NIGHTCRAWLER REVIEW

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Donnie’s really gone Dark-o

Jake Gyllenhaal manages to do his best Patrick Bateman impression and out-Bale Bale in one of his best performances to date.

Dark, demented and very good. If a little predictable.

So what’s it about? When Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Within the opening sequence, we get the essence of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) as he is caught stealing copper fencing from the train tracks. Flashing that Cheshire cat smile and pleading innocence, you can see the cogs turning. And in the bat of an eye, that smile fades instantly and a monster is unleashed. Cool, calm and collected. Striking when the moment arises.

A true American psycho. A smooth talking charmer with ambitions that he will stop at nothing to achieve.

An impressive and well written debut from Dan Gilroy. Fantastically shot. The cityscape at night was captured brilliantly by the cinematography of Robert Elswit.

Nightcrawler is somewhat of a slow burner as we watch Bloom climb the social ladder for fame and glory.

It starts with our sociopath desperately seeking a job and smooth talking his way into anything. That is until he witnesses a crash. Those flashing lights and ruthless nightcrawlers (Freelance cameramen preying the streets for horrific accidents, murders and crime scenes) creeping out from the urban underworld, craving for a pay check soon sets our protagonist on his path.

Bill Paxton plays the relentless Joe Loder brilliantly and it’s good to see him back in movies. His character dispensing the mantra: “If it bleeds, it leads” unwittingly sets up a competition for carnage.

Gilroy does make some fantastic commentary and satire on the censorship and attitude of the news media. The public’s obsession for blood and trauma constantly pushing them to distort moral and ethical boundaries for fifteen minutes of fame.

The film builds up and up as the madness ascends to crazy and scarily realistic levels. Where Bloom first intervenes small car accidents with a little handheld camera; it soon escalates to breaking into live crime scenes and moving pieces of evidence (and even bodies) to make the perfect shot.

It was great to see Riz Ahmed (Four Lions). He plays the clueless sidekick with aplomb. Oblivious to Bloom’s ambitions and unaware of what lay in store. Some of his encounters with Gylenhaal make for dark but comical viewing.

Rene Russo also stood out as Nina Romina (Awful name. Didn’t realise that until I saw the credits). Questioning the morals behind Bloom’s actions but desperately enabling him for the sake of keeping her job and bringing in the ratings.

SMALL BIT OF TRIVIA: Dan Gilroy is the husband of Rene Russo and brother of Tony Gilroy who is responsible for Michael Clayton and The Bourne franchise.

The chase sequences are intense. Especially in the closing moments as Bloom’s descent into darkness reaches breaking point.

There are suspenseful moments to be had. The sequence in which Bloom and his sidekick are filming the police attempting to apprehend a murder suspect. A scenario the pair set up. I was hooked. Nail biting stuff. Executed perfectly. The tension mounting as you wait for the fireworks to go off.

At times, it did feel like the trailers did show too much of the film. You knew when to expect several of the bigger moments in the film. That’s not to say there aren’t more surprises along the way.

Bloom is intelligent and some of his speeches rival Bateman. But crafty and calculated he may be, they go on far too long. Especially in his dinner date with Nina. We get it. You’re mad. Get on with it.

One major qualm is that with a film like this; there are only ever two outcomes. It seemed to go down the Bad Lieutenant (Cage Lieutenant) route which makes for a surprisingly flat (if typical) and slightly abrupt ending.

Don’t get me wrong. Gyllenhaal is a tour de force and should be commended. The weight loss added to his creepy demeanour and shark toothed grin. Gilroy has written and directed a visceral descent into the dark side of the American dream. Something we haven’t seen for a while. A resurgence? Maybe.

As Lou Bloom says, “If you want the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket”. Well, if you have the money, buy a ticket and go see it.

Certainly worth a watch. And we are live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

3.5/5 (But this may change)

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MILLION DOLLAR ARM REVIEW

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Disney + Don Draper = one easygoing sports movie.

Jon Hamm takes the helm as J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball. From the opening speech with JB attempting to sign a major player to his firm, the pitch and delivery just reminded me of Mad Men and how much I will miss it after next year. It felt like a what if scenario. What if Don Draper left advertising and became a sports agent? Hamm has proven yet again that he can take the lead and deliver a charismatic performance.

I fear that this could be the beginning of Hamm being typecast to play more Draper-esque roles. But it’s early days and for some people, certain actors will always be certain TV or film characters. For now, it works. He carries the film where the story may drag or dip into familiar cliched territory. I mean at least this story was worth telling. I didn’t realise that this had only happened recently. The fact that JB channel flicks to Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition. A perfect metaphor for judging a book by its cover. The very lesson this film aspires to teach.

Alan Arkin is . . . pretty much playing Alan Arkin. Sleeping, moaning and whining about the curry he ate the night before. Some of his quips were funny but he has played this character before and so much better in Little Miss Sunshine. He definitely has been typecast. He grumbles and has the odd liner but disappears all too quickly to make a good impression. He inevitably reappears and justifies his character’s relevance. Only just. Bill Paxton played his part well and to be honest, there wasn’t enough of him but this isn’t his story. But my God, he has aged. The years have suddenly caught up with him. I know he was probably made up to be a little older for the role but yikes. Anyway, the main story is on our three Indian protagonists.

Pitobash as the eccentric Amit was brilliant. Scene stealing at every moment. From taking every little phrase literally;

Arkin: “He’s got juice”

Pitobash: “You want juice. I get you juice”

To his documentary film making catching all the things JB wouldn’t want in a PR video, he always brings a smile. Shuraj Sharma as Rinku with a unique stance for pitching baseballs and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as Dinesh play the parts brilliantly. At first, Lake Bell’s (What Happens In Vegas) character of the hot doctor lodger that rents JB’s outhouse bungalow was a little annoying and so predictable. However, Bell and Hamm manage to convey enough chemistry to stop it from spoiling too much of the fun, even if the outcome is so obvious. Aasif Mandvi (The Internship) was wasted in his role, bar one good joke about recruiting the only three Indians who can’t stand cricket. This did make it all the more interesting that the very pitchers they are looking for are field hockey and track athletes.

To be honest, the length didn’t really bother me. I normally complain about the wavering length and at over two hours, I thought there may have been more moments in which I would be glancing at my watch. Not so! The opening may have been slow burning but there was enough easy going humour, charm and story to get away with it. Director Craig Gillespie catches the hustle and bustle of Bombay perfectly and has a cheeky poke at their politics. “We don’t bribe. We simply bypass the busy system by offering a little money”, offers Darshan Jariwala’s incompetent but loveable aide Vivek.

The first hour allowed time to be spent on the character’s backgrounds and upbringings which gave them a more rounded dimension. It also allows for a compelling contrast when the lads are put up in a hotel and are lost in translation with an elevator and escalator. I expected a little more tension with Dinesh’s family with his strict father but an unexpected heart to heart surprised me. I also feared that the film would baffle me with baseball statistics and terms as I’m not a baseball (or sports in general) fan but they use only a few slang words which are easily explained.

However, it’s funny, easy going with a nice uplifting, if slightly abrupt, ending. A somewhat mish mesh of Jerry Maguire and Slumdog Millionaire. The cast work brilliantly together as their fractious relationship and unexpected union are tested as they work against the odds to prove everybody, and themselves, wrong that nothing is impossible. Awww. Nice stuff.

3.5/5 Certainly one of the better ones. Not without its imperfections but worth a watch.

EDGE OF TOMORROW REVIEW

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The End of Tom Cruise? Not today. This little timey wimey special effects action flick is pretty much Groundhog Day meets a 12A equivalent of Starship Troopers. If that sounds terrible, then move on. If not, welcome.

If you love the Cruise, he still does his best and proves yet again that he can still be the leading man. If you don’t, well you get to see him die 200 times so win-win. To call this a blockbuster with brains is a little bit of an overstatement. To me a blockbuster with brains was Inception or The Matrix (Well the first instalment anyway).

It’s certainly delivers a different premise. But as typical timey wimey spiel goes, the plot holes still rear their ugly head. Despite being written by the legendary scriptwriter that is Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects/Jack Reacher/Jack and the Giant Pile of Sh -)

For every little plot point about the rapid Squidee like alien entities terrorising the beaches of Normandy, I couldn’t help but think . . .  oh, no wait a minute. Hmmm . . . That doesn’t make sense.

The D-Dayesque battle may be a little bit mocking. I say satirical, if a little lazy but the special effects are fantastic and the 3D sequences really shine, especially when those Squidee things scuttle about with their mechanical legs (shudder). Cruise and the BEA-utiful Emily Blunt are a good pair together and share some decent chemistry.

It isn’t really that schmaltzy or thrown in your face. Quite subtle as these big luvvy duvvy blockbusters go. It was interesting to see Cruise’s character actually turning out at the beginning (not a spoiler – DON’T PANIC) an egotistical media whore who is forced into using the very weapons he’s been flogging on the battlefield.

It all zips along quite well and once the timey wimey thing kicks in (without divulging the plot) it gets crazy, at times quite funny but eventually after an hour of it, a little tedious. It’s weird because I loved Source Code and Groundhog Day, which this film is very much like.

However, after you’ve seen Cruise reboot a few times and experience deja-vu, it gets a little annoying. Understandably, if you were ever in that position, it would be but as a viewer, come on. BUT, a few twists and turns, and we are back on track for a fast paced, exhilarating finale which may have been a little too abrupt.

Doug Liman (Jumper/The Bourne Identity) manages to bring an entertaining, if flawed, blockbuster that does rise above the number of duds that have disgraced the silver screen this summer . . . so far. And it’s a vast, vast improvement from Jumper. I was also surprised at the talented supporting cast.

Bill Paxton playing the slick toothed Sargeant. Game over, man (See what I did there). The legendary, if limited, Brendan Gleeson (The Guard/In Bruges) playing a corrupt military figure to perfection. But at the same time, did anyone else feel that he looked like he couldn’t be arsed? No? Moving on . . .

There was a number of British actors popping up in this. I mean, obviously it was a UK/US collaboration but still, great to see them making a mark.

Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood), Tony Way (Ali G), Franz Drameh (Attack the Block) all managed to make memorable grunts. Charlotte Riley (Martina Cole’s The Take) unfortunately did for all the wrong reasons with her horrific American accent and strange face pulling. Ripley gone wrong, maybe.

Laura Pulver (Sherlock/Da Vinci’s Demons) in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo? Was her scenes removed in the final cut or something? Or was she in the studio at the time? Strange. Noah Taylor finally reappearing (probably something to do with a recent appearance in a certain Game of Thrones) in a somewhat subdued role.

All in all, not bad, if a little overhyped. At its best; fast, action packed, entertaining, at its worst; all gloss not enough lacquer on the inner workings and character depth and a little rushed by the end. Run out of steam?

Well I got two things out of it; Tom Cruise screaming like a little bitch and Emily Blunt . . . she will be my future wife. What?

But still worth a gander 3.5 (just) out of 5 for me! Currently ranks 36 out of 183!