyce Maynard shows a real battle for love and affection which makes for an entertaining and sometimes tense watch which although not flawless, is ultimately worth-while.

The story focuses on Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed and recently divorced single mother who has become so afraid of the cruel outside world she only leaves her house once a month for supplies. Her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), is a growing young teen who is dealing with the changes of his body, his mind and the pressure of dealing with family life. On the monthly trip to the store Henry bumps into Frank (Josh Brolin), a wounded fearsome escaped convict who has jumped out of a second story hospital window; offering him a ride home he stays with Adele and Henry over the Labor Day weekend whilst the police search the town and he recovers. Adele, Frank and even Henry all battle life for the same thing, affection, and this is a film which tells the story of a fight for that affection and much needed love. Adele falls in love with Frank and remembers how it feels to be loved, cared for and touched whilst Henry finds a fatherly role-model, learning baseball and even mechanics. As Frank and Adele learn each other’s lives’ and pasts they realise their need for each other, however no matter how much love they share, Frank is an on the run convict in a very small village.

The story is very heart-warming and very well-written with what I believe is three in-depth characters that really share and connect with the audience. The character of Frank shares the solemn story of why he is in prison, and we see how deep down he is much softer than his looks. Adele shares her tragedies showing herself the victim of a cruel world, however the bonding between these two strangers is pleasant to watch and seems a somewhat fait driven event. Whilst Henry’s story shows a troubled time experienced by far too many young teens in a modern society making a somewhat realistic leap. Labor Day is well executed with eventually the story tracking forward many years into the future, where the narrator (Tobey Maguire ) is now an older Henry. The ending without too many spoilers is a very nice touch to round off the film.

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin both give very good performance’s showing their years of experience and making the story fulfil its impact upon the audience. However although a rarity, Labor Day offers a superb cast where everyone gives a great performance, Gattlin Griffith for sure, whilst younger versions and older versions of characters also play their part in adding to a real highlight aspect to the release. The direction too by Reitman was good, there were certain moments and scenes which really stood out especially for cinematography as the lighting was very impressive with these sun filled shots which appeared often.

Labor Day however did struggle slightly and created a few sloppy flaws which consequently let the film down. The pace was too slow considering how quickly the main story started; it seemed to drag especially considering the film focused on a four-day weekend. Although it contained tense moments and scenes as the police searched for Frank and unexpected visitors arrived, I felt there was a missing fulfilment of action or a climax which really turned things around. I also found at times the script and writing although good, to be too on the nose and unnecessary, such as Frank playing with and helping a disabled child to show he Is a good and innocent man which was obvious beforehand. I also found confusing how Frank spent lots of time outside, fixing gutters, walls, cars and making barbeques however despite a much closed in village filled with friendly and nosey surrounding neighbours no one spotted him. It felt that there were so many good elements to Labor Day but its attention to small errors and detail essentially for me, marred the film slightly.

Labor Day has an inviting, sad and warm story which it essentially thrives off and despite some flaws I do believe the positives are much greater in value than the negatives. A great portrayal from all the cast provides great performances, especially from our lead roles. Labor Day is entertaining film, maybe not reaching full potential however it is nevertheless a worthwhile watch which I am glad to have experienced.

 

 

Her (2014)

Genre: Comedy, Sci-fi, Romance

Director: Spike Jonze

Writer: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

Rating:★★★★★

Her is certainly one of the most connecting films I have watched in recent years making me experience a bundle of emotions from sadness to inspiration. The story along with the script, characters and acting is a real credit to the amazing writing and visual direction by director and writer Spike Jonze who has really created something special. It’s hard to find faults in one of this year’s big Oscar films and it certainly deserves its reputation and plaudits and in some respects deserves more as Joaquin Phoenix gives a simply great performance as the lead character along with the rest of cast.

Set in a futuristic time, technology is thriving and as a civilisation we are thriving with it. We follow Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) a New Yorker and letter writer who amazes us along with everyone else with his compassion, charm and romance however to our surprise we find that he is actually a lonely man in the final stages of a harsh divorce. Spending his nights choosing between the dilemma of internet porn and video games Theodore is hooked when he sees an advertisement for a new operating system OS1 labelled “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness”. Upon installing his newly purchased OS1 he is matched up with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice behind his system, a programmed conscious who can evolve just like Theodore himself. Being his only and new founded company Samantha becomes more than an operating system for Theodore and the two together fall in love.

It is amazing to watch how an operating system voice with only audible presence can have a huge impact and connection to not only Theodore but us as an audience. However after falling in love and forming a relationship the obvious problems form as Samantha is only a voice but there is more than it first seems which causes harm for our main characters. Despite Samantha’s pure and high intelligence helping Theodore in his work and everyday life, he still finds conflict within himself, finding himself mostly withdrawn at times and alongside the ongoing divorce he gets pulled down. As for Samantha finding and discovering new things and feelings isn’t always good and the popularity of OS1 and relationships seem to grow and grow along with the operating system’s intelligence proving to be a disastrous thing.

Spike Jonze has written possibly one my favourite scripts of all time and one of the most diverse screenplays. The whole concept in itself is unique and this unconventional romance is somewhat refreshing and certainly pleasant. At times I was in tears due to the witty and hilarious comedy, by far one of the most entertaining scenes this year to watch is Theodore’s encounter with a lost alien whilst playing a video game. On the other hand at times there was some real emotional pain and heart-felt sadness when you could see the despair in Theodore and even the sorrow in Samantha’s voice as the story closes. It was too inspirational, showing sometimes the message of just doing what makes you happy or as Theodore’s friend Amy says “you know what, just fuck it”. It was a story that slowly grew on me than eventually took over and became amazing, the only flaws are the slightly perverted moments but those can easily be overlooked. It was also inspirational as one day I hope to be able to write a screenplay or script with such emotional impact and connection with the audience as Her achieves.

The cast give fantastic performances and for me a big surprise was how the role of Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore was overlooked by the Oscar committee as it was truly great. Instantly we felt for our protagonist, we felt his harsh and deepest emotions and when happiness approach him it approached us, and that was due to a combination of excellent writing but even better acting. Scarlet Johansson although only a voice was brilliant, I think it needs to be pointed out that it must be harder to communicate emotion with only tone available yet it was completely believable. Amy Adams too as Theodore’s friend Amy was very believable, apparently Jonze made the actors spend forced time together in a locked room to make them all form a connection. It was an idea that really worked as the dialogue and delivery was so real it felt like it wasn’t even acting.

Jonze’s direction too was great along with the cinematography, a flurry of scenery shots of New York’s skyline and coast beaches hogged the screen and it was awe-inspiring. The shots were mainly long and simple but so beautifully crafted as it created a warm glow and feeling. At times it was the simplicity which made the emotion stand out the most.  Along with Best Motion Picture, Original Screenplay and Production Design, Her achieved two nominations for its achievement in score and music something I found joy in. Not only are the scenes where a happy Theodore and Samantha sing together made up created songs pleasant to watch, but it is pleasant to listen to with such a beautifully lyrical song made. The “Moon Song” is something to listen out for within the film.

Her is hard to fault, maybe the perverted scenes were unnecessary but at times it did show us Theodore’s character and his struggle, however it is something that can’t and really shouldn’t bring down this film at all.  Jonze’s creation is a real treat to experience, leaving you somewhat sad not only due to the story but that the film ended and with it the experience and our time with Theodore and Samantha who we bond with an amazing amount. It is a film worth-while to watch and one worth the huge reputation and praise; it is Her’s ability to be outstanding in so many aspects that makes this film complete and something real special. Easily watchable, entertaining, inspiring and emotional it is a film which is firmly making its way as a modern great alongside a personal favourite.

There’s Something About Mary (1998)

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Writers: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly (Screenplay), Ed Decter and John J Strauss (Story and Screenplay)

Staring: Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon

Rating: ★★★★ 

Comedies are those films that everyone pretends to love but really find themselves only laughing twice throughout the film but not realising, however with There’s Something About Mary it’s completely different. Its one of my favourite comedies, its quirky, fun and different and had me laughing more than not the whole way throughout the film. This film turned 15 years old recently, in those 15 years I’ve seen this film at least 10 times and it seems to never get boring or old and the laughs don’t seem to fade either. The film being the work of The Farrelly Brothers there’s no surprise its funny, they push for as many laughs they can get whereas most other films get their laugh and carry on with the plot.

Ben Stiller plays the character of Ted, the geeky guy in high-school with his neck supporting more braces than face, however Mary (Cameron Diaz) has a thing for braces. Mary is the opposite to Ted, popular, attractive and sunny. Ted gets a strike of luck and his dream girl asks him to prom, however they never quite make it after a bizarre, eye-watering, painful but funny incident involving a zipper, frank and beans. Several years later Ted gets another chance to get his dream girl, hiring a private investigator Healy (Matt Dillon) to locate her but Healy is as dodgy as his moustache. Mary still being the same, Healy becomes interested and throws some false information at Ted and by false I just mean the usual lie of saying someone has 4 kids, 250 pounds and is currently on their way to Japan as a mail-bride. However this film is meant to have a touch of romance and Ted eventually becomes apart of Mary’s life again, but that wont stop the freaks from chasing after her providing more hilarious sequences.

There’s more than a few sequences let alone stand alone moments and gags that will make you laugh, I wont ruin them and the fun although I’m pretty sure its impossible. I will say though after watching this film you’ll find yourself a lot more wary of Jack Russells, zippers and using somebody’s hair gel. The laughs are created from everyone, there’s not a single character that doesn’t have a gag or a one-liner to set you off again. The other characters In the film consist of Dom (Chris Elliot), Ted’s friend who’s more weird and slightly scary than funny but that’s probably due to the fact he has a whitehead on his eyeball. There’s also Magna (Lin Shaye) the neighbour who has probably had more sunbeds than Ted did orthodontists appointments, in a peculiar fashion she provides us with many laughs with help the help of her dog.

This film is different from others, although it has a generic storyline it has an amazing twister of a plot containing many laughs, something most “comedies” don’t provide. I love it when you can just watch a film and it will just take you on this journey, entertain you and make you laugh and this is exactly what There’s Something About Mary does. Even up against modern-day comedies this film will still win, it’s truly spectacular and for once there’s a comedy that can make you explode with laughter more than once.

Ghost (1990)

 Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Director: Jerry Zucker
Writer: Bruce Joel Rubin
Staring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore
Rating: ★★★★
Ghost is a film that shows love can even transcend death. It mixes the two genres of romance and thriller together effectively to create a heart warming story that unfolds before your eyes. It has a outstanding acting, a magical soundtrack all completed by a great storyline.
Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is a banker who has just recently moved in to a new apartment in New York with his girlfriend Molly Jenson (Demi Moore). After a date to the theatre together they walk back home through a dark alley, a robber jumps out and demands Sam’s wallet at gun point. Refusing to give in they get into a scuffle and Sam gets shot and dies however his spirit stays on earth. He realises his death was no accident or coincidence and that Molly is in danger, through the use of psychic Oda-Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) Sam has to reveal his death true meaning and protect his love, Molly.
The on-screen romance at the start of the film between Sam and Molly shows such a connection from the way they touch and look at each other. It sets up one of the most famous scenes in film history and one of the best romances. The film focuses on how their love is eternal and can even transcend death. Whilst the characters of Sam and Molly provide a eye watering romance, Oda Mae Brown provides eye watering comedy. Whoopi Goldberg plays a hustler con artist who poses as a medium who just happens to discover her true powers when Sam arrives. She’s from the “ghetto” and is tough cookie, but she changes as she helps Sam protect Molly and uncover his murderer. Ghost also provides thrills and tense scenes that keep you entertained.
For me the acting in Ghost is faultless, the romance between Sam and Molly is so real, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore were very convincing and made it believable, for me making it one of the best film love stories. This was completed and entwined with magical score and soundtrack including “unchained melody” and the theme song Ghost written by Maurice Jarre. Ghost is a endless classic and one you can watch over and over again, it has everything to entertain you with comedy, romance and thrills all embedded into an amazing unique storyline.

500 Days Of Summer

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama

 Director: Marc Webb

 Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber

 Staring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

 Rating: ★★★½

 500 Days of Summer is a romantic comedy that isn’t Hollywood and fairy tales but harsh, painful and realistic but at the same time heart warming. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) believes in love and when seeing Summer (Zooey Deschanel) he believes she’s “the one” however Summer doesn’t believe in true love, despite this the two get close together and become more than friends but problems arise when Tom wants to put “labels” on their relationship. The film shows 500 days from the moment Tom first saw Summer, flicking and skipping through the days back and forth to show how things changed and how things were before.

 

 Tom designs greeting cards but his true passion is for architecture, one day at work at a monthly meeting Tom meets newly arrived assistant Summer, and then and there falls for her. This sets up the scenes where he hopelessly tries everything to talk to her, and for her to notice him representing something many in the audience can relate to. Eventually after some not so smooth conversations Tom and Summer become friends, but it soon develops into more than just friends.Kissing in the photocopying room, endless cinema dates and even shopping in Ikea makes Tom fall even more for Summer but he soon crashes as Summer tells him that she’s don’t want things to get serious and to keep it casual. Despite this their relationship still develops and slowly but surely Summer lets Tom into her hidden away mysterious life that no one has ever had the privilege to see and hear about before. However their heart warming cute relationship that everyone in the audience would want suddenly takes a u-turn and the two break up. The rest of the film consists of how Tom copes without Summer however she does return later in the film but is it for the good of Tom?

 

The film in a unique way shows how something can change so quickly and the harsh reality of relationships and love, something that other romantic films cover up and stray away from. There are two scenes that will stick in your head after watching, the “Ikea scene” is heart warming and is a real “awww” moment within in the audience. The second is the “expectation vs reality scene” that is truly unique but represents real life as its something everyone can relate to as we tend to make up scenes in our heads of how we hope events turn out. The film not only provides us with the generic expectations of a romance film but those of a comedy too, helped by Tom’s friends (Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler)there are many scenes that will make you laugh for a number of different reasons.

Not only does 500 Days of Summer have a great storyline and plot but it is also accompanied by great acting and a even better soundtrack. The soundtrack is modern and refreshing, featuring songs such as Sweet Disposition (The Temper Trap) and She’s got you high (Mumm Ra) it complements the feel and style of the film, completing it. This is definitely one of the best romantic comedies that has been released for a while and one to watch.