Tag Archives: john c reilly

Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-movie-poster-03When Eva (Tilda Swinton) fails to bond with her firstborn child Kevin (Ezra Miller), the relationship between the two becomes more and more volatile over time. As Kevin grows up he learns how to push Eva’s buttons and she has a hard time dealing with his cold demeanor and vicious actions. However, when Kevin does something beyond anyone’s worst nightmares, it brings Eva’s life crashing down around her.

I’m going to start this review my spoiling It’s a Wonderful Life. You know at the end when the whole town give George money and bail him out and everyone’s super happy because they all pull together and you get type 2 diabetes because it’s so sweet? Yeah, well We Need to Talk About Kevin is the polar opposite of that. There are no smiles here, no jokes; it’s a film with a bleak outlook that asks some difficult questions of its audience and refuses to let but the smallest glimmer of light escape from its dark and twisted core. But it’s brilliant.

We see Eva in the present day, alone, with the entire town gunning for her because of some monstrous event that’s occurred. We’re then shown, through a series of flashbacks, what it is that has cause such a reaction amongst everyone, and it’s in these flashbacks that we get the real meat of the story. It invokes myriad reactions and emotions and throws up endless questions with no easy answers. Kevin is clearly a troubled individual, but why is he like that? Was he born evil? Did Eva not show him enough affection? Should some people never have children? Can a mother always forgive her child? These are just some of the things you’ll find yourself conflicted about during the film and likely for a long while afterwards.

What really makes the film, however, is the central performances. Tilda Swinton is totally believable as a mother who wants to love her child but finds it immensely difficult and then struggles with everyday life following her son’s atrocity. It’s a performance filled with heartbreak, frustration and inner turmoil and is matched only by that of Ezra Miller opposite her. It’s slightly disturbing how convincing Miller is as Kevin, his cold, piercing stare as unsettling as anything you’ll see in any horror film. Despite that, it’s absolute joy to watch a young actor take on a role like this and deliver it with such aplomb.

The film is adapted from Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name, and it’s clear there are certain elements that would work much better on the page. This is a story that requires as much depth as possible to the relationships within the family to try and discover why Kevin is the way he is. The film does a decent job of examining these issues but it never feels quite as thorough as it needs to be or, although whether it’s even possible for the film to be that thorough is debatable.

We Need to Talk About Kevin isn’t an easy watch and some may find it a little too dark. However, it is stunningly shot, features an excellent score from Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood and revolves around a fascinating nature vs nurture argument. There’s a real intrigue to the story, and whilst you may be shocked at what happens, why it happens is the most fascinating part.

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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Film Review: Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it RalphEven though computer games and movies seems like a match made in heaven, the two do not often mix. Try and think of a decent film based on a computer game and you’ll struggle. Resident Evil, Hitman, Final Fantasy, Doom – the list goes on and they’re all pretty terrible. Likewise, most computer games based on films are inevitably cash-ins and end up being rushed out and largely disappointing. However, Disney (no Pixar this time) have created a film that shows the two mediums can work together in harmony.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in his videogame, Fix-it Felix, a Donkey Kong-esque arcade game in which he destroys buildings that Felix (Jack McBrayer) must fix before throwing Ralph from the top of the building. However, Ralph is tired of being the bad guy and wants in on the glory Felix receives. To do so, he leaves his game in search of a gold medal to prove he can be a good guy, invading games Hero’s Duty (Halo clone) and Sugar Rush (Mario Kart-esque racer) in the process. In Sugar Rush, he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a little girl whom the other racers have outcast because she’s a glitch, and together they try and work together to solve their problems.

Wreck-it Ralph is a Mecca for computer game fans young and old; from the outset you’re bombarded with computer game references that date back to the early days of gaming as well as those that acknowledge the newer, more modern games. One viewing is simply not enough to take in all of the references and some will only be noticed by the most hardcore and eagle-eyed gamers (there is also a sneaky reference to Disney acquiring the Star Wars franchise). It is this level of detail that helps to create a rich and vibrant environment that is somewhat reminiscent of the Toy Story universe.

Wreck-it Ralph

Various ‘real’ computer game characters have small parts but the original creations slot into this world seamlessly. The relationship between Ralph and Venellope is a believable one and bears more than a slight similarity to Monsters Inc.’s Sully and Boo. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman provide excellent voicing to their respective characters, with Jane Lynch also contributing excellently with her role as Calhoun, Hero’s Duty’s troubled lead.

The story is typical Disney fair but that’s no bad thing; it still handles it with the style that has been lacking as of late. However, it does lose its way in the second half of the film slightly, perhaps due to spending a little too long in the overly cutesy Sugar Rush (perhaps a way of enticing the little girl audience who don’t much care for computer games). It also doesn’t throw any surprises in there or offer much new; it’s a story that feels a little too similar to past Disney (and Disney Pixar) titles just repackaged slightly. Having said that, the way Disney have gone about repackaging it is very clever and unmistakably meticulous.

Wreck-it Ralph is a fine addition to Disney’s catalogue and most definitely sits amongst its most revered titles. It might not have the uniqueness of Toy Story or the sentiment of Monsters Inc. but it has relevance. Like it or not, computer games are the new action figures and and board games, and Disney have made a film that recognises this and lovingly accepts them into its world.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Film review: Carnage

It’s not that often that you can pinpoint the source of a film. Obviously there are some films you know are based on books or plays, but if you had absolutely no knowledge of that film whatsoever, its origins might prove a little more difficult to ascertain. However, Carnage is so obviously based on a play that it might as well have curtains rise before it starts.

It’s an incredibly simple story: two couples gets together to discuss a fight that has broke out between their sons. What starts off as a relatively amicable meeting soon descends into chaos as tensions run high, each couple refuses to accept their child was responsible and there’s a particularly nasty case of vomiting from her that was in Titanic.

Carnage

Plot-wise there isn’t much more to it than that. It is little more than a series of uncomfortable and awkward scenes, set in ‘real-time’, as these ‘normal’ suburban families are slowly revealed to be a facade; a mass of insecurities and flaws that they do their utmost to hide away. Its theatrical roots (Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage) are plain to see: the film is set in a single apartment, often in one room, and features just four characters of equal billing; it’s all very straightforward. Very much a character examination, there’s no exuberance and no pazzaz, except for a well-written script and impressive performances.

The two couples are of very different backgrounds – Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslett) are the upper end of middle class, with their smarter clothes and higher powered jobs, whilst Michael and Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C Reilly) are at the other end, with their modest apartment and what would be perceived more regular jobs. However, the film makes the point that all these characters are flawed in some way regardless of their backgrounds and that they inevitably end up acting no better than their children. In fact, their children are nothing more than a sub plot to the parents’ games of oneupmanship and desire to appear superior.

Carnage is director Roman Polanski’s Bunuel-esque attack on the middle class (that Alan and Nancy seem unable to leave the apartment harks back to The Exterminating Angel) as neither of the families come out of the film with any kind of redeeming qualities. They place far too much importance on trivial things, whether it be fancy art books or the ingredients of a cobbler. They don’t really seem that concerned with addressing the real issue of their fighting children; Alan spends most of his time on the phone, Nancy seems more preoccupied with Michael’s treatment of the family hamster, Penelope constantly tries to out-Cowan the Cowans, and Michael (for the most part) is happy to just go along with whatever.

With such a simple story and location, there is nothing to hide behind and in a film such as Carnage, the actors are under greater pressure to pull superior performances out of the bag. In this case they are moderately successful, but it is the males who really stand out. Both John C Reilly and Christoph Waltz outshine their female counterparts with impressive performances that keep the film ticking along. Both female characters are somewhat less inspiring, and Jodie Foster in particular can be a little hammy at times. Despite that, the quartet work well together and they do well with a script that has peaks and troughs; it can sometimes get a little slow but overall is witty and helps provide an intriguing examination of the characters.

The film has a claustrophobic quality to it, thanks in part to its singular environment, that may not be to everyone’s tastes, but persevere and you’ll find a film that provides a deeper social commentary for those who want to delve into it and a more lighthearted take on relationships and parenting for those who want to take it at face value.

Words: Chris Thomson

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