Dallas Buyers Club – 2013

dallas buyers clubIn 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

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What we think: All the hype surrounding Dallas Buyers Club has been focused on the individual performances of it’s leading cast, but director Jean-Marc Vallée deserves considerable recognition for so skillfully crafting this tale of exceptional warmth, humour and eternal hope.

Ron Woodroof is a hustling, homophobic, bull-riding, womanising, sometimes-electrician, whose life revolves around excess drugs, alcohol and female copulation. But after a freak accident leads to doctors discovering he’s HIV positive, Ron is forced to re-examine his priorities.

With his hillbilly friends shunning him and the back-alley supply of the drug that could prolong his life cut off, Woodroof heads across the border to Mexico in search of alternative treatments. When he realises that the medication he’s given isn’t available in the US, he seizes the opportunity to make a quick buck.

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Along the way he encounters fellow AIDS sufferer and cross-dresser Rayon (Leto) with whom he strikes an unlikely partnership in forming the Dallas Buyers Club, as well as Dr. Eve Saks (Garner) who becomes increasingly sympathetic to his plight.

McConaughey’s extreme physical transformation for the lead role is in itself worthy of great praise and his Oscar-winning turn is one of outstanding range and capability, portraying all the raw emotions Woodroof is forced to conflict as the character himself is changed irrevocably throughout the film’s two hour duration.

The scenes shared by Rayon – another remarkable performance from Leto – and Woodruff are triumphant and their relationship continually brings light relief to a backdrop of struggle as The Dallas Buyers Club fights what always seems like a losing battle with the FDA.

Much like Philadelphia, this film highlights the many struggles and injustices faced by early AIDS sufferers, not just in getting the medication they needed to survive, but also the prejudices they were forced to endure. It’s an exceptional piece of cinema that everyone should take the time to see.

Review: Thomas Baugh

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What did you think of the film, was it deserving of the Oscar wins, leave a comment and let us know what you think?

 

Escape Plan – 2013

escape plan posterWhen a structural-security authority finds himself set up and incarcerated in the world’s most secret and secure prison, he has to use his skills to escape with help from the inside.

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What we think: For those of us that grew up watching action films in the 80s one can only stand by and admire that Stallone and Schwarzenegger are still going well into their 60s.

Clearly they’re having fun, which is a good thing as we’re not expecting Oscar material here and those that are may as well leave now.

Escape Plan gives the two giants top billing opposite each other for the first time the whole way through a film (not counting The Expendables), but ultimately they’re on the same side.

Ray Breslin (Stallone) breaks out of prisons for a living, making sure that those who are put behind bars have no way of ever getting out .

When a job comes up to test out a top secret facility Breslin gleefully accepts despite his partners thinking otherwise, it leads him on to a collision course with Arnie who he needs to get onside in order to get out.

Of course once inside its clear that some people have no intention of letting him see the light of day, and Breslin is trapped behind a prison that encompasses everything he wrote the book on.

He teams up with fellow inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) in an attempt to break out and bring those responsible for setting him up, to justice, and that is where the fun begins.

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Schwarzenegger is enjoying himself even if the dialogue is not the best, like we said, we’re not expecting Oscar material. He does however get the good lines and pretty much acts as the diversion as Breslin scampers around looking for breaks in the system.

 is Hobbs, the warden of the facility, in what is actually quite a good turn as the classic pantomime villain, a throw back to the baddies of the mid eighties. He plays it cold and calculating, which in some parts feels like he’s going a bit OTT.

Beneath him is Vinnie Jones, type cast as the bog standard henchmen who is not particularly needed and to make matters worse probably gets one of the worst henchmen deaths. We don’t regard that as a plot spoiler as most villain side kicks end up biting the bullet as the stop gap between the hero and the classic ending battle.

There are no illusions going into this, you know exactly what you’re going to get right down to the obvious plot twist that you can see coming a mile off. A sub plot is only touched on briefly but its a sub plot that has been a staple part of any revenge plan.

The film has a strong third act once everything has been set up and it unfolds in a pulsating twenty minute finale which includes quite possibly the best slow motion shot for some time, nodding itself to most classic action films of the Arnie era.

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It’s meat and two veg action of maybe not the highest order but certainly better than some of its more recent predecessors, Stallone and Schwarzenegger bring their action A-game and don’t disappoint for a second.

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What did you think of Escape Plan, leave a comment and let us know we’d love to hear from you?

 

 

Elysium – 2013

elysium posterSet in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

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What we think: Neill Blomkamp has come pretty much out of nowhere, having only directed a handful of shorts he was handed $30m by Peter Jackson and told to make any film he wanted.

That offer for any up and coming film director would be as good as winning the lottery, and he didn’t disappoint making the dystopian District 9 which went on to become a smash hit the world over.

So when it was announced that his next project would be called Elysium there was much talk, excitement and anticipation about what it would entail.

Blomkamp again focusses on a dystopian society, L.A. to be exact (but not an Alien in sight), with Earth quite literally turned into a shit hole. Its ravaged by crime, poverty and disease along with an ever growing population just looking for ways to survive.

The rich and wealthy made their escape from the planet and reside on a beautiful man made space station called Elysium, where there is no poverty or sickness and one can be cured instantly by stepping into a medical pod.

Dropped into all of this is Max (Damon), a former convict who is trying to get by in life but who still holds a fascination that one day he too will get to live on Elysium, as we find out through an early back story.

When an accident at work leaves him with only a few days to live he steps back into the criminal underworld in order to get himself a one way ticket onto Elysium and cure himself, and in the process become a saviour for the suffering hordes on Earth.

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Blomkamp sticks with District 9′s Sharlto Copley an actor plucked from obscurity and who has gone on to make a real name for himself, here he plays sleeper agent Kruger complete with distinguished South African accent and beard.

Pairing up with him from the safe confines of Elysium is Jodie Foster’s Delacourt, the Secretary of Homeland Security whose cool and unassuming personality gives her licence to literally blast people from outer space while drinking tea.

She wants her place as the next Elysium president and so enlists the help of the slimy John Carlyle () who helps to organise a reboot program for the station, which of course falls into the wrong hands.

Blomkamp keeps the story very much as close to reality as possible without over stepping the mark, a world of poverty and hardship with the rich living the high life, sound familiar?

Filmed on location in the slums of Mexico as opposed to South African this time it really lends itself to real life and the harsh reality that this isn’t a film set built with a large overblown budget, but a place where everyday folk have to live.

The action is captivating both on Earth and in space, a car chase and data heist that encounters a flying Bugatti Veyron, while in space ships explode and crash into the tranquil surroundings of normality (well as normal as you can get in 2154).

Jodie Foster plays Secretary Delacourt in TriStar Pictures' Elysium.

The shaven headed Damon gives a good account of himself whether its delivering the dramatic line or battling through the action, in this case complete with exoskeleton he is always reliable.

Elysium is an enjoyable ride of thrills and spills and as a sci-fi actioner it ticks all the relevant boxes.

In the hands of Blomkamp the sic-fi genre would seem safe, but is this a genre that classes him as a one trick pony. After only two films I would highly doubt that although it would be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

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What did you think of Elysium, leave a comment and let us know.

Fast & Furious 6 – 2013

fast and furious 6 posterHobbs has Dom and Brian reassemble their crew in order to take down a mastermind who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries. Payment? Full pardons for them all.

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What we think: I’m going to make a big statement now, and I know that not everyone is going to agree with me, but I don’t care.

Fast and Furious 6 is the best action film of the year so far, “better than Iron Man 3?” I hear you say, yes, much better.

I’ve been a fan of this franchise since the very first one, and while Tokyo Drift might have been a little blip, or bump in the road, there is no denying that the films have delivered.

Fast and Furious 6 is the second film to be left on a cliffhanger (we’ll get to that later) and delves deep into the story of the mystery surrounding Letty’s () death a few films ago.

I don’t regard that as a plot spoiler as its in the trailer, having demolished most of Rio and now living peacefully in a country with no extradition Dom and new dad Brian think that they have put all their troubles behind them.

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After the opening credits which takes clips from all the films to date in a neat little montage, agent Hobbs (Johnson) comes knocking. His offer requires all the team converge once again, this time they have to track down and capture a ruthless mercenary called Owen Shaw () and his team.

Hobbs and Toretto have to stand side by side working together to take down the villain. Letty of course has returned and is working for the bad guys but has no memory of her past life whatsoever, convenient.

If you’re a true fan then the plot will reveal more to the back story and as it turns out part 6 is practically a sequel to part 4 with villains past announcing a few home truths.

For the most part the film and action is set in the heart of London, which includes a car chase that defy’s belief, a menage e trois of fist fights on the underground, shoot outs and a drag race that drifts quite literally through Piccadilly Circus.

The action is pulsating and totally over the top but you shouldn’t care in the least about that, what were you expecting the film to do? Each vehicular sequence is more mind bending than the next.

Take the opening chase for example which sees a modified F1 style car pursued by Toretto and his crew as well as local police. Weaving its way through the streets it has the ability to flip oncoming cars making the scene all the more exciting. Justin Lin whose directed the last four films is well in control and more than happy to up the action ante.

Like many others Fast and Furious 6, is guilty of a few plot holes only to be deconstructed by those who have nothing better to do. That said even I was left wondering what distance the longest runway in the world was?

There is a good degree of humour in it as well, with Tyrese Gibson’s Roman providing much of the light heartedness that the film needed, proving that a decent balance can be achieved. Let’s face it The Avengers had the same level of action and humour mixed and it seemed to work well.

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One of the dangers for this was having a cast that was pretty extensive, regrouping the team meant that there was jostling for position, but on the whole everyone has their time to shine and no one is really cast to the shadows.

Evans does a particularly good job as the main antagonist and  also proves her worth after the abject Haywire a few years back by showing her skills as an MMA fighter.

It’s has already been announced that there is going to be a Fast and Furious 7 which by all accounts will take place back in LA after the events of this film, which has a teasing post credit sequence that will surely bait those fans to come back once again.

James Wan steps into the directors chair for the seventh film, which leaves me wondering, how can a director whose churned out some truly brilliant horror films (Saw, Insidious) handle something where the action and set pieces need to be at their highest?

I found Fast and Furious 6 to be a highly entertaining film, and you’ll need to check your brain in at the door. To quote a cliche it ‘does what it says on the tin’, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which lets face it when you film a finale as big as that who cares how long the bloody runway was!

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Visit the IMDb page for Fast and Furious 6

Please feel free to leave a comment about this film, we would love to know what you think and we’ll do our best to respond!

Dead Man Down – 2013

dead man down posterIn New York City, a crime lord’s right-hand man is seduced by a woman seeking retribution.

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What we think: If you’re looking for a film that is as dark and disturbing as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you might be a little disappointed here.

Only a little however, director Niels Arden Oplev’s first English language feature produces effective results in what is a very good revenge thriller.

Farrell plays gangland enforcer Victor who during a shoot out saves the life of his boss Alphonse (Howard) who is being tormented by an unknown hell bent on making his life uncomfortable.

Victor has his own agenda, getting as close to Alphonse as possible before exacting revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter years earlier.

On the surface it looks like any bog standard Hollywood revenge thriller but dig a little deeper and therein lies an intricate story that weaves its way through to an explosive finale.

Oplev brings back Dragon Tattoo star Rapace and gives her a darker character, (one that she’ll be able to relate with) who has a past that has scared her, both inside and out, she’s after some revenge of her own.

Comparisons will be drawn to her most famous female lead, Lisbeth Salander.

Rapace plays Beatrice, a lonely individual who lives with her slightly deaf mother Valentine () who has a penchant for cooking and Tupperware and it would be argued her talents are wasted in this.

Beatrice blackmails Victor when she catches him knocking off a gang member in his apartment, and tells him that she’ll go to he police unless he helps her kill someone from her past.

Despite coming across as a revenge-actioner in the trailers the film itself has a lot more going for it than that, there is so much more to the story than just cracking heads and explosions.

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Beatrice’s pain at being scarred by a drunk diver who all but got away leaves her encased in worry and self pity, while Valentine does her best to push her back out into the world.

The relationship between Victor and Beatrice is cagey at first, but this isn’t an initial romance that is going to blossom with them walking off into the sunset together, not at the beginning anyway.

It is hard to tell who really wants what and its more about the coming together of two lost souls whose first thought in life is revenge, leaving everything else to come second.

The on screen chemistry between the two lead protagonists is believable, Farrell is steely eyed and strong and Rapace conveys herself  with devilish intrigue while at the same time giving off a sense of vulnerability.

Terrance Howard is slick and does a decent job, although I could think of a number of other actors who probably could have pulled off the character with a great deal more menace.

The action is pretty good, the highlight being the pulsating last 15 minutes which to be honest was well worth the admission price alone.

There was what I would call a ‘copout’ moment at the end, and after everything that Farrell had gone through I would have thought more attention would have been centered on that, instead I left feeling slightly short changed.

It’s a solid film from Niels Arden Oplev with some great acting and a finale that will leave you gasping for an encore.

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Visit the IMDb page for Dead Man Down

Please feel free to leave a comment about this film, we would love to know what you think and we’ll do our best to respond!