downsizing, review

During a financially difficult time in their lives Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wigg) decide to go in for a new procedure in which they are shrunk down to join a community of people 1/16 their original size.

Alexander Payne’s filmography boasts of Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska. His experience with characters looking for something in their lives is solid, so it’s a shame to see such an amazing concept fall short.

Matt Damon stars with his on-screen wife Kristen Wigg, they play Paul and Audrey Safranek, whose last name becomes a tired running gag when others are trying to pronounce it. After seeing a report about downsizing on TV and meeting a couple who had the procedure at their high school reunion they decide to do a little research. They are told their money would be worth a considerable amount more (their $152,000 converts into a whopping $12m) and due to their recent financial troubles, they both opt to go ahead with it, knowing full well that it’s irreversible.

The script, co-written with Payne’s regular partner Jim Taylor, is smart as it doesn’t take the easy route of making short jokes, if anything their choice of lifestyle is a cause of friction with problems including their right to vote and the amount of taxes they pay. The writing pair have come up with real world problems which could happen if life ever imitated art. Whilst there is very little waste and they don’t take up much room there are still issues such as it becoming easier to smuggle people from country and country whether for political purposes or to harm others. It gives it a genuine feel which the rest of the film mostly fails to do.

It’s supporting cast is made up of Jason Sudekis, the high school friend who is instrumental in convincing the Safraneks that this was the best thing they’ve done, Christoph Waltz, the charmingly smug and entertaining upstairs neighbour Dusan Mirkovic who is constantly holding parties and trying to convince Paul not to be so boring, and his cleaner Ngoc Lan Tran who slowly becomes the crux of the story. She comes from Vietnam and her unfortunate accent is entirely put on by actress Hong Chau. When imitating a real accent there should be a level of caution taken however she becomes the source of “comedy relief”. It comes across as though they are mimicking their culture which felt like a real low point.

There are constant reminders that these people are small, including a full sized dollar bill hung on a wall and a flower which is literally carried around so you don’t forget. It’s this sort of technique which proves that, whilst the concept is smart and original, this is just another film about lost people connecting in an unlikely place. It’s fine but loses credit in the by reminding you what these people are. 

With an idea as original as this (admittedly others have been shrunk in movies before but it’s ordinarily against their will) and some good performances, it’s a shame it feels the need to remind you what it’s about. As it reaches it’s anti-climactic end, you can’t help but feel short changed 

3 out of 5.

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Jason Bourne, review

When The Bourne Identity was first released in 2002, it was hailed for its gritty grounded action and fight sequences, choreographed to brutal perfection and carried out beautifully by Matt Damon. It kept this throughout the original trilogy and made Bourne into a force to be reckoned with when it came to spy films and action sequences. This is kept in the latest installment which stars Damon who has teamed up with Paul Greengrass once again. They both famously claimed neither would do a film without the other, so they have returned, together. Nine years after surviving Bourne Ultimatum, we see Jason having flashbacks whilst on his way to an illegal fight where bets are placed and big guys are pitted up against bigger guys. It’s soon after this during another bought, he meets Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who brings him back into the firing line with new pieces of information she has acquired.

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From the start, it’s classic Bourne. The fight scenes are kept intimate and harsh, with the camera moving close in, shaky enough to feel immersed into the action, not so much that you can’t understand what’s going on. With the storyline veering towards Bourne’s past (or David Webb’s if you prefer his real name) going back to the days which lead up to the start of Treadstone, it feels more personal than ever so it’s fitting that we see more of Bourne’s skill set. There’s something to be said about how consistently original the fight scenes look in all of the Bourne films. Using a pen as a weapon, disarming police officers without meaning to, beating someone with a book or rolling up a magazine to smack his opponent before blowing him up. Some may sound ludicrous however, it’s not that he’s killing them with these items, it’s that fact that he’s a smart enough character to know how to distract them. It’s knowing how to use them and what effect they will have is where he stands apart from the rest. Bourne is like a Swiss army knife, all the utensils you can ever think of, but instead of being attached to him, it’s everything around him which he uses as a weapon.

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Whilst this had lot of the signature Bourne attributes (people trying to find Jason with tech and surveillance, sit down meetings talking about him, close up fight scenes, car chases although lacking a Mini) the atmospheric feeling you had with the previous films just wasn’t there and it’s primarily down to the performances. There’s a host of new characters including Alicia Vikander’s Heather Lee, a person hell bent on getting Bourne to come in, Robert Dewey the CIA Director played by Tommy Lee Jones who is right amount of Tommy Lee Jones and the right amount of angry man out to stop a mistake from the past. Whilst Jones brings enough to the role that he needs to, Vikander feels very underwhelming. Her performance is more robotic than her role in Ex Machina. Vikander’s mono tone delivery of every single line left her character as a one dimensional version of the much better Pamela Landy, portrayed by Joan Allen in The Bourne Supremacy. Damon was as good as always, Stiles was painfully under used and only served as a way for Bourne to have a reason to return to the world of espionage. Ato Essandoh who played Jones’s character’s right hand man Craig Jeffers is mostly there to deliver lines for the trailer and talk about Snowden a couple of times. Very clumsy references which are painfully shoehorned in. One actor who you can always rely on is Vincent Cassel who played a character known only as Asset. This is literally what he was. Brought in to take down Bourne, he is one of the few saving graces of this film. Bringing a quiet violent performance which Cassel is used to be now, the fact that he’s called Asset bring a consistent air of mystery to him. This is what you call good writing.

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There is a problem with the pre-finale car chase is very much all guns blazing and a huge disappointment mostly due to where it takes place and it’s at this moment you realise that the grounding of Bourne has been taken away, which is a real shame. Throughout this film, there are new fight scenes to enjoy, in particular the final scene, bike and car chases which aren’t exciting enough and a storyline which, whilst good, is ultimately a revenge plot that goes wrong a lot of the time. Bourne is supposed to be in hiding, no one has heard from him in years, then why is it that he keeps looking back and into the camera of those trying to take him down? Bourne is like a superhero fighting his enemies with his fists, under a fake identity and trying to allude the authorities. However this outing feels more Man of Steel than The Dark Knight.

3 out of 5.

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Superbowl 50: TV spots and trailers

It’s that time of year again, where two teams have battled it out in America to become…something. I have no idea what the Superbowl is, why it’s watched by so many fans and how huge this bowl must be, I’m guessing you could have a pretty large amount of cereal for your morning breakfast with it. What I do know is that companies and studios spend millions of dollars on short adverts due to the volume of people watching around the globe. It’s reported that a 30 second advert or TV spot can cost around $4,000,000 to show during the breaks. It’s a massive money maker when this time of the year rolls around.

What I most look forward to are the TV spots and the trailers shown, normally with something new mixed with what we’ve already seen in a 2 minute trailer. Most of what has been released now is pretty standard stuff, a few new shots and scenes here and there. But the two big ones are the Jungle Book and Bourne. For The Jungle Book it’s the second trailer, but this time with talking animals and one thing I particularly love is that the child actor playing Mowgli’s real first name is Neel!

With the new Bourne movie, simply titled Jason Bourne, we haven’t seen any footage before and it’s come as a real shock to me! It’s gritty, brutal and it tells you nothing, just the it looks like Bourne is far from living a normal life. I’m very excited for Matt Damon’s return to the franchise which is truly one of the best and overlooked trilogies out there.

Have a look at the rest, all of which I’ve put below. Enjoy!

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A few thoughts on the Golden Globes 2016

The Golden Globes has a very chequered history due to allegations of bribes in previous years. However it seems they have cleaned up their act quite a lot, this year in particular we see that a lot of people, movies and TV shows have rightly won awards. Maybe this is old news, but I feel the winners have been getting better and better. Because of its history and because of some ridiculous categories (who puts comedy and musical together in one?!) I will always have a problem with this awards ceremony. Here’s just a few short thoughts on what happened this year.

The return of Ricky Gervais

For three years in a row, Gervais verbally butchered his colleagues and the Hollywood Foreign Press, who all took it in their stride, besides a slightly miffed Robert Downey Jr who said, during the 2011 ceremony when presenting an award, that the vibe of the show was “mean spirited” and “sinister”. Ouch! He’s right, but that doesn’t stop it from being funny! This year was no different, he tore through the celebrities, and began by mocking NBC who had no nominations at all. During his opening monologue, he made some on point jokes, referencing Caitlyn Jenner, the fact that he’s hosted four times and a superbly glib remark about the past of the Golden Globes. You really must watch it, check it out below and have a look at his previous years of hosting as well. Very funny and very mean.

Aaron Sorkin wins best screenplay for Steve Jobs

This is my favourite award of the night, no one deserves it more from the past year of movies. Aaron Sorkin has written a killer script with some of the best dialogue you will ever hear, for those of you who haven’t seen it, Steve Jobs is a real surprise hit after going through so many production problems but it was released to widespread critical acclaim and showed that you can make a film about Steve Jobs and about computers, whilst keeping it entertaining. Well done Aaron, you’re sharp, witty and smarter than them all.

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Leo winning

Some say that the Golden Globes are a gateway into the Oscars, which pretty much means that if you win at the Globes, you’ll win at the Academy Awards. Of course this isn’t always true, but people are once again talking about Leonardo DiCaprio winning an Oscar. Last night, he won the best actor Golden Globe for his performance in The Revenant, a film I’m still yet to see but very much looking forward to. He’s been here before, so many times. I’m sure he’s sick of it and wants it all to end. Personally I don’t think that this is his year, I think one day he will win one. But not this year, not for this performance. One day Leo, one day.

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A lot of the Globes went to the right people (poor Mark Rylance), and now they are looking forward to the Oscars. The nominations are coming out on the 14th of this month, and the ceremony will be taking place on the 28th February. Let’s see how close the Golden Globes have got it. My guess? For the first time in a while, they look pretty much accurate. We’ll see.

You can see a full list of last nights winners here.

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Top 10 movies of 2015

2015 was an incredible year for films, we were spoilt with a plethora of huge blockbusters. Lots of films released from established franchises including new ones from Bond, Star Wars, Mad Max, a couple from Marvel, Jurassic World and one of the best Pixar films we’ve ever seen. But there were also new and fresh stories to be told, other worlds to be taken to and other times we haven’t seen before.

It’s hard to come up with a top 10 of the year however I feel these were the best movies released in 2015. What do you think?

  1. Still Alice

The movie the won Julianne Moore an Oscar for Best Actress (one of the few awards which was handed out to the right person during that particular ceremony), here she plays Alice Howland, a professor of linguistics whose life slowly seems to be deteriorating due to Alzheimer’s. It’s a real mark of an actor when they can be as accurate as possible when playing a character with such a debilitating disease and Moore did just that. Her research went above and beyond to ensure that she treated those who had it with respect and with that came a heartbreaking performance that will never be forgotten.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

A dam good choice to replace Mel Gibson as the title character, Tom Hardy is Max in this blisteringly brilliant reboot. It was praised for having a tough female character in Charlize Theron’s who rebelled against the oppressive regime of Immortan Joe. Theron’s performance was different to most female characters we see on our screens these days, she was tough, fearsome, had a not-to-be-messed-with attitude, even when it came to the brutality of Max. Director George Miller mostly shunned visual effects and all of the vehicles were built as we see them and made to work. The stunning landscape shots were created by Cinematographer John Seale, who was able to show the harsh realities of surviving in a baron wasteland, an incredible achievement. The small part of VFX that was used is in the sky where they changed the colour, pretty much. It’s nothing and that’s one of many reasons why this film is so enjoyable.

  1. Steve Jobs

It was very surprising that this film made it into production after the lead actor and first choice director both changed hands a couple of times. How they pulled of something as entertaining and smart as this is beyond anyone. Well, it’s not beyond the likes of Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin. A dream duo team, who proved you can make a good Steve Jobs film. Not only is it good, it’s great, it’s funny, it’s whip smart, it has trademark Sorkin lines and fast talking in it, it has Boyle’s direction. It’s hard to find fault with this film at all. It takes place at three product launches all of which Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender, is involved in. The story is everything that’s happening in the background of these launches, his confrontations with various people in his life which is pretty much everyone. The beauty in this film lies within the script, one which I described as a Sorkin sharp script in my review. The one liners he has composed along with his exceptionally long speeches (yet another Sorkin-ism) for the characters are quintessential traits for the writer and something that makes all of his movies and TV scripts a joy to watch.

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  1. The Martian

There was a lot of buzz surrounding this one, mostly because of how accurate most parts of the book were. The author, Andy Weir, did a painstaking job when it came to research by posting bits of his book online and asking those within the science community for feedback on his books authenticity. After a while he had a brilliant and almost accurate piece of science fiction in his hands. This became The Martian last year, starring Matt Damon as the lead character who needs to be saved from Mars after a few things go wrong. Damon is a very reliable star, however we rarely see him do comedy, but it turns out he’s dam good at it! The Martian has plenty of laughs in it, as well as on the mark scientific terminology, but not so much that it bores you. It keeps you entertained with the fact that it’s not dumbed down, smart enough to keep you interested, you become emotionally invested in Damon’s Mark Watney as he shows what astronauts are probably really like when they go on a mission. Frankly it looks like a lot of fun! (Minus the peril, obviously.)

  1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A horror movie without the horror, pretty much. This vampire movie is set in the fake Bad City and creates an atmosphere just like any other horror film but with a couple of added twists. This isn’t a film who sexualises its main character, she a vampire out to kill, simple as that. And that’s what she does. It’s a black and white film and told mostly from the perspective of The Girl who goes after those who have wronged anyone else. She seems to be a peace keeper in her own way, even following a delinquent young boy just to threaten him. Within the film, there are some stunning shots and an even more stunning soundtrack, using the song Death by White Lies in a scene that almost looks like it could be written for the track. A horror movie with little horror shouldn’t work but the director, Ana Lily Amipour has almost created a sub-genre: the non-horror horror.

  1. Star Wars. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I don’t have to say too much about this but it has now become the biggest grossing movie of all time. But this isn’t a surprise and it’s not the reason why it’s in my top 10. I get occasionally nervous before watching a film and for this the anticipation was incredibly high, but I did wonder if we would have something as disappointing are the prequels. Fear not, you should always have faith in J.J. Abrams. What were given was a true return to form, an end lightsaber battle for the ages, enthralling action and a great new cast who mix well with the old ones. It makes me excited to see what’s coming next but it’s safe to say the Jedi has returned. For my full review, click here.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..L to R: BB-8 and Rey (Daisy Ridley)..Ph: Film Frame..? 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..L to R: BB-8 and Rey (Daisy Ridley)..Ph: Film Frame..? 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

  1. Inside Out

One of the best Pixar films we’ve ever seen, Inside Out was yet another emotional ride for anyone who watched it. Who else cried when the toys almost died in Toy Story 3? Pixar are far too good at doing this most of the time. Inside Out was the film that used emotions to play with our emotions, those clever guys! It showed what it’s like to grow up; not knowing much about life, not knowing why things are happening, not knowing who you are. We’ve all been there when growing up and it’s brought to the screen so eloquently. From the imaginary friend, to emotions bonding with one another, to the turmoil the girl is put through, it’s presented in a relatable way that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you appreciate the childhood you had. This is one of the best films you will see.

Disney?Pixar's "Inside Out" takes us to the most extraordinary location yet - inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, "Inside Out" is in theaters June 19, 2015.

Disney?Pixar’s “Inside Out” takes us to the most extraordinary location yet – inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, “Inside Out” is in theaters June 19, 2015.

  1. Sicario

The premise of Sicario sounds very generic, as if we’ve been here so many times before: a task force is taking on the war on drugs between the U.S and Mexican borders. Not much to it right? Wrong. This is one consistently created an extremely tense atmosphere in several scenes, used one piece of music which sounds like a heartbeat, the landscapes are stunning whilst at the same time being hot and harsh. Sicario will put you on the edge of your seat and leave you there with your heart beating faster than before.

  1. Bridge of Spies

From the trailer, you wouldn’t expect this film to be funny at all. It had the feel of a Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy thriller but this was far from the case. Bridge of Spies turned out to be a brilliantly witty, smart take on the spy movie genre, with Mark Rylance being the best thing about it. His delivery and timing of the lines fed to him by the Cohen brothers and Matt Charman was spot on and the constant calming look across his face was a delight to watch. Directed by Steven Spielberg and also starring Tom Hanks, this felt like a totally different spy movie, that turned the genre on its head, it didn’t have as many intense scenes. There were conversation, explanations and interesting interactions, but they saved they best until last with the end scene creating an intensity that it had slowly been building to throughout the movie.

Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) meets with his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet agent arrested in the U.S. in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 PIctures' dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) meets with his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet agent arrested in the U.S. in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 PIctures’ dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.

  1. Amy

I had been looking forward to watching this ever since I heard they were making it and it did not disappoint. The death of Amy Winehouse shocked me and didn’t surprise others; her constant abuse of drink and drugs, to some, made this inevitable. But not to me, I was saddened and in a state of shock. Mostly because she hadn’t fulfilled her potential as a recording artist. There was so much more to give, so much more to do, so much more to record. This documentary shows her slow decline and how it happened without pointing the finger too blatantly. Asif Kapadia, the man behind Senna, has created a film out of archive footage, new and old interviews, mobile phone clips and unheard tracks. It’s a superb documentary that appears to remain neutral about its subject matter.

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