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The Heartbreak Kid (Farrelly/Farrelly, USA, 2007) March 30, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews, Romance , add a comment

I wouldn’t begin to entertain the idea the team of Farrelly and Farrelly needed a hit: they’ve given us some of the finest slapstick comedies of the 1990s, but The Heartbreak Kid arrives at time when the Farrelly product has lost some of its shine.

Give the comedy writer-director-producer duo some credit. They helped launch the careers of Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller, released one of the most successful comedies of the 1990s in There’s Something About Mary, and one of the decades finest in Dumb and Dumber. But their brand of humour, based on the most simple and obvious elements of social and cultural dysfunction was wearing thin even before the 90s came to an end. If Me, Myself and Irene’s split-personality Jim Carrey could be forgiven because it held at its core an endearing romantic relationship thanks to Renee Zellweger’s love interest, it was ultimately, a Carrey cash-in. When… [MORE]

Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005, UK) February 20, 2008

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : 2000s, Drama, Film reviews, Romance, Crime , 2 comments

Written and directed by Woody Allen; starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Brian Cox, Emily Mortimer

Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Chris Wilton graces the screen in Woody Allen’s Match Point with the hideous manifestation of greed and self-loathing. At times it’s like watching the over-privileged, middle-classes spitting on poor-peasant viewers who happened, accidentally and clearly unfortunately, to sit within saliva-propelling distance. Yet, underneath the money and comfortable lifestyles, there’s a part of you who wants to be Chris Wilton. Here’s a guy, as distasteful as they come, who has it all, wants more and gets it, and avoids the consequences of his actions. Isn’t there something in that that we all want? It harks back to Allen’s interest in lust and infatuation – the fine line between it and love – and its relationship with good luck and bad luck. Someone can lust about having several sexual partners and the family life at home at the same time, but its destructiveness can define that line between what you really care about and what you simply obsess after through jealousy and greed-fueled self-fulfillment. But, isn’t the real thrill about this, and perhaps Allen’s point by the end: are you lucky enough to get away with it?

[Read the full review here]

Disturbia (D.J. Caruso, 2007, USA) September 26, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Horror, 2000s, Film reviews, Thriller/Suspense, Romance , add a comment

Dir. D.J. Caruso; screenplay by Christopher B. Landon, Carl Ellsworth; starring Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse

If the best thing about Disturbia is how it updates the age-old story of the mysterious next-door neighbour for a 21st century audience groomed on mobile phones, Ipods, and online gaming, we’re clutching at straws. I’m talking about the sort of straws Tom Hanks couldn’t get his hands on in The ‘Burbs (there was no following people around taking pictures on phones, or getting mini-DV footage of the culprit doing nasty deeds). Yet he, and the film, was better for it. Indeed, dress-up any bad movie in all the bells and whistles you can find from jump cuts to scantily-clad young actresses to pop culture references and you’re still left with a bad, uninspired cinematic experience.

Director D. J. Caruso has potted around the film industry as a producer and second unit director on many throwaway Hollywood movies of the past few years. His notable work on the poor sequel to Stakeout and the mildly entertaining Drop Zone provide clues of his inspiration when at the helm, but it’s his own films that give a clear indication why Disturbia is just another notch on his C.V. that fails to succeed. One of the major problems I had with the movie was how it appeared to be two different films pieced together at around the forty minute mark. You can stick half an apple and half an orange together and call it original but what you really have is a rather odd looking fruit salad. When he makes it work in his 2002 thriller The Salton Sea it’s intriguing and entertaining, but when it doesn’t (Taking Lives didn’t know whether it was Seven or a feature episode of The X Files, and likewise Two For The Money tried to be too many things and was let down by a poor third act) it’s an unfortunate but glaring example of a director trying to be better than he is. [Read the full review HERE]
Rating: 1 out of 5

Click (Frank Coraci, USA, 2006) March 22, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews, Romance , add a comment

Adam Sandler’s come a long way from his back-to-school antics in Billy Madison, his golfing heroics in Happy Gilmore, and his coming-of-age in The Waterboy. Indeed, we find him at the beginning of Click with a wife, a good job, two children, and a fairly secure middle-class lifestyle. Yep, he’s all grown-up now.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Click. I liked the premise but I found his recent films (50 First Dates - his worst movie to date, and The Longest Yard) to be lacklustre. Yet, my pessimism was quickly turned upside down by an actor back to form - his bumbling antics tempered by a moralistic story and some great supporting actors.

The idea of a remote control that can manipulate life is used brilliantly - in a superbly constructed story arc, and for comedic exploitation.

Sandler is also excellent - he’s likeable, funny, and clearly suited to the role. He’s also the reason the film never gets over-sentimental.

My only problem with the movie is Kate Beckinsale - she’s not a great actress and again she borders on awful in this movie. The only thing she does well is a convincing American accent.

However, despite Beckinsale being simply nice wallpaper, the film is an enjoyable fantasy-comedy that never preaches its morals. It’s also very, very funny - Sandler’s funniest film since Anger Management.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Joel Zwick, USA, 2002)

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews, Romance , add a comment

A likeable culture-clash comedy from the very talented Nia Vardalos who writes and stars in the movie. The initial boy-meets-girl set-up is a little under established but that doesn’t detract too much from the movie’s overall effect. I would have liked to have seen a bit more conflict as the narrative becomes too straight-forward and the eventual pay-off is predictably predictable. Yet, there’s funny characters, some very touching moments and the delightful Vardalos for company, so the film will most likely please most fans of romance.

Sweet Home Alabama (Andy Tennant, USA, 2002) September 2, 2006

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 2000s, Film reviews, Romance , add a comment

Dir. Andy Tennant; screenplay by C. Jay Scott; starring Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon has struck gold making her career out of these throwaway flicks for young teenage girls, but at least there was something for everyone with the likes of ‘Legally Blonde’. Here, she plays a total bitch who lies to her fiancée, runs back to her family home, meets up with her secret husband, and falls back in love with him. Then she waits until her lavish wedding day with her new fiancée before telling him he’s dumped.

There’s a theme of rich versus poor running throughout the film that is layered on so thickly it’s sometimes difficult to see what’s going on. Terrible film.

Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, UK, 1996) August 19, 2006

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1990s, Drama, Film reviews, Romance , add a comment

Dir. Mike Leigh; screenplay by Mike Leigh; starring Brenda Blethyn, Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Claire Rushbrook, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Mike Leigh’s somewhat wayward 1996 film is, nevertheless, a powerful but subtle examination of family and class. Whilst it all comes together at the end, the first part of the film is a little unfocused making it difficult for the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the narrative drive of the film. However, the excellent performances are what brings ‘Secrets and Lies’ to life. Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Timothy Spall are both excellent, but it is Brenda Blethyn (who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role) who captivates, drawing the audience into a world of working class heartache and family divisions.

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