Tag Archives: Blake Lively

Movie Review: The Age of Adaline (2015)

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The Age of Adaline, about a beautiful woman who suddenly stops ageing, is one of the weirdest movies I’ve seen this year. I liked it from a big picture perspective, but if I start to think about the specifics it starts to creep me out a bit.

Blake Lively plays Adaline Bowman, a young widow and single mother who suddenly stops ageing at the age of 29 after an accident. Being unable to have  a lasting relationship with anyone apart from her daughter (Ellen Burstyn), Adaline is afraid to love and basically lives like the Cullen family from Twilight, using fake names and moving locations periodically to avoid being recognised.

It’s a fascinating concept filled with intriguing possibilities, but The Age of Adaline barely touches on any of them so it can focus solely on love. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if the execution is as effective as it is here.

The story centres on Adaline’s relationships with two dudes — a young one played by Michiel Huisman (best known as Daario from Game of Thrones) and an old one played by Harrison Ford. I won’t divulge more than that except to say the dynamics are really weird; some might go as far as to call it plain wrong. Such is the problem with a woman who doesn’t age.

The best way to describe this film is a fantasy romance. It has a fantastical feel to it in the vein of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but it’s also a melodramatic love story that channels Nicholas Sparks. Not as cringy, of course, though it has the same type of sweetness and longing and regret Sparks is renowned for.

It’s a movie that relies on coincidences and promotes the idea of fate. It ignores what should be extreme awkwardness so it won’t get in the way of the “magical” vibe of the love story. There is even a narrator who talks like he’s reading from a children’s story book, explaining to us — in semi-scientific and semi-magical terms — precisely what is happening to Adaline’s body.

The result is a strange but also strangely satisfying experience. Full credit to Blake Lively for arguably the best performance of her career. I’ve always only seen her as Serena van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl, and this is the first time it feels like she has completely embodied a different character. It’s not easy playing someone who looks young but is old at heart, but she’s good enough to make it convincing, even when starring opposite a heavyweight like Burstyn who is 54 years older than her in real life.

Ford also puts in one of the best performances I’ve seen from him in years. I knew he could do brooding but I had no idea he could do yearning old man so well. Huisman, by comparison, is good-looking but isn’t charismatic enough to convince me that he would be capable of being the one to woo Adaline when so many others have failed.

At the end of the day, The Age of Adaline is a fable about mortality that doesn’t tell us anything new or better than what others have done before it. It’s also fantastical and absurd, though it’s hard to deny that there is a dreamy sweetness to the tale that tugs at all the right heart strings. While It may fall short of captivating, I found it entertaining and romantic enough to be enjoyable.

3.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Savages (2012)

Savages is undeniably Oliver Stone. It’s dark and ultra-violent; tense and explosive; upsetting yet magnetically compelling. Plus it features an awesome cast delivering knockout performances. I didn’t love it but I thought it packed a punch and was thoroughly entertaining.

Based on the novel by Don Winslow,  Savages tells the story of best friends Ben (Aaron Johnson — who is completely unrecognisable from the role that made him famous: Kick-Ass from Kick-Ass!!!) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a couple of laid back weed growers who are extremely good at what they do. That eventually becomes a problem for a Mexican cartel (led by Salma Hayek), who orders her enforcer (Benicio del Toro) to do something about it. The key to everything is the girl both boys are in love with and is equally in love with them, O (short for Ophelia — and played by Blake Lively).

It’s not a particularly mind-blowing premise, but Stone knows how to infuse each scene with his trademark intensity. There are plenty of really “full on” sequences and encounters that kept me on the edge of my seat — and sometimes all they’re doing is just talking. The film is relatively long at 131 minutes, but apart from the slightly misguided ending I found it to be thoroughly engaging.

The film is called Savages because it’s about how people, regardless of their “normal” disposition, return to their animal instincts when they become desperate. And just about every major and minor character in this gets desperate at some stage.

The performance from the entire cast is outstanding. The film’s protagonists, played by Kitsch and Johnson, are pretty good as the polar opposite best friends, but they’re practically forgotten when pitted against the powerhouse duo of Del Toro and Hayek. I haven’t seen Hayek in her Oscar-nominated role in Frida, so to me this is the best she’s ever been. Del Toro’s performance, on the other hand, was every bit as exhilarating as his Oscar-winning role in Traffic, and I do hope he gets at least nominated again at the next Oscars.

The story itself is narrated by Lively, which is a strange choice considering how irritating her voice is. But to Lively’s credit, she showed once again (following her solid performance in The Town) that she can actually act. Sure, she plays a spoiled but neglected rich girl much like her character in Gossip Girl, but she makes us believe in their unorthodox relationship.

Rounding out the cast is John Travolta, a corrupt FBI agent. It’s the same obnoxious douchebag role he is so good at (or bad at) these days (Face/Off, Swordfish, The Taking of Pelham 123, etc) but he surprised me by being unusually effective. Maybe the other actors forced him to up his game.

Oh, and Emile Hirsch has a small role as well. I think he’s great.

While Savages is undoubtedly compulsive viewing, it lacks that little extra something to lift it into the category of elite Oliver Stone films. But it’s probably still his most satisfying film in years, clearly a cut above more recent efforts such as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, W, World Trade Center and Alexander.

3.75 stars out of 5

 

 

Movie Review: Green Lantern (2D) (2011)

Green Lantern, the latest comic book adaptation (from DC), is the type of film that would have been better received a few years ago — before the genre got ‘realistic’ and before the bar was exponentially raised by films such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

Does that make Green Lantern a horrible film?  No.  But when lined up against the other quality superhero films of recent times — actually, even just 2011 (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) — Green Lantern suddenly looks like a weak link.

I had almost no idea who or what Green Lantern was before this film came along — for years I got it confused with The Green Hornet (I thought the hornet lived in the lantern).

Well, in short, it’s about this intergalactic league of superhero protectors called ‘Lanterns’ that rely on the green power of ‘will’ (encased in a ring, powered by an actual lantern!) to fight enemies that utilise the yellow power of ‘fear’.  Stuff happens, a new Lantern is needed, and the ring chooses a human, a reckless fighter jet pilot by the name of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).  Of course, fear has also chosen someone, and it’s up to Jordan to overcome his own fear and save the world.

That sounds like a silly and derivative premise (it has shades of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Superman), and it is, but so are the premises of most comic superhero films.  It’s up to the makers of the film to make us believe in it, even if it’s just within the confines of the story’s own universe.

And that’s where Green Lantern struck out for me — apart from a fairly strong introduction, I didn’t believe in the story for the majority of the film’s 114-minute running time, and as a result, couldn’t connect emotionally with the narrative or the characters.   There were just too many gaps, inconsistencies and avoided issues to prevent the film from being a more engaging experience.  The writers and the director (Martin Campbell, who helmed Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness) didn’t make the necessary adjustments in bringing a comic book to life, and instead, the film played out like a children’s cartoon with (predominantly) human actors.  Perhaps for once they stayed too true to the original source.

Speaking of actors, Ryan Reynolds did everything he possibly could to fill the shoes of Hal Jordan but was still a disappointment.  On paper, Reynolds, with his pearly whites, ripped bod, boyish charm and wry sense of humour, was probably the one of the best choices for this superhero, but the poor screenplay never allowed him to fully break out.  The result was a relatively flat, forgettable performance and a character that should have been a lot more likeable.

Blake Lively plays Jordan’s childhood friend and fellow pilot Carol Ferris, and does a surprisingly good job, and dare I say looks better as a brunette than a blonde.  There is genuine chemistry between her and Reynolds, but again, something was holding them back.

The remainder of the all-star cast were all solid — Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi (from Boy), plus the voices of Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan and Clancy Brown (everyone’s favourite warden from Shawshank) — with the standout being Peter Saarsgard’s wonderful villain, who was more interesting to me than the hero and deserved more.

Having come across as rather negative, Green Lantern certainly wasn’t bad.  There were some exciting scenes, a few cracking action sequences and moments of ingenuity, and none of the film could be described as slow.  The digital effects were also very good, but nothing outstanding by today’s standards.  If we hadn’t been spoiled by so many good superhero movies in recent years, Green Lantern probably would have received a lot more love from critics and viewers alike.  Nonetheless, I hear Warner Bros are pushing forward with a sequel, with a potential for a trilogy.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Town (2010)

I finally got to see The Town, the Boston crime drama/thriller co-written and directed by Ben Affleck.  I had heard some good things about it, but I certainly did not expect The Town to be one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

There’s nothing terribly original or groundbreaking about the premise of ‘The Town’, ie Charlestown, a small neighbourhood that boasts the highest number of bank robbers in Boston.  Affleck plays Doug MacCray, a local crook with a shady family history and a hot-headed best friend, James Coughlin, played by Jeremy Renner (from The Hurt Locker).  An introductory heist introduces two key characters — Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a pretty bank manager, and Adam Fawley (Jon Hamm from Mad Men), an FBI agent hunting them down.

The Town is an intense, emotional and explosive roller coaster ride that’s gripping from the very beginning until the final scene.  It’s incredibly sharp, well written, has a great cast, and the heist sequences are some of the best I’ve ever seen.  Affleck, who has never been the greatest actor in my opinion, has established himself as one heck of a director, and I certainly hope there will be plenty more to come from him in the future.

Affleck, Hall and Hamm are all solid — but for me it’s the brilliant Jeremy Renner who steals the show as the impulsive, reckless, but extremely loyal friend.  The guy exudes screen presence and put me on edge every time he appeared.  He was terrific in The Hurt Locker, where he was the ‘good guy’, but he’s probably even more effective here as a villain of sorts.  I was surprised the film didn’t get more love from the voters on the Golden Globes, but I’m pleased to see that Renner got the nod for a best supporting actor nomination (the film’s only nomination).

Another pleasant surprise was Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively, who has a small but important role as the local skank.  Lively has a tendency to annoy me on Gossip Girl, but I can’t deny she was amazing in this.  Well done.

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this film.  I’ve heard that critics are comparing The Town to the classic 1995 De Niro/Pacino film Heat. I was too young to remember the latter film favourably, but I am so impressed with The Town that I will definitely go check it out.

4.5 stars out of 5!