Shia LaBeouf is well-cast in this freewheeling combination of comedy, romance and action. He plays a scruffy guy with no plans and nothing to lose, lost in a strange culture while falling in love with the wrong woman. It's not a particularly original premise, and much of what happens feels wildly improbable, but the characters and situations are so entertaining that we can't help but hold on for the ride.
It opens in Chicago, where Charlie (LaBeouf) watches helplessly as his mother (Melissa Leo) dies in hospital, asking her what he should do next. Then there she is appearing to him, telling him to visit Bucharest. "That's weirdly specific," he replies, but he follows her advice, and on the flight over has another encounter with a dead person. This one asks him to look up his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) and give her a message. Of course, Charlie is instantly smitten, but tries to ignore the fact that Gabi's psychopathic husband Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) looks easily capable of murder. As does the mobster club owner Darko (Til Schweiger) Charlie has a run in with while out on the town with his youth hostel roommates, two chucklehead Brits (Rupert Grint and James Buckley).
As the title suggests, Charlie feels like death is inevitable for him, especially now that he seems to have caught whatever that kid from The Sixth Sense had. LaBeouf gives Charlie just the right mix of hapless loser and quick-thinking resourcefulness, and his chemistry with Wood is tetchy and fun to watch. Meanwhile, the scene-stealing supporting stars Mikkelsen, Schweiger, Grint and Buckley add a terrific mixture of comedy silliness and dark peril. This seems to be director Fredrik Bond's main goal here: to blend genres from grim drama to sweet romance to goofy slapstick to Taken-style action violence.
Continue reading: The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman Review
After travelling to Hawaii with George Clooney for The Descendants, Payne returns to middle America for this gentle, enjoyable exploration of family connections. Featuring an award-winning performance from Bruce Dern, the film harks back to Payne's About Schmidt as well as David Lynch's The Straight Story in the way it tracks straightforward characters across a rural landscape.
Dern plays Woody, a ramshackle drunk who lives in Montana and is convinced by a marketing mail-out that he has won a million dollars. His wife Kate (Squibb) has given up trying to talk to him, and son Ross (Odenkirk) is distracted by his new anchorman career. But younger son David (Forte) tries to explain the scam before giving in and agreeing to drive Woody to Nebraska to claim his prize. After all, this gives him a rare chance to bond with his rascally dad. Along the way, their journey takes some unexpected sideroads as they visit Woody's hometown, meeting friends and relatives from his past.
The film has a timeless quality thanks to Payne's strikingly astute direction and the elegant black and white photography by Phedon Papamichael. It also has a rhythmic pace, boosted by Mark Orton's tuneful score, infused with both spiky wit and understated sentiment. The key here is David's discovery of who his father really is: an unusually generous man who can't quite balance the reality of how his family and friends have treated him over the years.
Continue reading: Nebraska Review
A romantic comedy with a dark twist, this film gets under the skin as it knowingly explores both the writing process and the nature of relationships. It also gives its cast a lot to play with in scenes that feature both broad slapstick and much more serious drama.
Paul Dano stars as Calvin, a writer who struck lightning with his first novel at age 19 and hasn't been able to write anything since. His brother (Messina) teases him about his future, his agent (Mandvi) is pushing him to write a new novel, and his therapist (Gould) just wants him to write something, anything. So he starts typing up a story about the girl (Kazan) who appears in his dreams. Then there she is, Ruby Sparks, in his kitchen! Sure he's officially losing his mind, he's shocked to discover that others can see her too. So he brings her into his life as his girlfriend, even introducing her to his hippie mother and stepdad (Benning and Banderas).
The film starts out as a breezy comedy, and Dano plays these scenes for laughs, including several broadly silly set-pieces as Calvin first meets Ruby. But the undertone very quickly starts turning serious, as we begin to understand the central themes about how we relate to our partners. Would we control their behaviour if we could? Get rid of annoying habits? Make them be more like our idea of the perfect spouse? But of course, that would cause a whole new set of problems.
Continue reading: Ruby Sparks Review
Kassie (Aniston) is a professional woman in New York who has given up waiting for Mr Right and starts looking for a sperm donor. This rather unsettles her best friend Wally (Bateman), who has always had a crush on her but was afraid to tell her. When Kassie finds the perfect man (Wilson), her plan moves ahead, but Wally drunkenly makes a last-minute switch. Seven years later, Kassie returns to New York with her little boy (Robinson). Wally realises what has happened, but he's even more afraid to break the news now.
Continue reading: The Switch Review
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