Cinema Review: Runner Runner

runner_runner_ben_affleck_a_l

 

DIR: Brad Furman • WRI: Brian Koppelman, David Levien • PRO: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran , Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Michael Shamberg , Stacey Sher • DOP: Mauro Fiore • ED: Jeff McEvoy • DES: Charisse Cardenas • Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie

You go the cinema expecting an expose doc on the trainer industry and instead end up with a run of the mill thriller. Fittingly, this film is bizarrely akin to spending an hour and a half on a treadmill. Insofar as it expends a lot of energy but really doesn’t go anywhere. Not anywhere remotely interesting anyway.

Justin Timberlake takes a break from his music to play a Princeton grad student who takes a break from his studies to track down the shady big-wig behind an online poker empire. His crudely named character Richie Furst considers himself a bit of a whizz at virtual cards but takes major umbrage when he is cleared out online. Proving that you have to spend money to get money back, he takes off on a rather whimsical trip to Costa Rica to get his tuition fees reimbursed. Convinced that he has been ripped off, Richie intends to confront the mysterious businessman Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) behind an ultra successful cyber gambling site.

Disproportionally impressed by this bit of brio, Block naturally offers Richie the kind of Faustian pact that even blind blues musicians at a crossroads at midnight could see coming from a million miles away. Richie subsequently appears to develop a kind of ‘crime glaucoma’ where everything is rosy and legit right in front of his eyes but he inexplicably can’t see the major criminal edges of Block’s empire. Even subtle hints like Block feeding lumps of frozen meat to his pet crocodiles on a moonlit jetty fail to raise an eyebrow. It apparently takes a lot to sour Richie’s cheery worldview that mobsters, gamblers and prostitutes are all law-abiding all of the time.

With American law enforcement closing in on the exiled Block, soon Richie’s only choice is whether to be a stool pigeon for the Feds or a patsy for the bad guy. Perhaps his eureka moment arrived in a deleted scene where he rents ‘The Firm’ (the Tom Cruise one – not the Danny Dyer one) and follows its’ step by step guide to getting out of this exact same scenario. In fact, this entire film feels like one particular sequence from that thriller where Gene Hackman brought Cruiser down to the Caymans to corrupt him.

Trying to figure out the motivation of the actors for doing this rather feeble film is kind of fun. Timberlake is definitely committed to being serious about his thespian career. Protected by strong directors like Fincher in The Social Network, he can transmit his inherent charm through the camera with nonchalant ease. Nor is the onus of shouldering the central role brand new territory for him. He has borne the pressure of carrying a movie before and far better than here. Even in fluff like Friends with Benefits or In Time, he stretched himself and, to an extent, proved himself. In this, he looks uncomfortable and even that discomfort doesn’t feed into the nervous energy that the character should emit at pivotal moments.

Whereas ostensible female lead Gemma Arterton needs exposure in big American releases so her agenda is obvious and understandable though the resultant pallid role never taps into her considerable talents. For Affleck, you’d have to suspect the pay cheque was more tempting than the material. An opening speech about exile aside, there’s no depth or context to Block’s villainy. Maybe Affleck got to write Argo 2 on location in the tropics but the outstanding question then becomes what exactly does an audience get out of Runner Runner?

Precious little is the answer unless you’re in the most forgiving form of your life. It may just suffice as a sun kissed slice of distraction but in reality, there’s not a beat of this story that isn’t predictable or even tries to subvert the overly familiar.

Admittedly this is glib but if someone suggests going to Runner Runner, do a runner in the opposite direction.

James Phelan

15A (See IFCO for details)

95 mins
Runner Runner is released on 27th September 2013

Runner Runner – Official Website

 

http://www.runnerrunnermovie.com/index.html

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Cinema Review: Trouble with the Curve

DIR: Robert Lorenz • WRI: Randy Brown  PRO: Clint Eastwood, Robert
Lorenz, Michele Weiser • DOP:  Tom Stern • ED: Joel Cox, Gary Roach • DES:
James J Murakami  • Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake,
John Goodman

When Clint Eastwood stepped out in front of the camera for 2008’s
excellent Gran Torino (which he, of course, also directed), it was
assumed that it was to be his acting farewell, and given how memorable
a character Walt Kowalski was, it is easy to see why.

Indeed, the man himself had intended to stay behind the camera (he has
directed Invictus, Hereafter and J. Edgar in the meantime), but the
postponement of his planned A Star Is Born remake with Beyonce Knowles
has freed him to star in his long-term collaborator Robert Lorenz’s
debut feature Trouble with the Curve.

In many ways, Clint’s involvement with this film sees him coming full
circle, because whereas it has now become the norm to expect him to
direct rather than act, Trouble with the Curve finds him acting in a
film that he didn’t also helm for the first time since Wolfgang
Petersen’s In the Line of Fire back in 1993.

The four-time Academy Award winner stars as Gus, a veteran baseball
scout who is under pressure to deliver the goods on his latest
scouting mission, as he silmutaneously attempts to hide his
deteriorating eye sight from his employers. Concerns about his
condition leads to his boss, and best friend, Pete Klein (John
Goodman) sending Gus’ high-flying lawyer daughter (Amy Adams) along
with him on his latest trip.

It is here that we get a real sense of the estrangement between the
two, and as they struggle to get along, Justin Timberlake crops up as
a former hot-shot college player turned Boston Red Sox scout, who
re-connects with his one-time recruiter Gus, as well as becoming a
potential love interest for Adams’ Mickey.

To compare Eastwood’s performance here to what we saw four years ago
in Gran Torino is perhaps unfair, as it would be asking a lot to
expect him to deliver the goods to the same extent this time around.
It doesn’t shy away from dealing with serious and sensitive subject
matters, though, as Gus’ inability to catch the action as it happens
become a central point in the drama.

Lorenz, who has worked on a total of 16 Eastwood films in a variety of
roles, approaches the job of directing in the same kind of unfussy and
leisurely manner that has become a trademark of his mentor in the past
few decades. There are also some nice touches to Randy Brown’s script,
but it does suffer from having a somewhat predictable and unremarkable
story.

However, if you are an Eastwood fan (and despite his bizarre episode
with an empty chair a few months ago at a Republican Party Convention,
a large number of people are), it is hard not to find some sort of
charm in the way the film is played out, especially when Eastwood’s
grizzled presence is balanced out with Adams’ endless charm.

The Unforgiven star’s iconic status has been there for all to see
since the Dollars Trilogy back in the 1960s, but equally Adams is one
of the finest young actresses working in Hollywood today, and can
currently be seen in scene-stealing form in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The
Master.

Timberlake shows once again that he is a very solid screen actor, and
it is refreshing to see that his character is the one with the
supporting romantic angle, as that is a burden that is so often left
at the door of an actress. Goodman is fresh from an excellent role of
his own in Ben Affleck’s Argo, and you are left to wonder why himself
and Eastwood haven’t worked together before now, as they have a very
easy chemistry with each other.

With small but pivotal characters also played by Matthew Lillard, Bob
Gunton and Robert Patrick, Trouble with the Curve never stretches
itself too far, and if it is a long way from the classic Clint of the
past, it is still something of a pleasure to see the great man on the
big screen once again.

Daire Walsh

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

111 mins
Trouble with the Curve  is released on 30th November 2012

Trouble with the Curve – Official Website

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Cinema Review: In Time

pop star

DIR/WRI: Andrew Niccol • PRO: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Andrew Niccol • DOP: Roger Deakins • ED: Zach Staenberg • DES: Alex McDowell • CAST: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde

Writer/director Andrew Niccol has tackled major subjects years before they became prominent in the media’s eye, be it cloning (Gattaca), reality shows (The Truman Show), or digitially created actors (S1m0ne). This time Niccol marries an old idea of everyone dying at the age of 25 (not unlike Logan’s Run) with the issue of imbalanced wealth distribution (which has been a hot topic for the last half decade), which makes this movie already feel, well, old.

In this alternate future, everyone stops aging at 25, and every second after that has to be earned, with your life expectancy viewable on your arm like a stopwatch that shows your constantly dwindling bank balance. Justin Timberlake is making a day-to-day living when a man with over a century on his arm gives him all his time, then promptly kills himself. Soon after, Timberlake’s mother (Olivia Wilde) dies when yet another price time hike empties her clock. This prompts Timberlake to go to where all the rich folk live and find out why some get to live potentially forever, while others are left to drop dead on the street. While there he is accused of murder, and goes on the run with spoilt rich kid Amanda Seyfried.

Due to the ‘Do Not Pass 25’ rule, Niccol is able to fill his cast with some very attractive faces (Timberlake, Seyfried, Wilde, not to mention Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer and Cillian Murphy), and they all do reasonably well with their roles, but the movie itself is a potentially brilliant 15-minute short stretched out into a mediocre 109-minute feature. Once the universe is established, everything else is just a sci-fi Bonnie & Clyde/Robin Hood mish-mash of chases and robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. So while this is by no means a bad film, it is an epic case of ‘what could have been’.

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
In Time is released on 4th November 2011

In Time – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Friends with Benefits

it's your turn to wash up

 

DIR: Will Gluck • WRI: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck • PRO: Liz Glotzer, Will Gluck, Martin Shafer, Janet Zucker, Jerry Zucker • DOP: Michael Grady • ED: Tia Nolan • DES: Marcia Hinds • CAST: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman

Armageddon VS Deep Impact. Volcano VS Dante’s Peak. Capote VS Infamous. Antz VS A Bug’s Life. Whenever two movies with a similar set up are released within the a few months of each other, you can almost hear the ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ chant in the background. And while it would be nice to think that cinema is a broad enough medium to allow two movies about the same thing to co-exist, unfortunately there is always one clear winner. And this year, Friends with Benefits has beat out its competition No Strings Attached by a wide margin.

But this movie actually has less in common with that Kutcher/Portman flop than it does with something all the more surprising… Scream. Both movies are self-aware and post-modern, pointing out the traps within their genre but succumbing to them anyway. Both make pop-references both current (Louis CK! Flash-Mobs!) and ‘classic’ (Seinfeld! Nora Ephron!). Both feature the lead characters watching a bad example of the genre their extracting the urine from (Scream had Stab, and in this case it’s a spot on, so-bad-its-great rom-com starring Jason Segel and Rashinda Jones). But most importantly, both movies have attractive people running around trying not to get hurt, but we know they will eventually.

Justin Timberlake is fine as the recently dumped, new in NY guy with something of a troubled home life. Mila Kunis continues to blur the lines between cute and sexy with yet another lovable turn as a feisty and smart fun-loving creature. There’s some great support from the likes of Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Andy Samberg, Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson and Jenna Elfman. New York is shot to perfection and the dialogue rattles along at the same pace director Will Gluck brought to his surprisingly brilliant hit last year, Easy A.

But the one trump card Scream has over Friends with Benefits was mystery. The ‘who did it/who’s gonna die next’ guessing game can’t be applied to a rom-com, as there is always only one outcome to these scenarios. Everyone and their dog knows these two will end up together, but while watching this, a little part of you will really want these two to remain just friends.

Rory Cashin

Rated 16 (see IFCO for details)

Friends With Benefits is released on 9th September 2011

Friends With Benefits – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJS-wWqVAyk

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Saoirse Ronan in Dirty Dancing?


Paddy Power are currently offering odds of 20/1 on Ms Ronan playing the role of Baby in the upcoming remake of Dirty Dancing. Saoirse would most likely be playing opposite Justin Timberlake, who is the 3/1 favourite to take on the Swayze mantle.

But although we know our Irish acting powerhouse would do us all proud and have the time of her life, we have to admit that an American actress is much more likely to be the wind through Johnny’s tree. Emma Stone, with her perky cuteness, is 5/1 to get the part.

However, Stone’s co-star will have their work cut out for them if the ‘spider monkey’ incident is anything to go by. Whilst filming a Dirty Dancing lift scene in the film Crazy, Stupid, Love, co-star Ryan Gosling got a kick in the neck. The goal was to have Ryan lift Emma above his head, but Emma had a panic attack and couldn’t do it. ‘I ran for him to pick me up, and I don’t know what happened,’ she said. ‘I went spider monkey around his head and kicked him in the throat.’

Ryan has shared his side of the experience: ‘Emma was convinced I was going to drop her. She turned into a bag of rats, going all over the place.’

So here’s to a fantastic blooper-reel in the upcoming remake. We’ll just have to wait, with hungry eyes…

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Yogi Bear

yogi bear

DIR: Eric Brevig • WRI: Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, Brad Copeland• PRO: Donald De Line, Karen Rosenfelt • DOP: Peter James • ED: Kent Beyda • DES: David Sandefur • CAST: Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris

The sun has barely settled on 2010 and already audiences have been thrown into the deep end with tasters of what kind of film our big screens are to be graced with this year. From this end of the year it would seem that it is shaping up to be the year of recycling childhood loves and hurtling them onto the big screen for all to enjoy. Enter Yogi Bear. That’s right kids, hold on to your pic-a-nic baskets because everyone’s favourite partially-dressed bear (sorry Paddington!) is making a comeback.

Dan Aykroyd adopts the attitude of the ever-hungry bear with ease and he is effortlessly believable in this role. This is more than can be said for Justin Timberlake as Boo-Boo, which seems like an odd choice as Timberlake adopts a childish tone for this role which leaves many raised eyebrows in the theatre.

As much as I wanted to fall in love with this movie, there was something missing. The characters were flat and ironically very two-dimensional; Yogi is no longer the active protagonist we remember. There seemed to be neither rhyme nor reason for any of the situations to take place other than to make two animated bears engage in a bit of feigned physical comedy. Generally, a hybrid of animation and live-action can create moments of hilarity and a situation of wonderment for the little ones, but this amalgamation is so awkwardly composed that from one scene to the next we are merely waiting for our live-action heroes to realise that this is not normal.

Naturally, children will find this animated caper a riot for its pure ridiculousness but it would seem that filmic laziness has persevered here as Yogi’s creators have relied so heavily on the film’s only audience being very young children, that they have neglected those who bring them. On this front, they could have taken a leaf out of Tangled’s storybook as it has been a hit with children and adults alike. It seems a little careless to neglect adults in the scripting of Yogi’s comeback, when it’s the adults who would have grown up with his short cartoons.

There is very little to grab hold of story-wise here and everything feels a little too rushed, we never truly get to know our characters whether live-action or animated despite having spent a normal amount of time in a cinema seat. It baffles me slightly what creators were thinking in bringing back a beloved character so haphazardly, surely young children are too young to be given movies which require a flick of the mental off-switch? Either way, it would seem that this year doesn’t bode well for returns, watch out Smurfs!

Here, Yogi is no longer smarter than the average bear, but then again neither are the film’s creators it would seem.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Yogi Bear
is released on 11th February 2011

Yogi Bear – Official Website

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