Blood Ties (2013) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.


 

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Film adaptations of novels are not known for being well received by audiences, and remakes are even less successful, rarely worth the cost of the cinema ticket. Blood Ties suffers both of these. It is a French-American crime thriller, directed by Guillaume Canet, but even its talented cast cannot compensate for the shortfalls.

The story takes place in 1974, when Chris Pierzynski (played by Clive Owen) is released from prison. He has been serving nine years for murder, and is ready to turn his life around. But despite his good intentions and new relationship with Natalie (Mila Kunis – who would have thought she would be the one from That 70’s Show that would make it big?), the lures of old habits overcome him, and he returns to his criminal ways. If that was not bad enough, his brother Frank (Billy Crudup, who also stars in the amazing upcoming film Rudderless) is a New York cop. The conflict between the brothers tears are their sister Marie (Lili Taylor), and their sick father Leon (James Caan), who just want the two to get along. It is not until Frank is arresting a man named Anthony Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) that he is re-united with his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), who is currently married to Anthony and have a daughter together. Of course, Vanessa now wants to get a divorce, and she and Frank rekindle their relationship, much to the ire of Anthony. Anthony tries to kill Frank, and it is up to Chris to protect his brother, at whatever the cost.

If it wasn’t for the talented cast, this movie would be a complete write-off. The story seems simple enough, and something seen in films many times, but it is how the actors make us feel for these particular characters that keep you watching. The essence of New York in the 70s is done well, with costume, scenery and minute details doing a lot more than other era-specific films have done.

Despite interesting set-ups and moments when all aspects of production work in harmony, the film becomes stagnant. The two-hour running time shows the lack of character development, except for the two lead characters. While this development is obviously important, you lose the reality of the film, and see how everything happens just for Chris and Frank’s progress. If you’re not the type to read into films too much, than this might not be an issue for you. The film will certainly entertain many viewers, but isn’t award-worthy.

Blood Ties has received mixed reviews, most rating it around 50 out of 100. Use of violence, swearing, sexual conduct and drug use will restrict its audience, and is a surprising job choice for some of the cast. The film reportedly had a production cost of $25,500,000, an astounding sum of money and all the more reason to be disappointed in the finished product. As with every film, every viewer is different, but for me, even the vast amount of swearing in the trailer was enough.

2 out of 5 stars

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Breakup At A Wedding (2013) – Review

OK so I used to write film reviews for CinemaParadiso. It was a lot of fun, and I thought I would share some reviews and links over the next few days/weeks/months.


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I have never been to a wedding. The only wedding experience I have had has been through film and television. I don’t think I’m missing much. Breakup at a Wedding is a comedy that unfortunately falls flat. It does have an interesting new take on wedding movies, allowing us to see through the lens of the wedding videographer’s camera, seeing all that he sees and giving an almost found-footage feel, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the rest.

The story begins the night before the wedding of Alison (Alison Fyhrie) and Phil (Philip Quinaz). The church has been booked, the flowers are ordered, the dresses and suits look stunning, but then it all goes wrong. Alison suddenly gets cold feet, and does not want to go through with the wedding anymore. Phil is shattered, and to save him from further humiliation, Alison concocts a plan to continue with the wedding. With hopes of winning back Alison’s love, Phil agrees to the sham wedding, and what follows are a series of ridiculous complications set to ruin the day and reveal their separation.

Using the wedding videographer as the narrator and cameraman is the only positive thing about this film. It is a different way of showing an old setting, but the rest of the story felt like it had been done many times before.

Not only were the jokes unfunny, but the characters were cliché, ranging from the bridesmaids wanting to sleep with the groomsmen, wedding crashes, and the bridal party either laughing or depressed after taking drugs.

The most recent – and much more successful – wedding film Bridesmaids (2011) managed to make the same elements work much more effectively. This could be due to well-known comediennes such as Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Melissa McCarthy, playing the leading roles, while Breakup at a Wedding is only the first film from the comedy group PERIODS.

There have been some positive reviews, also commending the use of the videographer as our conduit to the story, and viewers finding the overall story and ending to be pleasant. Nevertheless, that does not sell tickets.

Breakup at a Wedding was filmed only a few days before real-life director Victor Quinaz got married, which would account for the lightness of the film, especially the ending. Overall, the characters weren’t realistic and believable, doing things that are so clearly set to fail, the major one being going through with a sham wedding all to simply ‘save face’ in front of their relatives. Then there are the illogical complications that seemingly come out of nowhere and are almost as ridiculous as a monkey slipping on a banana peel or a man being hit in the privates with a football.

The only unexpected part of the film is the contribution of Zachary Quinto, something he might now be viewing as ‘illogical’.

Let’s just hope their next film isn’t set at a funeral, because we all know how successful the 2010 remake of Death at a Funeral was.

3 out of 5 stars

Captain Phillips (2013) – Review

I know, I know, I’m very behind on my list of films. Finally, the stars aligned, and I was able to sit down and watch a film. Sunday night’s movie was Captain Phillips (2013).

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This was a really great movie. I don’t even care if it wasn’t true to the event (there are a lot of articles claiming Captain Phillips wasn’t the leader he was portrayed to be); I just enjoyed it as a story. I never knew what was going to happen next, and as someone who has studied film structure, this is a good thing.

The characters were engaging and you could both criticise and sympathise with pretty much everyone. I have been a big fan of Tom Hanks since I can remember, and once again he gave an excellent performance. One thing that was strange, though, was how much he looked like the head Minister at my church (I think it was the beard and the glasses). It was also amazing to read that Barkhad Abdi – who played the lead Somali pirate Muse – had never acted before. His inexperience did not show at all, and it’s great to see how much Hollywood attention he has gotten.

I don’t normally like having to read subtitles, but it didn’t bother me this time. Even though I was multi-tasking and working on a knitting project (which I should be uploading in a blog post here soon), I didn’t miss anything, and it positively added to the film.

Overall, a great film and I’m glad I got to see it.

4 out of 5