Category Archives: Romantic

Table 19 (2017) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

TABLE 19

Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Writers: Mark Duplass (story by), Jay Duplass (story by)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson

Plot:  Eloise, having been relieved of maid of honour duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text, decides to attend the wedding anyway, only to find herself seated with five fellow unwanted guests at the dreaded Table 19.

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 26%    Audience 40%

Why I Watched It: This is one of those I should take a break from genre and watch something out of my wheelhouse movies, I like Anna Kendrick and the trailers looked alright.

Random Thoughts: The story was written by the Duplass Brothers, not the screenplay though and that is telling.  Anna Kendrick is a very likeable presence and she brings charm but at times she feels like she’s holding back sometimes playing too safe a role. This film got very bad reviews and the thing I see is the film was not marketed very well, you didn’t get the sense of what this film was and after watching it I can say it’s not an all out comedy this films like an Indie comedy/drama about quirky characters.

What I liked: I really didn’t know what I was steeping into and the first third almost made me want to stop watching but I’ll save that for the what I didn’t like part, when the film starts developing the people sitting at Table 19 then the film becomes much more interesting.  They start off showing these strange/quirky characters, you know the type the ones with the one personality trait but they do go deeper and I like the fact that they showed how a bunch of strangers can connect at a wedding, or work, or stuck on a train, you throw different people together and see if they can click and here it worked for me because they had some very good actors to work with.

The acting here is pretty good, Kendrick is stuck with a tough role, she’s been dumped and there’s a lot more melodrama than we needed and actually her part is a romantic comedy cliched I’m very tired of and at times it doesn’t fit this movie.  I liked Kudrow and Robinson as a married couple that have forgotten why they’re together anymore, they take it beyond bickering to actually explore their relationship, thy have a couple of nice scenes near the end, plus we don’t often get to see people over 40 explore a relationship.  June Squibb squeezes more than she should have in her underwritten role but she’s also very good near the end.  That’s the funny thing with this movie that almost everything and everyone is better in the second half because I think that’s when they leave the “comedy” part and start exploring characters and I’m glad they did.

What I didn’t like: This film kind of fights itself, cause at first it really seems like it wants to be this quirky comedy and then it wants to be this very formulaic romantic comedy and then it throws it stuff that fights the cliches, there’s a decent moment when Kendrick’s character meets someone else and you think oh alright we’re changing it up but nope it goes back to the formula. The film to me is really a movie of two halves, the first half was boring and it dragged then in the second we started to have the humour be more character based and it worked better.  I blame some of this on the direction which is bland and that’s being kind, this is a short movie at under 90 minutes and you can tell the director didn’t fully no what direction he should go in.

The weakest part for me was the relationship with Kendrick and Wyatt Russell, Russell is a decent actor and he plays bad guys well but not so much a romantic leading man and their relationship is the really badly written, when they have the big fight to say what they didn’t say it seems really silly and not really thought out it was a plot point not a real drama and also points against the film for having a key moment when one of the couple is chasing after another one who is on a boat leaving but they scream and try to say everything they should have said before.  So cliched and it rings false.

Final Thoughts: This good have been a really good film and I have to say the second half saved it for me and I liked it more than I thought, it does fall into the “well it wasn’t that bad, for all the bad reviews” it was decent.

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The Two Faces Of January (2014) Movie Retro Review by Darrin Gauthier 

THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY

Director: Hossein Amini
Writers: Hossein Amini, Patricia Highsmith (based on the novel by)
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac

Plot:  A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 82%    Audience 48%

Why I watched it: The cast, well Viggo really, still a big fan of his.

Thoughts: This is based on a book by Patricia Highsmith and what I didn’t know is that it’s a period piece set in 1962, I guess the book was but really the time period isn’t used that much.  I have no idea why the film is called this, it’s never mentioned, and the title means nothing to me after seeing the film, more confusing than anything else.

What I liked: The setting is lovely, Greece is beautiful and it’s film well.

Mortensen is good here and I like to see him act more but now he has that Lord of The Rings money he’s picky and does smaller films which is good but even here he doesn’t get to do that much.  He’s a presence and he’s trying to flesh out a guy who isn’t really that well written but he gives it his all.  I like the fact that he’s not playing him as a bad man, just flawed and he knows it.

What I didn’t like:  First off this isn’t a thriller at all in fact it’s not thrilling it’s slow and boring.  I thought it was going to be either a noir or a con movie, it’s neither.  There’s crime in it but really it’s a drama and more melodrama than drama.

Now Dunst is fine here, miscast but fine, I didn’t care for Oscar Isaac, he’s very bland here and tries to do most of his acting and his character arc with his eyes.

Half way through this movie I was wondering what is this about, the film just wondered and also for the crime part there’s white collar crime we didn’t see and two deaths that were accidents, and yes I won’t spoil who dies or who did it but I think you’re stretching it when one character accidentally kills TWO people.

They also throw in this sub plot about Isaac having daddy issues and I swear I’m not making this up, suddenly late in the third act they start treating the Mortensen character as a proxy dad or at least a father figure, look Viggo is 21 years older than Isaac so sure he could be his dad but this never came up earlier in the film.  They tried to make this a love triangle and then dropped it and that was for the best cause Dunst and Isaac had no chemistry.  No character gets fleshed out and at the end we didn’t know any of them, it didn’t even make a good character study cause we learned nothing of why they did what they did.

Final Thoughts: A boring and really pointless film, wasted a good location and a good performance from Viggo Mortensen.

Rating: 3/10

Their Finest (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

THEIR FINEST

Director: Lone Scherfig
Writers: Gaby Chiappe (screenplay), Lissa Evans
Stars: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy

By all accounts, Danish director Lone Scherfig has built a career on niche British films and this continues with the period drama ‘Their Finest’. It’s a wonderful little film that manages to encapsulate the nerve shredding experience of Blitz era London with the perfect blend of comedy and romance. Anchored by the excellent Gemma Arterton, who plays a young Welsh woman, recruited by the Ministry of Information to write believable woman’s dialogue for propaganda films. This turns out to be perfect opportunity for her to make her mark in the male dominated film industry, whilst the British government does its best to coax the US into the conflict.

Catrin is struggling to keep her moody ‘artist’ partner Ellis (Jack Hustin) in their quaint flat when we first meet her and is given the impossible to refuse offer of writing “slop” for the principle sum of two pounds per week. The sexist ridden industry she thrusts herself into is illuminated early on by the bureaucratic Roger’s (Richard E. Grant) quip of “Obviously we can’t pay you the same as the chaps”. She’s a strong willed lady, our Catrin however and decides to seize the opportunity to help write a potential feature length film on the events of Dunkirk with both hands. This comes with the added benefits of more pay, something she has to request mind and the beginning of a budding relationship between her and lead writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin).

There’s just one problem. The twin Starling sisters from Southend, who the films events are largely based upon, didn’t actually go to Dunkirk. Encountering a mechanical problem five miles off the coast of England, they were towed back by a tug boat full of troopers, and ashamed of the truth, forced to go along with their tale of heroism. This of course, doesn’t change a great deal for Catrin or even the other two writers (blissfully unaware of this minor oversight at this point), as they seek to embellish the story with some additional details and plot points to make it more interesting to British viewers. Whilst a trip to Whitehall to see the Secretary of War played in a short cameo by Jeremy Irons forces them to include a hapless US/Danish soldier to humorous effect during the films production.

The best addition to the now embellished story comes with the Uncle Frank character played by the aging, cynical actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). His interactions throughout the film are absolute gold and his dialogue is perfectly delivered in the usual, polite, deadpan manner. Be it with his agent Sammy (Eddie Marsens), his sister Sophie (Helen McCrory) and Catrin herself. I love Nighy, admittedly, but he was a real standout in a film that had a very strong cast. Gemma Arterton was by far the strongest performer on show though, threatening to be outshine by several strong male performances throughout, she fought them each off, perhaps by virtue of sheer screen time alone to deliver an absolutely fantastic portrayal. Whilst Claflin was fantastic as the often surly, but likeable Buckley.

I mentioned earlier that Scherfig balanced many elements, including drama, comedy and romance, so too did she balance the harrowing effects of wartime Britain with the almost bittersweet opportunity afforded her female protagonist. As London and the world as a whole suffered from the consequences of the war, she benefitted directly from it. Apart from her losing her flat to the blitz which was a bit of drag. Several times the film would cut to air raids occurring, not shying away from the after effects either and this really cut through what for the most part was a fairly airy and upbeat affair. Whilst it’s a very clear ode to the film industry of the 1940s (there’s a funny moment with a matte painting), it also features a serious reflection and message on the frankly unacceptable treatment of women in those days.

I loved so many things about this film. It had an abundance of humorous, witty dialogue; a the lovely, infectious score; beautiful period costumes and sets; an engrossing middle act following their struggle to have the film produced with some nice romantic elements; some real nice moments of camaraderie involving the crew on the sets of the film within a film and a quite tragic, bittersweet ending that once again saved the film from becoming too predictable and soppy. One scene near the end in particular, when Catrin finally goes to watch the film in a packed theatre was beautiful and perfectly illustrated the power of film, the way it boosted the morale of people during WWII and the real combined effort (outside of the conflict and within) it took to defeat the Nazis.

I throughly, thoroughly enjoyed this little film and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it. It’s very well written, has a bit of everything, including some fantastic performances from a very British centric cast.

The Lobster (2015) Movie Review by John Walsh

THE LOBSTER

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos,  Efthymis Filippou (as Efthimis Filippou)
Stars: Colin Farrell,  Rachel Weisz,  Jessica Barden

The Lobster takes place in an absurd, dystopian, near-future where people can’t be single, there’s an actual law been created forbidding it, and security guards stalk around wilfully harassing and demanding certification from anybody looking even remotely alone. This is of course rather unfortunate for our main protagonist, David, played by an almost unrecognisable Colin Farrell, who’s been given the heave-ho by his wife, leaving him in the unenviable position of having to find another partner within 45 days. You see singletons are left with two options upon re-entering bachelorhood and these involve the latter or being transformed into an animal of their choice for a ‘second chance’ at love.

It’s on this pretence that the film seems to open, with I presume a jilted ex or lover brutally shooting a defenceless donkey in a field after stopping the car in the middle of nowhere to do so. This stark, startling and somewhat alarming pre-credits opener is never referred to again throughout the rest of the film, but it acts as a perfect introduction to Yorgos Lanthimos’ utterly bizarre, satirical delve into the meaning of companionship and love.

The main setting for the first half of the film is then quickly introduced as David checks into the mundane hotel resort that newly single folk are forced to attend in which to save their current human existence. Shuttled off and segregated from coupledom, on the outskirts of a drab, rather plain looking city, it acts like a real life manifestation of online dating. Just about everyone speaks in deadpan, monotonous tones, which are perfectly summed up in the opening scenes when David answers a quick questionnaire that delves into his private life and, is at once artificially polite and also brutally abrupt, before meeting the no nonsense hotel manager (Olivia Colman) and finally joining the other guests (or should that be inmates?). We never do get fully acquainted with the other guests. They are never named, only David gets that pleasure, instead they’re a referred to from the narrating Rachel Weisz by their imperfections. There’s ‘Lisping man’ (John C Reilly), one with a limp (Ben Wishaw), ‘nosebleed woman’ (Jessica Barden), the maid (Ariana Labed), ‘biscuit woman’ (Ashley Jensen) and finally ‘heartless woman’ (Aggeliki Papoulia).

For me, the hotel part of the film was by far the most enjoyable, full of deadpan deliveries and dark comedic moments, I honestly was laughing out loud at some points. The brief fight in the grounds and the painfully awkward dancing during what I presume was a dance night were particularly funny to me. David despite appearing to fail badly at hunting the loners in the bordering wood, a little pastime the hotel guests partake in that can extend their stay, doesn’t appear quite as desperate to find love as some of his ‘friends’ and guests, who much like modern online dating, seem to abandon the notion of opposites attracting and attempt to find similar traits in their potential partners. ‘Limping man’ even goes as far as head butting furniture to bring on fake nosebleeds in an attempt to hook up with the permanently afflicted ‘Nosebleed lady’. There’s some sinister undertones bubbling away below the surface too, as Lanthimos lays the ground rules of his absurdist, dystopian nightmare. No more evident is this than when ‘Lisping man’ gets his hand thrust into a toaster for illegally masturbating and when Biscuit woman throws herself from a window in a botched, but ultimately successful suicide attempt after being shunned by David and despairing at her failure to find a suitable partner.

Employing the old if you can beat them, join them mantra. David comes to the conclusion that heartless woman is the match for him and decides to pretend that he has the same cold, emotionless persona as her. He strikes in the midst of the previously mentioned suicide, using the tragedy as a potential cupids arrow, whilst feigning disinterest as she chokes in the hot tub next to him afterwards. This causes her to proclaim them a match. Of course, this ends in disaster as you’d expect, when his new found match brutally murders his beloved dog (also his transformed brother as it turns out) in the middle of the night whilst he slept. This inexplicable act of violence causes the devastated David’s mask to slip, immediately ending their faux relationship and necessitating an escape from his psychotic now ex-match, that’s successful thanks to the handy assistance of the maid. Weisz’s monotone narration informs us that he transformed her into an animal and a fleeting glimpse at the entrance of the room is this closest we get to witnessing these take place.

This sends us nicely into the second half of the film in which David enters the woods to join forces with the fiercely anti-relationship, group of loners. Lanthimos essentially introduces an entire new cast of characters at this stage. The primary of which is the unsmiling, disciplinarian, ‘Loner leader’ played by the impressive Léa Seydoux. Within this new environment David encounters yet another draconian set of rules, this time forbidding any romantic relations between people. It quickly becomes apparent that things aren’t going to be much better on this side of the divide for poor old David as the rebels, for want of a better word, employ regular guerrilla like tactics against the pro-monogamy establishment whilst handing out equally disturbing punishments for the most petty of ‘crimes’. David does find some positivity in his new surroundings however when he meets his potential soul mate in Rachel Weisz’s character, who after narrating for over an hour, finally makes an appearance and in doing so adds the first genuine love interest, amongst rampant tomfoolery, to the proceedings.

Sadly for me, the film became a far less entertaining spectacle upon entering the woods with the satire evident in the hotel setting that preceded it not quite reaching the same level. It also lacked the awkward speed dating come ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ vibe that the first half had in an abundance and I felt also dragged ever so slightly towards the end. It wasn’t all dour though. There was some hilarious glimpses at newly transformed animals strutting around in the background and the dynamic between Farrell, the one constant throughout the two distinct acts, Weisz and Seydoux helped anchor it somewhat as it threatened to drift aimlessly.

Briefly touching upon some standout performances in what was a pretty decent ensemble cast overall. The best performance came from Farrell for me, he was almost unrecognisable with the moustache, glasses and portly belly. His character was obviously the main protagonist and I thought he was fantastic. His facial expressions painted a picture at times. I loved Léa Seydoux, one of the few bright patches in the second half of the film along with Weisz who added some warmth, emotion and genuine humanity to what was for large stretches, and deliberately so it has to be said, a pretty impassive experience. A special mention to Ashley Jensen who was at times both hilarious during her frank and open discussions with David and yet also heartbreakingly lonely, meeting a rather sad and gruesome end.

Lanthimos has delivered a pretty surreal experience here, certainly one which seems to perfectly balance humour and intermittent moments of inexplicably brutal violence together. There’s also a very clear allegorical statement being made on how we view attachment and relationships. Not to mention a pretty scathing indictment on the soulless, modern, online dating experience that has resorted to more and more superficial means in which to match people. From the ridiculously complex algorithms that certain sites use to form the perfect match based off shared hobbies and/or interests to the incredibly shallow nature of apps like Tinder. It all points to a society, that whilst obviously less heartless and brutal, is not too distant from that portrayed in the Lobster. Musically and visually, the film married perfectly together with the story. It was filmed in the overcast, perpetually grey Irish coast and this added to the grim, hopelessness of the situation, whilst the music really couldn’t have been a better fit.

Do I recommend it? Hmm… it’s a difficult one and certainly not for everyone. I could see some not enjoying it, but for the first hour alone, then I’d say yes.