Winter’s Tale (2014) Review

Winter's TaleReleased: February 14, 2014. Directed by: Akiva Goldsman. Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe. Runtime: 118 min.

“Winter’s Tale” is a story about destiny. It also has spirit guides in the form of flying white horses. That’s the first hint that it has a larger focus on the fantasy aspect of it, and it’s almost like a fairy tale with all of its themes. There’s an idea proposed that when people die, they don’t go up to Heaven per sé but they go up into a place in the sky, where their souls become the stars that we see at night. The film also proposes the idea that everyone has one miracle within them to give to someone else. This is the story of Peter Lake’s miracle.

Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an ordinary thief who is running from a mob of fancily dressed folks at the beginning of the film, led by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). He escapes them by hopping on a flying white horse and proceeds to wander the streets until his fancy horse stops in front of a big house. He decides to go into the house with intentions to rob the house, but instead falls in love with a young dying heiress who lives there, named Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). He loves her deeply and when he learns he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.

The film also expresses the idea that light connects everything. The dying heiress Beverly in one scene is talking about this in what at first seems like a crazy daze, that the sicker she gets she sees that light connects everything. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, is why some might ask “What are you going on about?” The villain of the film also likes light, a master thief who really likes pebbles and fancy stones. It’s because when he puts the dish full of pebbles against the window it makes a funny holographic psychic shape… Or something like that? Anyway, some might legitimately think he’s a tall leprechaun because of his fascination with all the valuables, and since there are flying horses, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for him to ride a horse to the end of the rainbow.

Pretty colours! Pretty colours!

Pretty colours! Pretty colours!

Well, he’s not a leprechaun but he’s a demonic evil boss that you certainly wouldn’t want. The higher power he works for is played by a surprise actor one wouldn’t expect in the role, but do yourselves a favor, and if you wanted to be surprised, don’t browse beyond principal cast of the film on websites. Pearly leads his large group of other fancily dressed thieves who wear suits and those black bowl hats, the ones that Charlie Chaplin would wear. He’s a god-awful villain who has been “blackening souls and crushing miracles” for as long as he remembers. Crowe is a really good actor who makes do with the laughably bad dialogue he’s given; and he deserves praise for delivering some of his lines with a straight face. But I do wonder why he didn’t question the silliness of head-butting Farrell repeatedly in the face. He’s in this sorta bounty hunting business again after his turn in “Les Miserables,” but at least he didn’t have an awful accent in that one, but we should be thankful he’s not singing his stupid lines in this one. Why these folks want to crush miracles and have such a problem with goodness happening isn’t really explained. But all we have to know is this guy is evil and he has a bone to pick with Peter Lake.

They might intend to capture our hero, but don't they look dapper?!

To capture an enemy, you must dress well.

The way it shows good vs. evil is through, at least one way that I picked up on, the different colours of horses. Peter rides a white one, Pearly has a black one. Anyway, the romance between Peter and Beverly is heartwarming; but it’s elevated to another greater level by the performances given by Farrell and Findlay. The disease Bev has is consumption; and she can never let her body heat get too high. It’s a bit of a pity that their romance is great and that the story in general can be so laughably awful. I found myself laughing in scenes that were supposed to be serious, but it’s so poorly written many can’t take it seriously at all. This is one of the most unintentionally funny films I’ve seen in the past few years; so if you want to see it for a laugh, give it a shot. There are five occasions where, even though it’s not a comedy, I was laughing my ass off – and I mean, when it’s laughably bad, it’s hilarious. There are some profoundly heart-warming scenes, but so much of this is profoundly stupid. I mean there’s some CGI effects that make people’s faces all evil-like and there’s one character who, when he’s finished talking, viciously turns off the light above his head. How silly. I think this is my early favourite for the “so bad it’s almost good” movie of 2014.

The idea that everything is connected by light is just too uninspired for me, and Pearly’s motivations to get rid of Lake are stupid and uninspired, too. There are some good aspects. I like the performances by Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay; I think their chemistry is electric. The cinematography for this part period-piece is quite great; but it seems like the authour Mark Helprin intended this to be a mythical New York, and it looks pretty ordinary to me. It seems like that is writer/director’s Akiva Goldsmith’s fault with that aspect. (I might give the book a shot, this seems like it’d be good in different hands.) The third act is heartwarming, and the film’s finest stretch.

This is where Jennifer Connelly’s character is introduced late in the film. The film starts in 1914, but Lake meets her in the year 2014 making the fantastical flick span a whole century. What Lake did for those one hundred years with no memory is what I’d like to know. Job interviewers would say: “What’s your name? Do you have any references?” He’d answer “I don’t know” to both, and never get hired. And what I’d like to know is if Lake is human or if he’s a supernatural being? And why does Lake have an Irish accent if he was raised in Brooklyn? Pearly’s accent surely couldn’t be influential if it’s so awful, right? These are things that would be simple to explain, but we never get that convenience.

Score50/100

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Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Saving Mr. BanksReleased: December 20, 2013. Directed by: John Lee Hancock. Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Annie Rose Buckley. Runtime: 125 min.

Many might fear that a biography film made by Disney might feel too Disney, like the way they handle their sports films – a bit cheesy but still entertaining. (It’s great that director John Lee Hancock didn’t make this as cheesy as he did with “The Rookie.”) With “Saving Mr. Banks,” it never feels like that. This follows the behind  the scenes story of how P.L. Travers’ (portrayed by Emma Thompson) novel “Mary Poppins” was adapted into a film by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). She reflects on her difficult childhood while speaking her mind about everything she doesn’t like, much to the writers’, and especially Walt Disney’s dismay.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is an entertaining bio pic featuring some fantastic performances. It also gives Travers’ “Mary Poppins” a lot of layers that I hadn’t previously known, and it makes me want to rewatch it, because I haven’t seen it for a long time. Emma Thompson portrays Travers, an uptight but funny character. She is a realistic thinker who believes children should be prepared for the hardships of life; it makes the viewer question what might have traumatized her. It gets shown throughout in flashback form, but more on that in a bit.

She’s a delicate character who should lighten up a bit, but is very well portrayed by Thompson. I find it interesting how it’s hard for Travers to give up rights to Mary Poppins, because she wants the characters in the film to be portrayed well. It’s more difficult to share something when you care so deeply for it. One more thing on Thompson’s performance: I enjoy that she gets to play the authour of “Mary Poppins”, while she had previously portrayed Nanny McPhee in “Nanny McPhee” and its sequel “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,” and McPhee is also a magical nanny – so it’s a similar character to Poppins. She also wrote the screenplays for those two films, so that’s kinda cool. (The first “Nanny McPhee” is the only one worth seeing.)

Travers reflects upon her childhood throughout the film. Little Pamela (a.k.a. Ginty) is portrayed by Annie Rose Buckley, who’s really good. It seems child actresses are much more consistently better than child actors, if you ask me. She is moved to a new town in Australia with her family where her father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) has a great imagination and he teaches Ginty to dream big, but he can be a bit too irresponsible with everything else – especially in the workplace; but he’s a good father figure because he’d do anything for his daughter. Farrell’s performance is memorable, especially when occurences happen that he doesn’t have much control over. Ruth Wilson portrays the mother, but she doesn’t have much to do throughout. Pam’s little sister is cute, but there isn’t much of a relationship expressed between the two of them.

Flashbacks in films don’t bother me, but in this film – it makes the plot a complicated in scenes for a bio pic, because of all of its symbolism and all of the parallels that are drawn. This is also more profound than one’s average bio pic, so that makes up for it. It’s thought-provoking because there are themes of forgiveness and the fact that when someone suffers, there are other people in the world going through a similar type of suffering. It teaches to not live in the past, as well. But however Travers has grown up, it’s made her very stubborn. Walt Disney does his best to put up with that. Tom Hanks is quite charming as Disney, a character who doesn’t want to fall back on his promise to his daughters to bring Poppins to the big screen.

He’ll probably still receive the Oscar nomination for his work in “Captain Phillips,” however, because that character showed a bit more emotional range. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman (who play the Sherman brothers who work on the music and lyrics), and Bradley Whitford (as co-scripter Don DeGradi) play supporting roles in the writing department. Their singing and dancing is entertaining. There’s one scene where they sing a song, while Colin Farrell rhythmically says a speech, and it skips between the two time periods. It’s very cool. Paul Giamatti also gets a role as Travers’ driver, and he gets some layers a bit later on in the film, in heartwarming ways. Suffice to say, it’s quite the cast and an enjoyable film. It’s a good thing I liked this, too, because I’d like the cool poster on my wall.

Score83/100

Epic (2013)

Epic

Release Date: May 24, 2013

Director: Chris Wedge

Stars (voices): Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell

Runtime: 102 min

Blue Sky Studios is best known for their Ice Age movies. Chris Wedge, co-director of that franchise, goes solo with Epic, the third animated movie of 2013 (after Escape from Planet Earth and The Croods). It follows the female protoganist, M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who is forced to re-locate to the home of her estranged father, Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), after her mother’s death. Her father is an eccentric character, as he is convinced there are tiny people living out in the woods.

It turns out, there is. But it’s a little more complex than that. It’s a challenge of good and evil of the Leaf Men, who, by protecting the queen (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles), preserve the life of the forest; but the evil Boggans threaten them with powers of decay. Today is the day Queen Tara must pick the pod to be the heir to her throne. M.K. is mixed up with this world when she is turned from a stomper (the Leaf Men term of big humans) to a little miniature human. She must team up with a crew to help keep the pod away from the malevolent leader of the Boggans, Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz), in order to save their world, and ours.

It must be expected that a movie called Epic really won’t be so damn epic. It turns out to be a good, light-hearted animated flick that teaches kids about teamwork and that, even if you feel alone, you truly aren’t. It’s a nice message, and the way the filmmakers portray it is imaginative and admirable. The animation has a great, human look and feel to it. It might as well be an animated version of The Borrowers, just with very mild action sequences, in a very fun, but forgettable story.

It’s an old-fashioned, good vs. the forces of evil, predictable and formulaic ride. The imaginative action sequences are fun and have intensity present. There’s a lot of room for imagination at play, but there are only a few notable characters. The main Boggan, Mandrake, is often psychotic and threatening for a children’s movie, but nothing that will have kiddies waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares. He has some memorable lines, but he’s more underwhelming than anyone could believe a character portrayed by Christoph Waltz could ever be.

Nod (Josh Hutcherson) is a misfit Leaf Man who needs to learn about teamwork, and the primary Leaf Man, Ronin (Colin Farrell), is precisely the man to teach it to him. He’s a no-nonsense character, and Queen Tara desperately wants to see his smiling face. She requests this in a truly dull fashion. I don’t have much praise to hand out to Knowles, Hutchison, Seyfried or really even Farrell, but I don’t have anything to fault them for, either. They just don’t stand out so well. Many of the characters have good lines, but you’ll forget their names (most notably Bomba, Bufo, and M.K.) as soon as you walk out of the theatre.

There are four characters whose names and presences no one will forget anytime soon. Nim Guluu is the “rock-star” information keeper of the miniature world, appropriately voiced by rock star Steven Tyler. There’s also a silly, three-legged dog who mostly just runs in circles. The laid-back slug called Mub (Aziz Ansari) and his uptight snail associate, Grub (Chris O’Dowd), are the true scene-stealers of the movie. They’re hilarious in the way Mub thinks he has a chance with M.K., and how Grub is an aspiring Leaf Man. (Let that irony sink in for a second.) They’re never annoying, always funny, and the movie is at its most lively when they’re on-screen. Who thought slimy little things could be so appealing?

Epic isn’t quite, y’know, epic, but it’s a predictable and funny ride that is a blast once it really gets going. For the most part, it’s about as memorable as its generic title. The great animation and hilarious and slimy scene-stealers make this memorable, and something worth watching twice. Christoph Waltz, to his best ability, rocks his role and he shines when Mandrake is at his most psychotic. You care for the protagonists, because no one wants to see a forest rot to the ground, right?

74/100

[Sort of] Quick Review: In Bruges (2008)

In Bruges

Release Date: February 29, 2008

Director: Martin McDonagh

Stars: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

Runtime: 107 min

Tagline: Shoot first. Sightsee later.

Martin McDonagh brings us a great action comedy in his first feature film endeavour.

Colin Farrell portrays a hitman named Ray. Ray is currently in a bad state, because he is guilt-ridden because of a job gone wrong, where he accidentally killed an innocent bystander. He and his partner in crime, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) get put in a small bed and breakfast in Bruges, Belgium. They are told to wait there by their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who tells them to sightsee and enjoy the scenery. Ken’s all up for it, but it’s not particularly something that interests simple-minded Ray. Once Harry finally gives the job to Ray, he isn’t sure if he can go through with it – and must have an internal fight of morals to make his final decision.

McDonagh has a real knack for making the seemingly worst of people, like in this film hitmen, and turn them into great and fairly likeable character. Ray is likeable, despite his constant pessimism and irritability. In McDonagh’s most recent film, and second feature film, Seven Psychopaths, he makes a set of psychopaths into likeable characters.

His unique character development is great because you can easily get emotionally invested into these colourful characters. Each character is pretty great.

There are quite a few gruesome scenes, but they are pretty fun to watch, especially if gruesome action is your forté. The comedy is pretty great, I was chuckling in a few scenes and was laughing uncontrollably in others. If you do love this sort of gruesome action and McDonagh’s brand of comedy, it’ll sort of be an action-comedy styled Heaven.

Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jérémie Renier, Jordan Prentice, Thekla Reuten, Mark C. Donovan, Zeljko Ivanek, Eric Godon and Rudy Blomme star in this film.

In Bruges is a great cinematic experience that is unique and definitely deserved that Best Original Screenplay nomination. Some of the comedy is really far between, and some scenes aren’t as memorable as others, but that’s really its only flaw. I don’t think I’ll rush back to watching it, but I’m glad I did, because it was pretty fun and had some great characters with great layers.

75/100

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Seven Psychopaths

Release Date: October 12, 2012

Director: Martin McDonagh

Stars: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

Runtime: 110 min

Tagline: They won’t take any Shih Tzu

Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling writer trying to write up a screenplay entitled ‘Seven Psychopaths’. He doesn’t really know how to start it out, and is struggling to find inspiration. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) tries to offer him some inspiration, despite constantly accusing him of being an alcoholic. Marty soon becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld, much to his dislike, after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s (Woody Harrelson) prized Shih Tzu.

The screenplay is smart and fun.

The plot is great and the film is just a fun experience. The pacing can feel a little off, and the plot can get quite ridiculous, but that’s what makes it fun.

If there’s any message I would have taken from this is that McDonagh makes great and original films, and his humour can sometimes be similar to that of Quentin Tarantino. The film is fun and can get a little crazy, but who could have thought up a plot so ridiculous? There is a lot of humour found in the most intense of situations, and I love that.

One of the funniest things about this film is all this carnage was started over a little Shih Tzu. Nope, not a wife, not a bunch of stolen cocaine, not the kidnapping of a best friend (even though a dog can be a man’s best friend) or anything like that – but a freaking Shih Tzu dog named Bonnie.

I love the characters. Even Harrelson, who is the main antagonist, is a great character. Who thought psychopaths can absolutely be this lovable and hysterical? My favourite character would be a hard answer to give. The female psychopaths (played by Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko) would be out first, because they hardly have a lot of lines of dialogue at all. Tom Waits’ character of Zachariah is hysterical. Of the main protagonists, Billy (Sam Rockwell) would be the funniest, and then Hans (Christopher Walken). Generally, Charlie (Woody Harrelson) is my favourite, because he is just hysterical. Each character is well-developed.

For those of you who may have seen McDonagh’s In Bruges, will be familiar with his certain sense of humour, and you may also know that his films have the tendency to get extremely gruesome. There is gore left right and centre in this film, but for anybody who likes that sort of stuff – will be probably love this.

The film offers a laugh at least every two minutes, and its spikes of crime and violence are great. Some of the time there are flashbacks and stuff which are good, and there are also movie-within-a-movie subplots which are effective. The moods set for this film is great, and all the subplots and general plot are extremely clever.

Seven Psychopaths stars Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Zeljko Ivanek.

Seven Psychopaths is a clever screenplay that can have some poor pacing, and offers a fairly simple, ridiculous, yet clever plot; but, it is another winner from writer/directer Martin McDonagh. It can be equal parts brutal, clever and hysterical. It is most of all extremely memorable, has great characters and a very good cast. Each cast member portrays their characters well. This is yet another 2012 film (I’m talking about Ted or 21 Jump Street, not Project X) that proves that this is a year to beat for comedies. and this may just have to get an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

80/100

Box Office Predictions #1 – October 12

These are my box office predictions for the weekend of October 12-14, but only for the four brand new releases: ArgoHere Comes the BoomSeven Psychopaths and Sinister.

Argo

Plot: As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Argo is Ben Affleck’s third feature film as director, the other two being Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Affleck’s last directing, and acting, gig – The Town – made $23 million in its opening weekend, and Affleck usually makes a pretty large box office splash. Town is a bank heist thriller, and that sort of concept may appeal to a larger audience than this, because political thrillers aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. This though, has the whole ‘true story’ pitch, and it has a lot of fine performers like Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The film’s trailer makes itlook great, so hopefully the film will live up to its trailer.

Argo Prediction: $34 million

Here Comes the Boom

Plot: A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school.

Here Comes the Boom is the newest Happy Madison Productions film that is a martial arts action-comedy. It reminds me of 2008’s Never Back Down, which opened to $8 million. Sandler’s films often make over $100 million, when he’s headlining. Kevin James’ last headlining film, in relations with Sandler, was Zookeeper which opened to $20 million. His last action comedy was Paul Blart: Mall Cop that opened to a bit over $30 million. This seems like another mindless comedy, but those can be fun.

H.C.B. Prediction: $20 million

Seven Psychopaths

Plot: A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Seven Psychopaths is a crime-comedy that is Martin McDonagh’s second feature film, and he also wrote and directed it. A huge attraction for this is the great cast that includes: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Abbie Cornish. McDonagh’s last film was the British crime-comedy In Bruges that in total grossed $7.7 million, and a little under $450 thousand in its first weekend. It has grown in audience since its release, though. I think this one will make a greater splash because I’ve seen one trailer for this on a popular channel, and I can’t recall seeing any for In Bruges. This also has a better-known cast. The comedy may not appeal to all, but it seems just hilarious to me.

S.P. Prediction: $4 million

Sinister

Plot: Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.

Sinister has been given a great advertising campaign. I’ve probably seen the trailer a good six times, but not because I looked it up or anything. The story seems pretty interesting and quite scary. A big advertisement hook has been it’s from the producer of Insidious and Paranormal Activity. Insidious grossed $13.2 million in its opening weekend, and $97 million in total – and P.A. grossed $193 million in total. The hype for this has been great, and horror lovers are going to be lining up to see this one.

Sinister Prediction: $30 million

1. Argo – $34, 000, 000                       2. Sinister – $30, 000, 000

3. Here Comes the Boom – $20, 000, 000

4. Seven Psychopaths – $4, 000, 000

Do you readers have any predictions?

(August 21) Happy birthday Hayden Panettiere (23), Peter Weir (68) and Carrie-Anne Moss (45)

                                           Hayden Panettiere

The sexy New York native just turned 23 today. Hayden has a pretty impressive résumé. She was on the soap opera One Life to Live at the age of four and a half; and later appeared for four years starting at the age of seven on the soap opera The Guiding Light. She was the voice of Dot in A Bug’s Life, and the voice of Kate in the poorly acclaimed animated film Alpha and Omega. She’s appeared beside great screen presences like Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans, and Tim Allen in Joe Somebody. She is also well known for being in Racing Stripes, and being the star on the TV show Heroes as the invincible Claire Bennet. And just last year, horror fans may know her for her role as Kirby Reed in Scream 4 (also called Scre4m, but I don’t like spelling it that way). She is pretty talented and also very attractive, and I just love watching her act.

Peter Weir

 This Australian director and sometimes writer just turned 68 today. He’s well known for taking great comedy actors and turning them into awesome dramatic actors, like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show and Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. His latest project in 2010 was the star-studded (Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan) adventure drama The Way Back, which he wrote the screenplay for and directed. He has been nominated for six Oscars: one for Best Writing for Green Card; one for Best Picture for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; and four for Best Director for the films Master and CommanderThe Truman ShowDead Poets Society, and Witness. Pretty impressive career.

Carrie-Anne Moss

This Canadian (born in Vancouver, B.C.) turned 45 today. She is best known for her role as Trinity in The Matrix trilogy, and also well-known for her roles in MementoChocolat alongside Johnny Depp, and in Disturbia.

   Happy birthday guys.