Tag Archives: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Night Before (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Kyle Hunter (screenplay)
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, Heléne Yorke

“The Night Before” is set on Christmas eve with three lifelong friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackiespend) spending the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. Unfortunately for Ethan, as time has gone on, both Isaac and Chris although possibly not maturing have lives of their own. Chris has become a very famous athlete living most of his personal life on live broadcasting via social media and Isaac is now married and him and his wife are expecting their first born. Ethan on the other hand is living on nostalgia and hides away from commitment and responsibility and is determined to have the night of their lives on their final Christmas eve.

The film is about the changes in people’s lives as they get older and hanging onto nostalgia can hold you back from living your life. This is mostly the case with Ethan played by the brilliant and charismatic Joseph Gordon-Levitt who as a young boy lost both his parents around the Christmas holidays and through his best friends Isaac and Chris became their own little family watching out for each other in their younger days. Every Christmas Eve they would play out their ritual of very funny antics.

Although technically a Christmas movie “The Night Before” is a comedy film in the same mold as Pineapple Express (2008) some folk might say a “Stoner Comedy” but I feel that term doesn’t complement the storyline. The plot itself is about these three friends all living different lives and have their insecurities about their futures. Although Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Ethan is supposed to be the main focus, I felt Isaac (Rogen) was the show stealer and in two particulars scenes involving a “talking” baby in a church and the nativity set outside the church. Gordon-Levitt is given top billing and the storyline focuses around his character that serves mostly as a master of ceremonies.

Ethan has issues committing to his ex girlfriend that he realises needs more than he thought. Isaac appears to be very straight laced at the beginning of the movie which surprised me with Seth Rogen restraining himself from his usual outrageous performances. Nevertheless, we don’t have to wait long to see this character unfold after his wife gives him a box of pick n mix assorted drugs as a one night only gift. Unfortunately although hysterical, the character overshadows the other two and in more ways Chris played by Anthony Mackiespend. Don’t get me wrong Mackiespend is fantastic as the more successful of the three but underlines the insecurities that come with his found fame.

I can’t let this review go without mentioning the brilliant Michael Shannon as Mr. Green. I’ve never seen a character who is unsettling but at the same time soothing. He is of course the guy you go to for some weed but although playing the stoner there is also something quite philosophical about his character and although used perfectly in his role. I still wanted to see more of this madman.

As far as “The Night Before” goes, it’s more than just a comedy. The sentimental element is there that is traditional with the holiday season. Perhaps it doesn’t have those memorable lines or scenes that other holiday movies have. It’s an enjoyable but strange little movie that I think everyone should give a try. For me I only had one niggle with the film and that was Christmas Eve felt a lot longer than 24 hours. We’re a good hour into this film and a lot of events have happened in this time leading to the party of a lifetime when suddenly they are all at Chris’ Mum’s house having dinner. This is after a few bars and a few bizarre incidents have happened in chasing down a thief and meeting Mr. Green. Apart from that the movie moves along okay and you will have a laugh or six along the way. Watchable and Recommendable.

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50/50 (2011) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

50 50

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Seth Rogen,  Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall

I recently revisited the movie 50 / 50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam a  27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. Now for anyone who hasn’t watched this yet, this may sound like a depressing drama full of patronising clichés. In fact, “50/50” is a comedy of sorts and handles the subject with the right balance of enlightenment, inspiration, hope and care.

It’s always going to be difficult for any writer to angle for a comedic side to a story based on a cancer diagnosis, but Will Reiser who wrote “50/50” handles the topic with care and believe me the funny parts are funny and along the way there are some beautiful and surprisingly tender scenes between the characters.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has this knack of being a very likeable guy no matter what role he plays. Adam is a good guy who writes for a living for a local radio program and lives with his girlfriend Rachael (Dallas Howard). We find through conversation that the relationship is faltering and it’s really only when Adam is diagnosed that the couple become a bit closer to each other although it is short lived when Adam’s friend Kyle (Rogen) discovers Rachael is being unfaithful to Adam and captures this on his Cellphone. Bryce Dallas Howard although has limited time in the movie adapts very well as the girlfriend who bails on her Boyfriend when the tough gets going.

Gordon-Levitt portrays the role of Adam as a very subdued and content guy but as the story unfolds his temperament begins to unravel slightly when he begins to learn of his illness and dealing with the breakdown in his relationship. Gordon-Levitt is very subtle in his anxieties of his struggles and you only get to realise this more so in his therapy sessions that he has been attending with Katherine (Kendrick) these scenes at first are portrayed awkwardly and both actors really play off each other well in the situation.

Anna Kendrick as Katherine is a great choice of casting and plays the role perfectly as an inexperienced therapist (Adam is only her third patient) But by the time the movie concludes, she really comes into her own and all those little quirks she has early on are away as she begins to develop a closeness with Adam and understands him more.

Angelica Huston plays Adams mother Diane. We are introduced to Dianne when Adam decides to let his mother know of his condition and although she comes off as a little controlling and dominant to a degree we learn that her husband and Adams father Richard (Serge Houde) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Diane is really just trying to hold things together. Huston although is in very limited scenes is very powerful in them and no more so in the scene when she reveals she has been seeking counselling herself to deal with her Son’s illness. It’s a very touching scene and this is where the writers find the balance and trust the audience will accept the seriousness of the situation in a “comedy”. I always believe there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and it is really evident in “50/50”

Although Serge Houde as Adam’s father doesn’t have much to do it really is handled well between the relationship with Diane and his son Adam. Even more so when Adam is about to go into theatre as a last ditch chance to save his life. I’m telling you, get the hankies ready as Houde portrays a man who might not see his son again and looks lost and sad not knowing what is going on. I’m not really selling this movie as a comedy am I?

Seth Rogen for me is hit or miss. I always felt this with certain comedic actors that sometimes too much is…… too much. Hey I felt that way about John Candy sometimes so don’t judge me! Rogen in “50/50” does what he does best. He portrays the bumbling drunken friend that although comes across as trying to consume Adam’s life and giving him bad advice is at heart a good guy. Probably for about 85% of screen time Kyle is a pain in the ass and downright irritating but Rogen manages to even make that screen time funny and the payoff to his character is in the last third of the movie as we discover his insecurities, anxieties and a caring side to him and Adam’s conditions really has effected him.

Writer Reiser should be commended for these really fleshed out characters and Levine (Director) keeping the flow of the movie interesting and the pacing consistent. This is  evident in most scenes where the dialogue is consuming the screen and Adam’s hospital visits introduce us to two cancer patients in Mitch and Alan portrayed by the brilliant pairing of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. The chemistry between the three actors is balanced and adds light to the difficult storyline.

“50/50″ is a well written and directed film that has a strong cast and a great chemistry between them. Although released over 6 years ago the story and the characters is what makes the film rewatchable and enjoyable to revisit every few years. I recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t watched it as I feel the right blend of comedy and drama will keep you interested. Highly Recommended.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

DARK KNIGHT RISES

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay),  Christopher Nolan(screenplay)
Stars: Christian Bale,  Tom Hardy,  Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman

The Dark Knight Rises is the concluding part of the Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan released in 2012. Four years had passed since the epic The Dark Knight left fans of the franchise satisfied and flabbergasted and although we wanted more I think deep down we all knew this couldn’t be topped.

I previously mentioned in my last review that in 2008 I felt it should have ended with The Dark Knight as I felt that instalment couldn’t be matched never mind surpassed. By 2012 I was interested to see where “Rises” could take us and to be fair I never went into the IMAX theatre thinking this was going to be better than it’s predecessor. In fact my expectations were contained for the time being.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight or Batman Begins? Of course it isn’t. Is it a bad film? Of course it isn’t. Is its conclusion satisfying to the audience? Well…..perhaps. (I’ll come to that)

Before this review grows arms and legs I’m not going to compare this movie with its previous instalments any further as I feel it’s unfair and to be honest, it’s a pretty great film when you isolate it from the other two.

Christopher Nolan has a real knack of throwing the audience right into the thick of it and here is no exception. The opening shots of the aeroplane flying over a beautiful landscape (partially Scotland I may add) gives us the big reveal on who the villain is this time and Tom Hardy’s “Bane” is a force to be reckoned with. Hardy packed the pounds on to “fill” the role and really looked a menacing figure with the famous breathing apparatus but with a slightly peculiar voice. If fans moaned about Batman’s voice previously then a lot of justification on the criticism of the voice effect on Bane’s mask was correct. Again on a first time showing you may miss some dialogue because of this and I admit I struggled at times. Having viewed this movie several times it is fair to say that some of Bane’s lines are easily quotable now and again, we as fans just love to nitpick don’t we?

8 years have passed since Harvey Dent was murdered and Batman took the blame for this event in hope that Dent’s “White Knight of Gotham” would give the people hope and remembrance on what Harvey stood for. Since that night Bruce Wayne became a recluse (with a limp and a cane, due to injuring himself) and hung up the Bat Cape. With a fund raising function at Wayne Manor Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) poses as a maid who under the strict instructions of Alfred is to deliver dinner to Bruce’s quarters with a key to access a room leave the tray and leave immediately. That wasn’t going to happen as Selina had other plans in breaking into Bruce Wayne’s safe. Although we are lead to believe that she is after Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace, she is in fact after Bruce Wayne’s finger prints.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle is never mentioned as “Catwoman” throughout the movie but it is heavily hinted through newspaper clippings “The Cat Burglar Strikes Again” etc. Also the wardrobe for the character is similar that to a cat complete with goggles that double up as little cat ears when placed on top of her head. Hathaway really excels in this role and is a far cry from her role in “The Devil Wears Pravda” Selina is hard, cold and knows exactly what she wants and warns Bruce that a storm is coming. Hathaway really fits into Nolan’s Dark Knight vision and it’s fair to say she was perfectly cast in the role as witnessed in those opening scenes for her character.

Bruce Wayne really took a step back in The Dark Knight compared to Batman Begins (sorry I’m not comparing, honestly I said I wouldn’t do that) but The Dark Knight Rises is drawing from the origins of Batman Begins when it is revealed where Bane came from and what his plan is for Gotham and Batman. If the Joker physiologically tormented Batman, Bane’s intents were physically. Bruce Wayne having been in seclusion for so long and pointed out by Alfred wasn’t the same person he was. Alfred’s concerns for Bruce where heartfelt and feared Bruce becoming Batman again because Bane’s stature and more so his training with “The League of Shadows”

The Dark Knight Rises takes us on a journey on Bruce Wayne’s spirit and will and how this character must rise to take on Bane. I’m not going to detail keys sequences for anyone who hasn’t watched this movie but the scenes in the “pit” really is where the key to where Bruce was physiologically and where he was physically also.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was an excellent addition as Blake to the already superb cast and carried those composition sequences perfectly. The character of Blake is key to the movie and is the connection between all of the characters, you could say the character is the master of ceremonies and has a fitting set up at the end of the movie that Christopher Nolan threw in there for the fans which although is a little cheesy is a nice touch and leaves us wondering “what next for this character?”

In summary this movie was never going to top the previous sequel but surprisingly links more to Batman Begins and bookends the Trilogy perfectly. On the whole Christopher Nolan gave us a near perfect Trilogy which is an achievement after the last incarnation (Batman and Robin (1997) left a bad taste in fans mouths. Spanning 7 years from beginning to end showed the commitment from the director and now having been involved and adding input into the DCU’s version as an executive producer highlights his fondness for the character and cares enough to still be involved although Ben Affleck’s “The Batman” is again another take on the character. For fans it’s a pleasure to revisit the Nolan Trilogy and for me I can’t recommend it enough. Thank You Christopher Nolan.

Looper (2012) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

LOOPER

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Bruce Willis,  Emily Blunt

The Retro Review season continues with the 2012 Rian Johnson movie Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. I have to admit I totally missed the initial release of the film and only got round to watching it in 2014. The movie itself although was still fresh in my mind as I decided to review it, I thought I should view it once more as this is a film although complex in many levels goes to great lengths to avoid any glaring plot holes.

Time Travel movies have always consistent of audience members looking for these plot holes at great lengths and deep debates of trying to find them. Here Writer and Director Rian Johnson really nails the situation within the first 10 minutes of the movie on how it works. Loopers are employed to assassinate a person sent back from the future immediately and that is their job until “retirement”. When a “loop” closes (basically when that looper is done when they are older they are sent back in time to be killed by their younger self, hence the loop is closed.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays young Joe and Bruce Willis plays the old version of Joe who is sent back in time to the exact time and location that young Joe is waiting on to kill him. Obviously the young Joe isn’t aware of his next victim and  this is one thing I liked and understood about older Joe. He was aware and prepared to do battle with his younger self knowing this path. In typical Bruce Willis fashion his character doesn’t get bogged down with how this happens and why it happens etc. The character really just bypasses any deep and logistical explanation as if all that matters is the situation now and there. I found this with all the main character in the movie that they all had their own reasons why they were there and why they had to do what that had to do and to be honest this works for this movie as the plot is multilayered and complex enough without over complicating the storyline.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a younger Joe is brilliant and delivers once again. But he is also a younger Bruce Willis and under heavy prosthetics and makeup is a passable younger Willis too. The make up is as good as its going to be and to be honest if I hadn’t known what Gordon-Levitt looked like before I probably wouldn’t have noticed the change in his appearance. Apart from the cosmetic side of the Actor I noticed Gordon-Levitt adopted a few of Willis’ mannerisms and I was pleased to see that he wasn’t impersonating Willis but really captured the essence of the veteran actor instead.

Bruce Willis is equally as good playing opposite Gordon-Levitt and there is a real chemistry between the two leads which was great and really helped convince the audience that they are one of the same person. It’s not often you get to see Willis perform as the “Bad Guy” in a movie and here is an exception based on the fact that he is trying to stay alive and as the story unfolds his actions and mission are explained in a believable and emotional way which if you haven’t watched “Looper” I won’t go into any great detail as it is a major spoiler.

Supporting the leads is Emily Blunt as Sara who performed very well and really held her own with both Gordon-Levitt and Willis. although not entering the story until a good hour into the movie Blunt really makes her mark right away as a no nonsense mother protecting her son and to be fair is a long way off her more familiar roles we were used to seeing her in up to this point. Her character is convincing and she really fits into the role with a convincing american accent and looks pretty comfortable holding a rifle when protecting her family and land.

Her son Cid in the movie portrayed by Pierce Gagnon is a stand out and fantastic in such a pivotal role. The chemistry between Blunt and Gagnon is so obviously there that you would be convinced they are Mother and Son in real life and the emotional pull between both actors really goes beyond anything I was expecting from the supporting cast. Gagnon also has some tender and funny moments with Gordon-Levitt in the movie and really added to the relationship between the characters.

Writer/Director Rian Johnson to be honest created a very believable future that isn’t a far cry from todays world and doesn’t portray it too much in the style of the Fifth Element or darker in the way of Blade Runner. Johnson’s style intrigues me as his tone is some major dark scenes at night (obviously) and during daylight looks very gritty and grainy, much in the way Logan (2017) is shot (if that makes any sense) and overall I have to say that I like more of the things “Looper” achieved in storytelling, acting, direction and chemistry. The plot isn’t over complicated and I think this is why it’s a likeable film. Johnson appears to respect the audience enough not to patronise and appears to relish keeping the audience interested and in suspense. “Looper” is a fine piece of filmmaking and has a wonderful multilayered and intelligent storyline that I can’t recommend enough.

Snowden (2016) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

 

SNOWDEN.pngDirector: Oliver Stone
Writers: Kieran Fitzgerald (screenplay), Oliver Stone (screenplay)
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo

“This isn’t about terrorism, terrorism is the excuse. This is about economic and social control” – Edward Snowden (2013)

Although this movie was released back in September 2016 I have only just got round to watching acclaimed Director Oliver Stone’s Snowden.

The basis of the movie is a special forces dropout and now CIA computer analyst Edward Snowden (Gordon-Levitt) leaking thousands of illegal and classified surveillance technique documents distributed to the press of the real life events that went down between 2004 and 2013.

Most of the story flits back and forth as Snowden relates his story to documentary filmmaker Laura Poitros (Melissa Leo) a journalist Glenn Greenwald played by Zachary Quinto and Guardian journalist Ewan MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson) in a hotel in Hong Kong in 2013. Snowden makes it clear to the 3 journalists that the CIA will come after him and accepts the consequences of espionage and warns Poitros,Greenwald and MacAskill they will be coming for them too.

It’s Flashback time – Snowden works on various assignments across the U.S, and learns that the Government is using means to intrude on the privacy of the American people and further afield. Snowden works his way up into the highest circles of the U.S. intelligence community with the force of electronics and surveillance under Corbin O’Brian played by the brilliant Rhys Ifans.

When his revelations are published in the British newspaper The Guardian, which Greenwald and MacAskill worked for. Snowden goes on the run and ends up at Moscow International Airport just a few days after his story hits the Internet and in exile, a fugitive from what passes for American justice in the 21st century.

From what I’ve read online, Oliver Stone was initially reluctant to Direct the Edward Snowden story in any way, shape, or form. But Kucherena (Snowden’s real-life attorney in Russia) and GlennGreenwald themselves convinced  Stone and he agreed to do it, with Fitzgerald assisting him in the writing of the screenplay, and the result is one of the great films of 2016.

I’ll be the first to admit I knew OF the Edward Snowden story but having looked further into his real life you can see the striking resemblance with Gordon-Levitt. We get to see the real Snowden at the end of the film explaining why he did what he did and why coming back to America would  result in him not getting a fair trial.

The movie is a drama and I’m glad they kept this throughout and weren’t tempted to add action (which I was concerned about when Snowden went into hiding) I also have to commend the filmmakers for what looks like sticking to the facts and not “Hollywoodising” the story based on real events.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt did as good a job as any actor could and I was pleased with his performance and he is supported by a strong cast.