Cinema Review: Stuck in Love

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DIR/WRI: Josh Boone • PRO: Judy Cairo • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Robb Sullivan • DES: John Sanders • Cast: Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins

Stuck in Love spends a year with a broken family finding their voices in a changing world. As with many indie films, they all speak as though they have all the answers, but this is no simple love story. All our characters are struggling with the very idea of love.

 

We meet Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear), a divorced father of two, struggling to match his early writing success following his divorce from Erica (Jennifer Connolly) who, after marrying a younger man apparently still can’t decide where she wants to be.

 

Bill’s children both want to follow in his writing footsteps. His daughter, Sam (Lily Collins) is a devastatingly beautiful yet cynical-in-love young woman who finds herself publishing her first novel whilst attempting to recoil from the advances of die-hard romantic Lou (Logan Lerman).

 

Meanwhile, son Rusty (Nat Wolff) exists in his sister’s shadow. He is struggling to find his voice in writing and life and falls for a girl who needs more help than he realizes. Bill and his children make up a trifecta of romantic misfits. Perhaps it is intentional given his existence in the shadow of his sister’s success, but Wolff unfortunately fades into the background here alongside Connolly.

 

Kristen Bell takes a departure from goofier characters here as Tricia, Bill’s neighbor-with benefits-who takes it upon herself to force Bill back into the dating world. Logan Lerman is a gorgeously executed character here as Lou, who far from being the usual pathetic love-interest, sets upon wooing Sam with wit and intelligence.

 

Stuck in Love is the debut offering from writer/director Josh Boone. This is nothing if not a passion project. We understand implicitly that Boone understands his characters better than most screenwriters, having given each of his actors a ‘care package’ of items (including of course, books) that his characters would love in order for them to get a better sense of the character as they exist in his mind.

 

The film somewhat lacks the intensity of a real purpose driving the story. It is character-driven rather than being driven by narrative. In general, this shouldn’t work on screen but, with Boone’s caring hand, it somehow works. We care enough about each character to want to spend time with them, whether or not they will lead us to any gritty on-screen action.

 

It becomes clear that, despite being unable to write a word of his own prose, Bill is the author of our story here. Bill exists as an observer, rather than a participant, which is ironic given his writing advice to his son:

 

‘A writer is the sum of their experiences. Go get some.’

 

Kinnear shares a beautiful chemistry with Collins who manages the same on-screen mastery.

 

This movie is a must-see for all book-lovers. We learn that that the kind of books our characters read reveals more about each character than any amount of dialogue.

 

Stuck in Love is a charming snapshot of a family in crisis, which teaches us what it means to be part of a family and the way in which people become part of a story. It begins and ends with Thanksgiving in a demonstration of the over-arching theme of the film, that endings can also be beginnings.

 

Ciara O’Brien

15A (see IFCO website for details)

96 mins
 Stuck in Love is released on 14th June 2013

Stuck in Love – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Hit and Run

 

DIR: Dax Shepard, David Palmer  WRI: Dax Shepard  PRO: Andrew Panay , Nate Tuck, Kim Waltrip  DOP: Bradley Stonesifer  ED: Keith Croket  DES: Emily Bloom  CAST:  Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper

 

Chase movies are often derided as being flat and singular in their narrative and their characters. When you take films like White Lightning or The Driver, there’s little exposition beyond the necessaries in order to forward the story. There’s rarely much story other than the chase and why the characters are being chased. However, Hit and Run is attempting to mesh recent dramedies like Knocked Up and TV’s Scrubs with chase movie tropes. It’s an interesting choice of genre-mashing as you wouldn’t expect them to work – yet here, it strangely does. Dax Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a former getaway driver who’s living in smalltown America with his beautiful girlfriend, Annie Bean (Kristen Bell). When Annie is offered a new job in Los Angeles, Charlie agrees to take her. Shrugging off his Witness Protection agent, Tom Arnold, Charlie takes his Lincoln Continental on the road and heads for the city. Not only are the couple being chased by Tom Arnold, Annie Bean’s ex-girlfriend takes after them and manages to wrangle in Charlie’s former gang to help.

The mixture of genres is interesting and some of the comedy moments do go over quite well. Shepard’s ease working with both his real-life fiance Kristen Bell and long-time friend Bradley Cooper is very much evident throughout. The improvisational nature of the dialogue works well and the fun everyone had making the film comes through. As well as that, Shepard’s love of old-school muscle cars comes through. It’s clear he isn’t just paying lip service to old chase movies or, indeed, the use of American cars for key chase sequences. However, most of the action / chase scenes are quite flat and lack clear direction and energy. Given how Shepard wrote, starred, directed and edited this and without studio intervention, it’s abundantly clear that Hit and Run was a passion project. His enthusiasm for American cars and gearhead culture bursts through the film – particularly in one scene where he and Bell discuss the type of person that would actually drive a blacked-out, tooled-up Lincoln Continental.

 

Sadly, for all of Shepard’s enthusiasm and pluck, it doesn’t translate into much. The film is overwrought with bland subplots, particularly the ex-boyfriend (Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum) and Tom Arnold’s closeted homosexuality that verges on offensive. As mentioned, the chase sequences become uninteresting very quickly and lack real pacing and vigour. While the film was made for a measly two million dollars, half of which was spent on securing the film’s genuinely impressive soundtrack, it’s clear that Hit and Run was being pushed along by Shepard himself. Had he brought in a full-time director and given the screenplay over to a more experienced writer, something much more credible and enjoyable could have been made. Overall, Hit and Run is reasonably enjoyable but doesn’t have any sustaining qualities or glaring faults.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
99 mins

Hit and Run is released on 12th October 2012

Hit and Run   –  Official Website

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Astro Boy

Astro Boy
DIR: David Bowers • WRI: Timothy Harris • PRO: Maryann Garger • DOP: Pepe Valencia • ED: Robert Anich Cole • DES: Phillip Barker • CAST: Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Freddie Highmore

Astro Boy was originally a Japanese comic from the 1950s and was developed into a cult animated TV series in the 1960s. Now, in 2009 it has been translated to the big screen as a computer-animated feature by David Bowers of Flushed Away (2006) fame. The opening of Astro Boy is narrated by Charlize Theron, who explains that in the future, the human population will depend on robots as a workforce and to serve them in their every need.

Toby Tenma (voiced by Freddie Highmore) is a thirteen-year-old boy, who does well in school. Toby is interested in his father’s work. His father, Dr. Tenma (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is the head of the Ministry of Science in the fictional town of Metro City. The devilish President Stone (voiced by Donald Sutherland) wants the ministry’s latest discovery of positive and negative energy to activate and control the ‘Peacekeeper’ military robot to get him re-elected as president. Toby dies in a freak accident at the ministry when the ‘Peacekeeper’ is being tested with negative energy.

Dr. Tenma is devastated and decides to revive Toby with positive energy and makes him a robot, with the same memories and feelings as Toby. Toby soon discovers his identity and that he has super powers. He goes to another city and encounters some new friends among them Cora (voiced by Kristen Bell). She and her friends take an interest in Toby who keeps the fact that he is a robot a secret. Toby also encounters the ‘Robot Revolutionary Front’, three old English robots who are against the treatment of robots by Hamegg (voiced by Nathan Lane) who just so happens to be the father figure of Toby’s new friends.

Donald Sutherland’s character has an extraordinary animated likeness to himself in appearance. President Stone’s scheming to retain the positive energy at any length becomes tiresome and through the action scenes the script runs out of steam because these characters are not interesting. Astro Boy has its moments of cheesy one-liners and loud special effects. But the journey that Astro Boy takes is dense and predictable. The blaring over-use of John Ottman’s music and the level of sentimentality wound the film severely. It becomes manipulative and forced. However, the ‘Robot Revolutionary Front’ will keep you amused with some decent one-liners.

Peter Larkin
(See biog here)

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Astro Boy is released 5th Feb 2010

Astro Boy – Official Website

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