AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY REVIEW

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Behold, an Oscar candidate. A proper one. A perfect showcase in sheer acting. I may have said that a few times now but this one takes the cake.

Brilliant, bold, riveting drama with the best acting ensemble I’ve seen in some time. Meryl Streep once again demonstrates why she still rakes in the nominations. Phenomenal. I may have to retract my bet on the Best Actress nod. Tracey Letts adapted the screenplay from her own award winning stage play. Some may argue that the film may be restricted to the house, a beautiful house at that. But I feel it works as the perfect wrestling ring for one of the most dysfunctional families I’ve seen since Arrested Development (as exemplified perfectly in the poster).

Admittedly, I was reluctant to see this. Me? Reluctant to see a film? Strange. I know. The trailer didn’t sell it for me. But Mum’s a Streep fan and so we went . . . and was pleasantly surprised. What was strange was seeing ol’ brainbox Sherlock Holmes, Mr Benedict Cumberbatch as silly sympathetic simpleton Little Charlie. An odd, if well acted, transition. After his shoddy accent in The Island, Ewan McGregor has finally mastered the American accent. The only thing I could pick at is why on Earth did he have his teeth done? Are you Rylan in disguise?! (X Factor’s Rylan Clark. If you don’t know, who that is. Well, you’re lucky). Apart from that, very good. In all fairness, the cast were brilliantly picked for the roles. The only problem with so much talent on display, certain actors get pushed to the back of the line but the fact they are still able to make an impression, shows how talented they are and how well developed the characters were. Juliette Lewis as the younger gullible naive daughter (Not surprising that Lewis would play the dimwit but she nails it so well). Delmot Mulroney as the laid back slacker with the fancy Ferrari, trying to stay cool with the kids, reeking of a mid-life crisis.

Julianne Nicholson as Ivy, the daughter that stayed while the others flew the coop. And speaking of coop, it was great to see Chris Cooper. An underrated actor who always shines. I mean only he could go from American Beauty to The Muppet Movie and nail it. Desperately trying to keep the peace in a house full of nutters, his breaking point speech was brilliantly done. You couldn’t help but root for the guy. It could be argued that Abigail Breslin and Sam Shepard were wasted characters. But the real story is between Violet (Streep) and Barbara (Roberts). Breslin’s character Jean was more of a foil to unearth their resentments and there is a reason for Shepard without spoiling anything. Great actor and the fact he made an impact with a mere couple of minutes, reciting TS Elliott was very good. But anyone could have played him. 

There are three actresses that stood out. The first was Margo Martindale (a talented actress that has played some memorable roles from some of my favourite TV shows, Dexter and The Americans. She especially struck my eye after her turn in Justified as the creepy Mags Bennett). She plays Mattie Fae brilliantly. Her chemistry with Streep was fantastic. You could have believed that they were sisters. They made it seem so natural. Now the other two and the main stars, who have been rightly nominated for Oscars respectively, are Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep as Barbara and Violet. They desperately try to keep civil during a family crisis that has finally brought all the family home, despite their strained relationship but it isn’t soon before tempers flare up and everyone’s dirty laundry is thrown about. The pair are fantastic and when they confront each other over their problems with one another, it is great to watch. Riveting and at times emotional. Meryl Streep, however, was on another level. As soon as she entered the first frame, she stole the show and dominated the film as the overbearing pill popping matriarch. Her erratic behaviour from mad ranter to a vulnerable sufferer was conveyed expertly. Her “truth telling” guilt trip at the dinner table was brilliantly done. As the film progresses, we finally get to see her vulnerability and show real sympathy for her. The final moments are a fitting end note to an impeccable performance by an incredible actress. Just watch it!

Family secrets are revealed, unexpected twists and turns jump up, it all kicks off and then . . . ends quite abruptly. The ending was to be expected but it seemed to wrap up all too quickly and loosely but then when are family matters ever really resolved? But after so much build up, tension and great acting, maybe a little more time could have been spared on the final minutes, especially when one of the characters drives away in an unexpected direction. I’m staying as cryptic as possible as I want people to see this. Speaking as someone from a big family, there were so many personalities that reminded me of my own. The dinner table scene demonstrated that perfectly, especially when Violet told the men off for taking their jackets off at the table and watching them put them back on like scorned children. I haven’t seen the play that this was based on but I would very much like to now. Some may argue that the pace doesn’t justify the means but I don’t believe so. I think it allowed the simmering tension to bring to the boil perfectly, making it better for it.

All in all, well shot, well written, well acted, well done! Hazaar! In Streep we trust 4/5

Currently ranks #14 out of 133!

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LAST VEGAS REVIEW

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At last! We may have all seen it all before but at least it was easygoing, watchable and fun!

It’s great to see a talented cast letting their guards down and having a laugh. Kevin Kline, welcome back. Where you been?!

In a nutshell, four old school friends reunite for a stag party in Vegas. The rest is gold.

The opening was very corny and predictable as we see the gang as young whippersnappers in the fifties. Unfortunately, the little uns’ acting leaves a little to be desired. Except for RJ Fattori playing the young Paddy (Robert De Niro). Where he lacked in conviction (look at me, judging it like it was an Oscar nominated movie), he nailed with De Niro’s mannerisms. Spot on. Noah Harden as the young Billy (Michael Douglas), however . . . Sorry bud.

But this is all quickly pushed aside and flash forwards 58 years later focusing on each individual as they battle depression, repression and sheer bloody boredom. Kline’s Sam was the scene stealer for me. Checking that one of his elderly cardio pals was still alive in the swimming pool was so wrong but hilarious.

Morgan Freeman’s Archie had potential with a subplot on his ailing health. BUT it was never going to be that type of film. Molly-coddled by his overprotective son who won’t even let him hold his granddaughter in fear of triggering a stroke. The poor pensioner is desperate to escape.

De Niro as Paddy, the miserable robe wearing wiser, may have been a role we’ve seen him do before (Cough. Meet the Parents. Cough) BUT it was still funny. However, his moaning and complaining soon got old really quick.

And, Mr Douglas. Firstly, what is going on with the teeth? Are you Rylan in disguise? For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with last year’s UK X Factor, google Rylan Clark. You’ll get the idea. And the tan?! However, this is all for the taking for Freeman and Kline, delivering some cracking lines. Douglas’ Billy is fed up and scared of how old he is. He has everything and nothing. But in a moment of crazy euphoria, he proposes to his 32 year old “infant” girlfriend, at a funeral. A little OTT for my liking, I know. But at it’s core, it shows an exaggerated fear of getting old.

This movie isn’t perfect by any means. It’s predictable, corny, OTT but at it’s core is a tale of friendship, loss and proving that being old isn’t the end. Where is this rule that you have to stop living and stop being a fool?

The cast work well together. BUT Freeman and Kline were the masters for me. Once Freeman is unleashed in Vegas; he bosses the dance floor and proves that an old dog can learn new tricks. Kline was on fire with his comic deadpan delivery. While, the more serious drama is left to Douglas and DeNiro as old grudges rear their ugly heads.

It’s funny, at times, hysterical. The best moment for me was Redfoo from LMFAO thrusting his cod piece in De Niro’s stunned face. Some might see it as step down, but hey it was funny . . . and he knows it (What?!).

Las Vegas is beautifully captured in all its glitzy, neon glory. And there were some decent supporting turns from Romany Malco (40 Year Old Virgin) and Mary Steenburgen (Step Brothers). Also, look out for a brilliant cameo from a certain rapper.

Steenburgen’s introduction as the lounge singer felt a little unnecessary and corny BUT it was the perfect trigger to unearth Billy and Paddy’s strained friendship. Revelations and twists predictably on the cards.

BUT all in all, LAST VEGAS was like a overdone lasagne. A little too much cheese spread over it but it was still good to look at and tasty enough to enjoy.

3.5/5