24 Feb 2013

The Rum Diary

Hunter S. Thompson was a crazy journalist and writer, most commonly known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This film is an adaptation of his first book The Rum diary

 Except for the manner of his passing I have always liked Hunter  S. Thompson, his crazy style of writing, his characters and his general take on the world. To me Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the sort of like the party I always wanted to go to in your 20's, but then you end up in somebodies kitchen drinking Merlot and suffering through a difficult conversation with a politics student who seemed attractive one and a half glasses ago. But there you are I suppose, I guess I was always more a pint person over a pill person.


Novelist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) takes a job in Puerto Rico with a struggling local newspaper. He arrives to find a Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) bewigged and cynical editor, Sala (Michael Rispoli), a head photographer who fights roosters in his spare time, and  Molberg (Giovanni Ribisi), the local crime reporter who drinks ethanol and listens to Adolf Hitler.

Welcome to  Puerto Rico.

Kemp meets up with Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who offers him an insight into the reality of life in Puerto Rico in the 1960s, and an opportunity to make a great deal of money. The only two things holding Kemp back is his conscience and that fact he has fallen in love with Sanderson's girl friend Chenault(Amber Heard).

Ensue crazy rum fuelled hijinx!

The story is what you expect from Hunter S. Thompson, booze, drugs, politics,  crazy characters and a sharp and unpopular insight into the realities of life. The story plunges from a rum fuelled debauch, to poignant scenes of poverty, to a scathing example of American capitalism in the 60's.  Sounds mad and it is, but it is highly entertaining and also fascinating. There is an adage amongst writers, "write what you know." Thompson himself travelled from New York to San Juan in 1960 to write for an ill-fated sports newspaper, and you can tell that he has borrowed form real life in his portrayal of the characters and the situation Kemp finds himself in.

I really enjoyed the story and the writing, and  found myself laughing out loud at the sheer insanity of it all. My favourite was from Molberg;

"By day she drives a garbage truck, but by night she is a Hermaphroditic Oracle of Death!"

Johnny Depp, who was a personal friend of Hunter S. Thompson, and after this novel was rediscovered after Thompson's death, he had it published. he produced and starred in the film. His friends work was obviously important to him. His performance was good, Depp has the capacity to switch and change from tripping on LSD to being a leading man with the vivacious Amber Heard (you might know her as the hot neighbour in  Zombieland), to walking the back alleys of  Puerto Rico. With the exception of young miss Heard (who is talented, but not to the same level), it is a cast of talented character actors. Ribisi steals pretty much every scene he is in whether he speaks or not. 

This is not a film for everyone, I imagine that many will want your typical narrative, good guys, bad guys, and a hero saving the day. If you want that go find the Bourbe identity, and that's the Ludicrous Matt Damon one, not the original. But if you want a little crazy, spiced with 60's politics, and Ribisi,  Depp and a gorgeous blond, then try this. 

seven drunken monkeys

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937 – Feb 20, 2005)

19 Feb 2013

Silver linings playbook

My new year’s resolution was to watch more movies, and sooner. What I needed to add to that and what I shall do as an addendum is to blog more promptly.  Because while I am watching more films and more promptly, I bloody well need to blog about them!
What a noonah head. 
 Silver linings play book is written and directed by David Russell, based from a book by Matthew Quick. This film was an important project to Russell, and also to supporting actor Robert DeNiro, as both have close family members with mental health issues.  Yes this is a comedy about mental health, but if you are expecting the latest drivel from the Farrelly brothers, this is not the movie for you. 
I have friends who have family members with mental health issues; I have friends with mental health issues.  I have seen how hard it can be for people dealing with issues of mental health.  While I don’t think it is necessary to broadcast these things to the world, I also feel it is important to at least acknowledge it. So many people just refuse to talk about it.  “We don’t discuss that” a friend of mine said nervously to me when I asked after a mutual friend’s health.  But if people evade the issue, then how can people feel comfortable expressing themselves if they want to?  If you have a friend like this they need to know that you are there for them. You don’t have to be a drippy hippy about it, and constantly ask about their bloody feelings, but you shouldn’t pretend it isn’t there either.  
These particular friends in my life I referred to are strong, funny; great people and they are my friends for those reasons and a multitude of other reasons. 
Those friends would also tell me to get on with a bloody synopsis:
 Pat (Bradley Cooper) suffers from mental health issues, most prominently bipolar disorder. He has been recently institutionalised as part of an agreement with the courts after he almost beat his wife’s lover to death.  As at the time of the attack his mental health issues were undiagnosed, so the courts settled for treatment instead of jail . Now he is out, he is healthy and he is determined to get his wife back.  All that stands in his way is a restraining order.   

While having dinner with his best friend Ronnie he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Ronnie’s sister in law.  Tiffany’s husband recently died and she has several issues of her own.  Tiffany and Pat circle each other wearily until Pats therapist suggests that by helping Tiffany, Pat could prove to the world, and his wife that he has changed. Pat tentatively starts a friendship with Tiffany, and she promises to help him win back his wife, if he helps her with a dance competition. 
Ensue…., well  hijinx. 
In reading this synopsis it reads like any other romantic comedy, but while being a romantic comedy it is anything but typical. 
Cooper is prominent in his career for playing handsome leading men, but here he is manic, bruised and, well human . His portrayal as the sufferer of bipolar is at times funny, sad, and inspiring.  His relationship with his father  (De Niro) is troubled, enlightening and painful. This is De Niro’s  the best performance in years, as the ageing troubled father with possible disorders of his own.  

 Jennifer Lawrence always seems so young to me, but in every film I have seen her in I think she has been great. She definitely deserves all her recent awards.  The real surprise is Chris Tucker. Now I really do not like Tucker at all. His past roles as a destitute man’s Eddie Murphy, have left me cold. But as Pats friend Danny he met at during his stint at the hospital, Tucker gives a warm sympathetic performance. I hate to say it but he was excellent. A long time coming but he really was.

The story, if I wrote it all out for you would follow as I said a typical rom com, but the execution by Cooper Lawrence, De Niro and Jaki Weaver (who plays Pats mother), takes you to a different place.  It was an important work for the director as I said, as his own son is bipolar, and this film was to show that people like his son can have important stories too, and not just as comic relief.  It is an intelligent and at times painful rendition of the romantic comedy, but retains its romance and its integrity without falling to trite gimmicks or cheesy gags. 
Sometimes films are given accolades, Oscars, Baftas, etc out of a sort of obligation., but this film stands on its own and is deserving of recognition. I found it surprising, and quietly wonderful.
Seven and a half monkeys from me.

18 Feb 2013


I should probably title this ”why oh why didn’t I go to the movies to see this”

Looper is the creation of Rian Johnson, the writer and creator of Brick, also starring Joseph Gordon  Levitt. I loved Brick I thought it was a clever and original piece of film, which was also a great homage to the film noir classics like  The Big Sleep. Johnson and Levitt reunite for Looper which is Johnson's third film.

But just because I liked his first film, doesn’t mean I will like this! 

A synopsis is required:

It is 2044, and time travel hasn’t been invented yet. But in thirty years it will be. Given the very nature of time travel and its inherent dangers there is a global ban on its use.   In the future forensic science is so sophisticated it is virtually impossible to cover up a murder. Thus crime syndicates use time travel to obfuscate their crimes. They kidnap their victims; send them back in time (to 2044) where they are murdered by hired assassins known as Loopers. The syndicates sent back an operative in time to set up the Loopers in Kansas.  Joe(Joseph Gordon Levitt)  was  been hired by one of these syndicates to kill for them. Joe, like most  

Loopers, lives a life of drugs, fast cars and money in a world of poverty and corruption. But this all changes when the Looper closes his own loop. Closing your loop is when the syndicate decides to clean up a loose end and sends a Looper back to be killed by his past self.  One sunny day Joe in Kansas comes face to face with himself, but Joe isn’t going quietly.  

Ensue time travel paradox hijinx!

People kept telling me “Go see Looper its great!” but for some reason I didn’t. No particular reason, but I regret it now.  While I enjoyed it , I regret not watching it at the movies. Not because I think that Looper is particularly spectacular visually, it is just a story I wish I had watched early. 

Joseph Gordon Levitt is now one of my favourite actors. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this originally stemmed from his performance in  Brick either. He is a clever and talented actor who is now reason enough to get my attention about any film he is in. In Looper, Levitt under goes some subtle prosthetic work to make him look more like his future self-played by Bruce Willis.   

While initially jarring  you very quickly stop noticing, and just accept it as you engage with the narrative. Emily Blunt also stars in this film and while smoking hot now, in thirty years (well I will probably still find her hot) will be the next Dame Judy. Good actress. Willis and Levitt do an excellent job as ‘Joe’, but credit has to go to Levitt for doing such a great Bruce Willis impersonation. Jeff Bridges plays a supporting part and his exchanges with Levitt are some of my favourite parts of the film. 

The story seems like one of those ideas that people have thrashed around for ages, and yet in a world of remakes Looper is fresh and interesting. It is well written and fun. One thing that many people might find appealing about this is that it is science fiction that steers away from cliched ideas of the future. There are some gadgets, but the air is not filled with flying cars, or the streets filled with aliens.  Johnson’s future is dark and dystopian and low tech, and is a familiar and plausible world.  

I thought Looper was great; good acting, good story, entertaining and very re-watchable.

I give it  8 time travelling monkeys.

13 Feb 2013

World War Z


 World War Z; an oral history of the Zombie war was written by Max Brooks, the son of comedian, director and actor Mel Brooks. It was inspired by  The Good War, an oral history of World War II by Studs Terkel.Like the  The Good war, World War Z  is a collection of first hand accounts and stories of
various people who were affected by a Zombie apocalypse.

The book is a well written synopsis of a possible and not so implausible reaction in a fictional circumstance from various perspectives; civilian, military and corporate all over the world. From the wall around Israel to the South African triage system, Brooks posits conflicting agendas, government cover ups, military blunders and simple people trying to survive, and he does it in a simple interview style which adds to the plausibility of the stories. Brooks creates credible circumstances that we can believe in. He doesn't stray in to the crazy mutant world like  the resident evil franchise has made, he sticks to the basics. And for me it really works.

The book is an easy read, but in a subtle way you do find yourself being drawn into the stories. I understand why this book has become such a cult classic. I can also understand the trepidation and the criticism of the fans for the up coming movie  here.

This trailer  seems an extraordinary departure form the book. I will probably see it anyway but I am not confident as it seems like a dog. 

But the book is excellent and I really recommend it. 7.5 Zombie monkeys from me

3 Feb 2013

The Woman in black

Are you tired of torture porn? Bad Zombie movies? Glittery vampires? awful special effects? Predictable slasher movies?  Do you feel like watching a horror, but the choice between Cyber-eel vs Radioactive Seagull and Saw 13 seems a bit dumb?

Well have I got the movie for you! A good old fashioned Gothic horror, and I don't mean this!

What do I mean? Let me explain with a synopsis:

19th century London and lawyer Arthur Kipps is still struggling with the death of his wife after four years. His employer has given him one final chance to pull himself together. He must travel to Eel Marsh House and sort through the papers of a recently deceased client. Leaving his son he travels to the remote village of Cryphin Gifford. But once there he finds that the villagers are desperate to keep him from visiting the the secluded manor. Desperate not to lose his job he is determined to travel to Eel house, but once there he finds secrets, doors that cannot be opened and encounters a mysterious figure in black!

Ensure scary hijinxs!

While this is not the best horror film I have every seen, it was certainly the most refreshing. The woman in black has all the features of true Gothic horror in vein worthy of Mr Poe himself.

While it did take me a while to get use to Daniel Radcliffe, and occasionally the mood was ruined when he sounded a bit "Potter", he did OK. Which is good because the film was mostly him and a spooky old house. Hopefully he can shake off Harry Potter and become a good actor. And I think the Woman in Black is a good first step. To believe in the film we have to believe in Arthur Kipps and the horror he is experiencing, and I think we do. 

The film had a nice eerie feel about it, the music, sound and cinematography were really good. Eel house is set on a island which is attached to the mainland by a road which is covered at high tide. Fantastic settings, and not a blonde cheerleader or toothless red neck with a chainsaw in sight. Wonderful.

It was certainly was scary if the shrieks from the ladies I was watching it with was  anything to go by.I may have jumped a little myself. Bloody dolls.

I liked it but if you don't think you can get past Daniel Radcliffe then you probably won't enjoy it.

Good fun wholesome scary entertainment. and 6.5 monkeys from me.