Dream House

This film is a mixture of mystery, drama and thriller which is more sinister than the title would initially have you believe. Daniel Craig plays the husband and father, Will Atenton, who we see at the beginning quit his job as an editor to spend more time with his family and also plans to write a book. He and his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters Trish (Taylor Greare) and Dee Dee (Claire Greare) have just moved to a large house in the outskirts of the city. Unsurprisingly some strange incidents begin to occur, including an odd reception with the neighbour across the road, Anne Patterson (Naomi Watts) who has quite a minor role but the character is significant in the way the story is unraveled and the truth is discovered. Also the two daughters are convinced that they repeatedly see a man watching them from outside the house, which forces Will to go looking for answers.

He learns that a mother and two children were murdered by the father, Peter Ward, in the house and it had been empty for five years before they moved in. However, there is slightly more to it and he begins to get more involved in this revelation and when truths are exposed to him it is more than he can cope with. He is forced to face his problems and the question of who Peter Ward is and what it means for him and his family.

The story gets off to a slow start and it takes a while for any of the mystery to be planted, however once it begins to develop, Dream House does get more interesting. It wasn’t the most enthralling, edge of seat thriller but there were still a few moments which I must admit made me flinch and possibly squeal. If you allow yourself to be drawn into the film then it will be more entertaining.

The general onscreen relationship of the family as a whole wasn’t the most genuine or convincing but the relationship between Craig and Weisz was the stronger and more significant in the film. Dream House has a huge psychological aspect to it and I felt that Craig pulled a lot of the character’s anguish off really well, though there were some instances in which he could have had more of an impact.

What I did like about Dream House was the way you can’t help but try to figure out what is going to happen and how everything will be explained. As the plot comes to a climax and several loose ends gradually come together there are several moments where you think ‘ohh that explains that!‘. However, there was one significant aspect of the ending which really wasn’t explained well enough and still left a lot of questions and confusion – which is always annoying. The ending wasn’t satisfying enough, though I find that this type of mystery drama never manages to end in a convincing way.

Overall I think this film had an interesting premise but the ending got too complicated in itself and was somewhat disappointing. Still, it was interesting to see Craig in this role and I did like the way it was essentially up to the viewer to decide whether Dream House was about a man’s insanity, or about his ghosts.

Rating: 3/5

Breaking Dawn – Part 1

The fourth and penultimate installment of The Twilight Saga and in my opinion it was definitely the best one yet. First of all it is important to say if you haven’t seen the previous films then there is no point going to see this as it will make no sense. The story continues on from the previous film straight away and the character’s relationships are all developed and some of them are somewhat complex so it is necessary to have seen the first three films.

In the first part of Breaking Dawn the story of Bella (Kirsten Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) resumes as they are getting married. Bella, whilst she can’t wait to officially be Edward’s wife and become apart of the Cullen family, knows that the wedding will also ultimately mean an end to her relationship with her own parents. This is because of her wish to become a vampire like Edward and his family so they can be together for eternity (I realise how cheesy that sounds). I thought the wedding scene was beautiful and completely mesmerising and the way the sequence was put together made it extremely moving. After the wedding was, surprisingly, their honeymoon and this is especially significant to the story with Edward being a traditional gentleman and Bella’s white dress being appropriate. Some of the scenes I’m not sure were particularly suitable for the certificate of 12a, but there you go.

During the honeymoon Bella discovers that she is pregnant and this is when the story begins to get more interesting as this sparks different reactions within the Cullen family. Edward and his adopted parents and siblings, bar one, all want Bella to allow them to get rid of the foetus as it is half human and half vampire it is essentially sucking the life out of her. This also creates tension with the Quileute (wolf pack) as they believe the offspring could be a danger to the community they are in existence to protect. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is therefore ultimately driven to choose his friendship with Bella over his pack and this leads to more rivalries.

I think the acting of all three of the main characters had improved in this film and it made the whole film much more enjoyable. In the previous films I did find Kirsten Stewart’s expressions and mannerisms annoying, however, in Breaking Dawn she was definitely better. There were many scenes which were particularly emotional because of the passionate performances, especially from Robert Pattinson.

The plot in general was true to the book in my opinion and I feel the point where the first part was left off was appropriate and it means the two parts will have totally different aspects of the book. The second part of Breaking Dawn will be much more action packed and different in so many ways.

I find that the whole Twilight Saga, whether it’s the films or the books, gets judged too quickly based on the ‘Twihard’ fan base and it gets written off as codswallop which teenaged girls obsess over. Whether that’s true or not, I think that a lot of people love to hate these films simply because everyone else does. I think the thing to remember about these films is that they were adapted from books which were much more detailed, so a lot of that doesn’t get conveyed through the film. The story as a whole is complex and if I hadn’t read the books it probably would have been harder to follow and understand, which is why it is definitely essential to have seen the previous films to enjoy this one.

Breaking Dawn is certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste and that’s fine because there’s also plenty of people who would undoubtedly enjoy it.

Rating: 4/5

Justice

This was originally titled ‘The Hungry Rabbit Jumps’ which was then changed to ‘Seeking Justice’ but finally Justice was selected. Nicolas Cage plays the role of Will Gerard, a high school english teacher, and at the start of the film he is celebrating with his wife Laura (January Jones) their 4 year anniversary.

This is an action thriller set in New Orleans after the disastrous hurricane Katrina and is focused around the principle that the city is ‘going to hell’. There are a number of citizens who are sick of the downfall of their society and so together formed an organisation which seeks justice. Quite soon into the plot Laura is tragically attacked and raped. When Will finds out he rushes to see her in hospital and it is there he meets one of the members of this mysterious organisation. This member, called Simon (Guy Pearce), proposes to Will that he knows where his wife’s attacker is and can have him ‘taken care of’ if he so wishes, and all that would be required in return is a simple favour some time in the future. At first Will is hesitant, however, the emotions his wife’s state evoked were too much to turn down the offer to have this man ‘dealt with’.

Soon after things get complicated for the high school teacher as the organisation call upon him for their favour. The pace of the film quickens and becomes all the more enthralling. I was impressed with the number of twists and turns in the plot, many of which I didn’t see coming and this made it more stimulating and thought-provoking as you were trying to figure out aspects of the plot as the film continued.

Usually I am not a fan of Nicolas Cage at all, however I watched this film with an open mind and I found his character likeable and his acting was of a high standard throughout. The rest of the cast also acted well and I thought Guy Pearce’s performance was particularly notable as the ruthless and mysterious Simon.

The only problem I had with this film was that Cage and Jones were a married couple. I am getting sick of seeing couples in hollywood films where the male is so much older than the female. This wouldn’t be an issue if it was also a regular occurrence to see vice versa – but it’s not and I find that actresses are sometimes more chosen for their appearances. Other than that issue, which I understand wouldn’t be an issue for a lot of people, I found the film in general was very entertaining and it captured and sustained my interest. It did have a few scenes which were stereotypical and predictable, however, this was made up for in the several unexpected surprises.

Justice was definitely better than I expected it to be and for that reason I would recommend for people to go out and give it a go.

Rating: 4/5

Dear John

Dear John was adapted from the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army and the film begins with him narrating as he is in action. This was an interesting way to begin as it draws the audience in instantly and his commentary begins to unfold the story in quite a dramatic way. When John is on leave he meets a girl called Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) and they spend a lot of time together during this period of two weeks leave and swiftly fall in love with each other. John has a year left of his service in the U.S. Army and so they vow that it is just the beginning for their relationship and promise to write one another.

However, the tragic events of 9/11 are a turning point in this film as it causes John to re-enlist due to his whole unit feeling the need to defend, protect and fight for their country. Meanwhile Savannah is studying at college and her life seems to be moving on without him. The fact that John re-enlisted hurt her deeply and this creates a strain between them which further complicates things.

John’s relationship with his father is also a very significant aspect of this film. Richard Jenkins played the role of the father, who it is revealed throughout the film has autism, who raised John by himself after his wife left him. It is unmistakable that John was often frustrated by his father though he seems to have accepted or at least learnt to tolerate the way their relationship is.

I have found that Channing Tatum is frequently criticised for his unemotional and detached performances however, I think his portrayal of John was very accurate in terms of the way I perceived the character as depicted in the novel. Moreover, his so-called inexpressive nature is arguably not uncommon or unseen in a lot of men, or it is at least a stereotypical characteristic of men not to show their emotions.

Amanda Seyfried was satisfactory as Savannah and though it is a fairly straight-forward character she managed to make her easy to like and quite memorable. The way the relationship between them blossoms so rapidly is delivered in a sincere way which makes their chemistry believable and draws you into their connection.

One of the interesting things about this film is the chronological order of the story itself. It briefly begins at a point in the story which is quite near the end and then it is told from the beginning where John and Savannah met and progresses though to the scene which the film started at and goes on to a finishing point.

Dear John is quite a typical romantic drama with plenty of moving moments and is quite likely to make the average female tear up. However, it is not just one for the girls, I’m sure most people would enjoy this film and the relationship between John and Savannah isn’t the only focus of it so those not interested in the romance aspect could still like it.

Rating: 3.5/5

Real Steel

Real Steel is a boxing film with a fresh and unique twist. It is set in the not so distant future when the sport of boxing has transformed and the competitors are no longer human – robot boxing is a worldwide craze. The story focuses on the ever struggling Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) who owns a robot and travels around to whatever fights that he can get. It soon arises that Charlie has an eleven year old son, Max (Dakota Goyo). After Max’s mother dies his aunt and her husband want him to be in their care and Charlie, who has no real relationship with his son, is perfectly happy with this arrangement. However, the aunt’s husband wants to go to Italy for the summer so he pays Charlie a large sum of money to have Max while they’re away.

It soon becomes clear that Max also shares a real passion for robot boxing and this results in them actually developing a relationship and bonding. Max discovers an old robot who has something unique about him and he restores him to fighting fitness, also with the help of his father’s close friend and romantic interest, Bailey (Evangeline Lilly). Charlie and Max then work together to train the robot, known as Atom, and they soon get him noticed and in demand for fights. Charlie, who was a boxer before robot boxing took over, is persuaded by Max to utilise his techniques and skills and train their robot to give him the cutting edge above the rest. Atom becomes an underdog story like no other and it is captivating to watch their relationship grow as does Atom’s success.

Hugh Jackman gave a truly endearing performance as Charlie and he was a joy to watch. It was amazing how his character was so likable despite the fact that he had been such a lacklustre father to his son for eleven years. He had aspects to his personality which just couldn’t help but draw you in to instantly like this guy. It was also believable the way Charlie and Max grew to know and love each other as the film progressed. Dakota Goyo gave an entertaining performance and he added something quite comical to the film and in particular his dancing scenes with Atom were extremely amusing.

The only fault in the storyline for me was the way the death of Max’s mother was brushed aside so swiftly to allow for the rest of the plot to fall into place. However, at the same time I can understand why it wasn’t drawn out otherwise the whole mood of the film would have been much more sombre. Instead the focus is on the flourishing relationship of the father and son.

The robots in this film were fantastic and the visual effects were of such high quality. The scenes of the robots actually boxing were so cleverly put together – they were entertaining and not repetitive like some boxing scenes can be.

Real Steel is most definitely worth a watch and it would appeal to a wide audience, regardless of interest in boxing as the film is about so much more.

Rating: 4.5/5

Footloose (2011)

The original Footloose was released in 1984 with a cast led by Kevin Bacon. Twenty-seven years later and they decide to remake the film, with the only modification being the actors. When I heard Footloose was being remade I assumed there would be a new take on it in some way, dealing with the same issues but with a modern aspect; or even using the same storyline in a way to look at different issues. However, this was not the case and the storyline was exactly the same, set in the present day with nothing altered to make it match the time period. In fact I only realised it wasn’t set in the same year as the original when Wiz Khalifa’s song Black and Yellow was played during one of the dancing scenes.

Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) is the city boy who arrives in a small town and disrupts everyone and everything with his rebellious ways. This small town is haunted by a tragic event involving a group of teenagers who were unfortunately killed after a car crash on the way home from a dance. As a result of this a law was enforced to ban any dancing in public. Naturally the newcomer cannot allow this and leads the rest of the young population to fight against this ban. Ren also developes a relationship with the reverend’s daughter, Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough), just to make matters even more interesting. I found Ariel, in the remake, to have annoying aspects because of her selfish and arrogant attitude and this made it hard to connect or sympathise with her character. My favourite character of the whole cast was Willard, played by Miles Teller, purely for his charismatic aura which makes it impossible not to instantly like him. He also added a strong comic value to the film, making it more bearable to watch.

The actual dancing in the film was impressive and extremely technical however I think they could have incorporated some different styles of dancing into this film as there are now even more diverse varieties which have developed since the original Footloose. Despite this though it cannot be denied that Kenny Wormald, and several others in the cast, are extremely skilled dancers and they did perform some inspiring dance scenes.

I think it’s a shame that for me the remake just didn’t achieve the potential it could have. This version is too similar to the original that it seems pointless to me as I was expecting some form of improvement or evolution to have been made. Having said that the cast performed fairly well and they saved the film from being a total disappointment. Not sure I would recommend spending money to see this one though.

Rating: 2.5/5

What’s Your Number?

The title of the film refers to the number of partners a girl has slept with which becomes a significant issue to Ally Darling (Anna Faris). Just as her sister (Ari Graynor) is planning her wedding her love life has become a disaster which makes it even harder for her to deal with. She simply cannot go dateless to her sister’s wedding! She happens to read an article about the average number of partners for women and that anyone who has had more than 20 drastically reduces their chances of finding true love. Ally’s number is 20. This gives her the idea to look up all of her ex-boyfriends to see if any of them could potentially be her true love. For this she enlists the help of her player of a neighbour for his investigative skills and in return for his help she rescues him from his countless dates. As soon as the neighbour, Colin Shea (Chris Evans), is introduced into the storyline it is plainly obvious how the rest of the film will pan out.

Despite the fact that it becomes yet another predictable romantic comedy to add to the long list, there is still something enjoyable about this film. Ally and Colin are both extremely captivating and likable characters in their own way and I think they would appeal to a wide range of people. Most of the comedy value of What’s Your Number is delivered through Anna Faris and the film would not have been half as humorous with a different actress. I thought Chris Evans portrayed his character effortlessly and he had to make a player likable to a largely female audience which he definitely managed – though my opinion may be slightly bias on this matter. Also, the way their relationship begins as friends and develops is really endearing to watch, even if it is cliché!

Although the none of the acting in this film was breath-taking it was satisfying for this genre. The on-screen relationships were all believable and the cast were all enjoyable to watch with several recognisable faces amongst the ex-boyfriends. I think this film is worth a watch for the heart-warming characteristic of it, if not for the comic value. Even with the plot being generally unsurprising I must say I enjoyed this film.

Rating: 3/5