Philomena

philomena

There are people out there that will argue that a film like ‘Philomena’ is another attack on the Catholic Church, as it strives to paint church practices from the past in a negative light. While that may in fact be a part of the message that others will take from this film, it is also a film that highlights the struggles of living silently with your past and how hard it can be to overcome that.

The story of how an Irish woman lived for 50 years with the loss of her son who was forcibly adopted while living in an abbey highlights not the negative practices of the catholic Church, which were widespread throughout the world at the time, but brings to light the fact that hearing about things like this can negatively skew our views in the here and now.

Dame Judi Dench portrays the aforementioned Philomena Lee, who, on the 50th birthday of the son that she lost, decides anew that she wants to try and track him down. In order to do so, she winds up in the hands of Steve Coogan’s Martin Sexsmith, former public sector employ who is moving back to the private sector.

While Dench was quite warranted in her nomination for a Best Actress Academy Award, and her struggles to deal with new surroundings while dealing with old hurts are symbolic of this, I truly feel that the star of this film is in fact Coogan’s turn as Sexsmith, but that might be due to my thoughts on organized religion as a whole as to why I lined up with him.

‘Philomena’ tells a singular story that highlights larger issues, but does so in such a manner that leaves you wondering if more stories like this have been resolved, and if so, were they done so in happier confines than how the story ends here.

It is quite clear why this film is up for four Academy Awards this weekend, with nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score to go along with Dench’s Best Actress. It might surprise in a couple of categories, but it is definitely worth a watch at home with loves ones.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

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That Awkward Moment

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For any that know me, you know full well that I am not one to see films that are generally marketed as romantic-comedies. The reason for this is solely within myself, as I have long been quick to call anything that smells like a rom-com as a chick flick. While that changed slightly during 2013 with the film ‘About Time’, films like ‘That Awkward Moment’ still managed to stay well outside my general viewing area.

I do fully admit that going into ‘That Awkward Moment’ that I was treating it as a brownie point movie. I have dragged my fiancee to many different films over the past few years and this was a trade to balance that out. What I never expected from this film was to actually enjoy it, but that is precisely what happened.

While not exactly fitting into the desired demographic for this film, or most others anymore either, I was able to find myself laughing and chuckling along with the majority of this film. It is true that the “story” behind ‘That Awkward Moment’ was definitely setup to bring in a female audience, having the film be told mainly from the perspective of three male friends allowed the film to branch across to people like myself.

It is true that the acting is lacking in this film, but, for myself at least, that actually led to more enjoyment, as the actors and actresses within seemed to focus more on the comedic overtones of the film than anything else.

There are plenty of other, worse, films out there that you could suffer through, but if you are looking for something for a date flick, you could do a whole lot worse than ‘That Awkward Moment’. Take your significant other, and laugh at others misfortunes on the big screen.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

RoboCop

robocop

We live in a time of reboots and remakes. There really is nothing that we can do about that anymore, and for myself personally, if there is enough of a difference between the film we get today and the original source material, I am actually kind of okay with that.

The latest film to try and fit into this mold is the remake ‘RoboCop’, giving us a new telling of the creation of a cyborg police officer. First released back in 1987, the original ‘RoboCop’ has become one of the more beloved science-fiction films of the 1980’s, along with another film that has recently been remade by Sony Pictures, ‘Total Recall’.

The big drawing part of the original ‘RoboCop’ was the sci-fi elements of the future and what could happen by resurrecting a recently deceased police officer and making him into a crime fighting cyborg. While that is definitely something that we get in this year’s remake, what we also get is another take on a political or social element like drones and our ever increasing willingness to rely on robotics.

Featuring Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson in supporting of main leads Abbie Cornish and Joel Kinnaman, the new ‘RoboCop’ may not capture the hubris of the original, but with decent enough acting and a fresh take on a story, it is a film that will be quite popular overseas, if not in North America.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Her

her

‘Her’ will go down as the one of the strangest and weirdest films that I have ever seen.  The premise of a man from the near-future falling in love with the Artificial Intelligence of his computer Operating System was completely different to begin with.  But after actually watching the film, that is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ‘Her’.

Spike Jonze crafted a rather interesting take on societies current addiction to social media and how we, as humans, currently interact with our technology.  That is truly the highlight of ‘Her’, forcing us to look into ourselves to see if this is in fact something that could happen to any one of us in the future.

Joaquin Phoenix does a wonderful job of playing a man struggling to deal with his personal life and the emotions that stem from it.  Phoenix has always been known for being somewhat quirky himself, so he really was a perfect fit in the main role of Theodore Twombly.

In a quite surprisingly emotional role, we also find Scarlett Johansson, playing the voice of the Artificial Intelligence that the lead character falls in love with.  From tentative wonder when first activated, all the way through finding “herself”, Johansson, through her voice alone, brings a character that you never see to life.

In the end, ‘Her’ does a great job of telling a new take on a love story, all while delving into commentary on our current reliance on technology and social media.  While the film gets a little odd at times, it does so all in the name of telling its story.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

The LEGO Movie

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It is rare that an animated film breaks out this time of year. It is also quite rare when a film based on a toy is a critical hit.  The fact that a film has managed to capture both of those at the same time is enticing, and that is exactly what we have gotten with ‘The LEGO Movie’.

The things to remember with regards to this film is that, although you would assume it is aimed directly at young boys, it truly ends up as a film for pretty much anyone.  The fact that this has been pulled off by Warner Brothers Animation is a bit of a shock.

Filled with social commentary, digs at business, and even a sly glance at how the business of LEGO has changed over the years, this film could wind up as being the huge breakthrough of 2014.

I don’t want to go too much into ‘The LEGO Movie’, because I want to leave it for everyone to see. And I can’t stress that point enough. Everyone should see this film.  There are enough laughs for both young and not-so-young alike.  The story is well told and one that most adults should take to heart moving forward, as I know that I am.  Do yourself a favour, catch ‘The LEGO Movie’.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

The Monuments Men

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‘The Monuments Men’ was the second film of this year that made my Ten to Watch list, and for the second time this year, I left a film wanting more. Unlike most other films though, it is actually difficult to pin down exactly what was missing in ‘The Monuments Men’.

Directed by George Clooney and starring Clooney along with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett, ‘The Monuments Men’ tells the story of a special unit in World War II tasked with trying to preserve important works of art in Europe.

The bottom line with ‘The Monuments Men’ as someone watching it, is that it is hard to figure out if you should treat this as a comedy with dramatic overtones, or a drama with jokes sprinkled within.

While, for the most part, I enjoyed this film, at times it seemed to be quite slow at times and that took me out of the film.  The tough part about this is that as I think back on it, it seems that it would be a little difficult to change much of the film from the cut that we ended up with.

The one thing that I absolutely loved with ‘The Monuments Men’ was the unique take on telling a World War II film.  Not focusing on the fighting or the plotting, this film really highlighted something that most people would not even be aware of: the Nazi theft of paintings, sculptures and other art from throughout western Europe.

I loved the story, but in the end the acting and the directing were subpar, which is much to the detriment to a story that truly needs to be told so that people everywhere can be aware of the lesser known sacrifices of war.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

12yearsI was originally planning on seeing ’12 Years a Slave’ all the way back in October or November, but things just didn’t work out. Much to my delight, I was able to see this film this past Wednesday at my local multiplex and I will tell you this: It was worth the wait.

’12 Years a Slave’ is at times a very hard watch, but one that is well worth it. Right from the opening, director Steve McQueen, in just his third feature film project, sets the tone for a two hour plus film that will test your resolve as a human being.

From McQueen’s directing, to the understated score from legend Hans Zimmer, ’12 Years a Slave’ is an emotional ride through the hardships suffered not by just one man, but generations of humans who were enslaved due to the colour of their skin.

The big thing with ’12 Years a Slave’ is that, unlike other films in 2013, this film earned the praise, the recognition and the award nominations that have come its way. Chiwetel Ejiofor carries this film with the kind of depth, emotion and gravitas that the big name veteran actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Tom Hanks can only dream of.

It really feels that Ejiofor threw everything he had into ’12 Years a Slave’, from the whipping he first takes upon being kidnapped, to pain of the lashing he is forced himself to give out near the end of the film. Ejiofor does such a wonderful job of bringing freeman-turned-slave Solomon Northup to the screen that in one scene, a shot of just Ejiofor looking into the camera, you cannot but help feel that you are indeed looking into the soul of Northup on a cotton plantation.

As much as this is a breakthrough role for an actor that you have quite possibly seen but not recognized in other films, the true coming out party from ’12 Years a Slave’ is reserved for Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o.

Nyong’o, who somehow just lost out on the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe award to Jennifer Lawrence, makes a stunning debut as a sometimes favoured slave of the character brought to the screen by McQueen favourite, Michael Fassbender. Nyong’o brings a very stark realization to this film, as we see just what it meant to be a “favourite” of a plantation owner.

’12 Years a Slave’ also benefits hugely from the main supporting roles of three actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and Academy Award nominee Fassbender.  All three actors play different roles in this film, and each highlight a vast difference in society during the 1840’s and 1850’s.

Fassbender is almost spellbinding as an alcoholic plantation owner, essentially the personification of evil in ’12 Years a Slave’.  Fassbender, who has featured in all three of director McQueen’s feature films, plums the depths of the evils that white plantation owners inflicted on their black slaves, and the ironic love that they seemed to have for their favourites.

To contrast Fassbender, we have Cumberbatch who is our first plantation owner we come across as his character is the first to purchase Northup following his abduction. Cumberbatch shows the lesser side of the evil, showing favour for his “debt” and standing almost as a polar opposite to Fassbender’s character later in the film.

Finally, we have Brad Pitt in the smallest of the three roles but one that is the most critical to the resolution of the film.  Pitt shows his years as a Canadian abolitionist carpenter who provides Northup with the recourse to his salvation.  Of the three, Fassbender definitely does carry his Best Supporting Actor nomination well.

The end of the film killed me and, even though you know how it is going to end, you can’t help but fully feel the entire well of emotion that has been dredged up throughout ’12 Years a Slave’.

As for the Academy Awards next month, ’12 Years a Slave’ is my choice for Best Picture, as is Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress.  Both Steve McQueen for Best Director and Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor are most warranted but will have tough competition for their wins.  As for Michael Fassbender and the Best Supporting Actor award, it is unfortunate that he is up against a not as deserved momentum train called Jared Leto this year, as I feel it should Fassbender all the way.

In the end, while a tough film to watch at times, ’12 Years a Slave’ is the best film from 2013 that I have seen and one that will stay with me for years to come.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.