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Romantic

“For the next 134 minutes let’s not say much to each other”. “Yep”

I have to be honest -while not (knowingly at least) homophobic, a film about two gay cowboys tending sheep on a mountain just didn’t appeal to me. So it was more with a sense of duty than anticipation that I started watching this. It is hard work at first – it starts slow. Yes beautiful scenery but still slow and I initially saw both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as actors pretending to be cowboys rather than real cowboys. However give it 20 minutes or so and it gets better, there’s more interaction (not just that sort) between the leads, and you begin to settle into the story. Somewhat ironically given the title, it only really gets going and becomes interesting as a film when the two come back down from Brokeback Mountain. 

Four years later and forced into ‘normal’ lives by the expectations and the always present threat of violence from society – both are now married with children. Deep down though neither is happy. Ledger tells Gyllenhaal during an rare meeting that they can never properly be together and have to keep living their sham lives – he recounts a horrific story from childhood about 2 men who lived together on a ranch and how one was “beaten by an iron bar, and dragged around by his d*ck until it came off and left to die”. You get a real sense of the tragic hopelessness that came with a homosexual relationship for a cowboy at this time. (the film begins in the 1960s)

Despite my initial misgivings both actors are actually very good in their roles and Ledger especially shines as the more masculine and monosyllabic of the two. He manages to convey an amazing amount with just a few facial gestures and words. The film is also a hell of a lot better than many movies about straight cowboys.

Interesting and touching but should have been heartbreaking too (things falls down a bit here with a far too detached portrayal of a very dramatic event late in the story) 7/10

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That’s not candy she’s handing out….

Montana Moore (Paula Patton) is an air hostess, she’s fast approaching 40 but is still hopelessly single. Now her younger sister is getting married, and she’s really feeling the pressure to find someone. Her fellow cabin crew decide to intervene by setting her up with as many of her ex’s (the ones it didn’t quite work with before) as possible. They do this by waiting until one of her ex-partners needs to catch a plane and then they organise it so that Montana is working on the same flight so she can ‘bump’ into them. (implausible yes)

Paula Patton does her best here with an impressive charm offensive but still fails to disguise the fact that this is a sub-standard romantic comedy. It has a lot of the genre staples – a close gay friend, a funny fat friend, an oppressive mother etc – but there’s no sparkle. There are jokes but they’re predictable and rarely raise a smile. The story is even more predictable.

I got about 50 minutes in when I switched off. Rom-com affcionados may want to keep watching to see Montana finally get it on with her best friend (that’s a not a spoiler it’s obvious that’s what’s going to happen from the beginning) but for anyone else, to keep watching would be masochism.

A very generic 3/10

Portia (Tina Fey) has to stretch the truth to get her son Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) accepted into Harvard.

This is a slightly above-average romantic comedy starring Tina Fey as admissions officer Portia Nathan at Harvard. It’s fairly standard stuff but at least the setting is new. Portia finds herself put in an difficult position when she is told that one of the pupils she is  being asked to assess is actually the son who she gave up for adoption. Paul Rudd plays John Pressman (Fey’s soon-to-be-love interest). He is the headmaster of the the slightly unorthodox Quest school at which her son Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) is a pupil.
On the romantic side there is some genuine warmth between Fey and Rudd but it never really goes much beyond that. There’s certainly nothing remotely tear-inducing. Comedy then seems to be the priority and while Fey is a good comic actor there’s nothing in the script that’s going to make you laugh out loud. So smiles rather than laughs then.

The supporting cast includes Mark (Michael Sheen) Portia’s academic long term boyfriend who likes to call her ‘good girl’ while patting her on the head – he basically treats her like a cute dog. Nelson (Travaris Spears) is John’s precocious adopted African son he also looks remarkably like a young Don Cheadle. Then there’s Susannah (Lily Tomlin) who is Portia’s bossy mother, and also Corinne (Gloria Reuben), her bitchy rival at the university.

It’s an interesting setting with interesting characters, but it’s not funny enough for a comedy and not romantic enough for a romantic comedy.
 
6/10

Pull up to my bumper baby. Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and Jon (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) get close on the dancefloor.

Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is nicknamed Don Jon by his friends because he never fails to pull on a night out. He’ll usually get the 8/10 or 9/10 girl. However the sex is never as good as the porn he’s addicted to on his computer. Like he says: “a girl that hot doesn’t need to give a proper blowjob”. They all want to do missionary and look him in the eyes when they orgasm but all he wants to do is “lose himself” while he takes them from behind.

Things start to change for Don when he meets his dream 10/10 girl Barbara (Scarlett Johansson). The “Perfect tits and ass” but she won’t give him what he wants straight away and he’s made to work for it. He has to meet her friends, family and even enrols on an evening class – just because she wants him to. However it’s not long until he’s back on his computer searching for “gym sex” and “pov bj” videos. It seems it will take more than Barbara to change things for Don…

This is Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directing debut and it’s an impressive one. It’s uncompromising and neither Don or Barbara are particularly likeable. Don is self-centred and doesn’t care much about his friends, job, church or family, seeing them all as a means to an end rather than as something to invest time and emotion in. He’s a compelling character though and the film is funny too as you watch Don struggle to adapt. When he’s given a baby to hold, he holds it straight-out at arms length and looks to Barbara and says “Am I doing ok?”.

Both Levitt and Johansson pull off impressive transformations to become their characters although there are times when both veer dangerously close to caricature. The sex between the main characters is filmed in a slightly conservative way, which jarrs a bit considering the amount of porn shown. It could be argued that this is on purpose to contrast between the fantasy and the reality,  but it seems more likely to do with the slightly conservative nature of it’s stars. Pretty good overall though. Certainly worth watching.

7/10

It says something about the Tube that no one takes much notice when you dress up as a dog.

The story of Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) who uses his special gift of being able to travel back in time to engineer the perfect relationship with his dream girl Mary (Rachel McAdams).

I started watching this with a sense of dread – worried it could be another Groundhog Day. Don’t get me wrong, that was a good film at the time but several films have since copied the concept and I don’t think I could have stomached another one.

Fortunately Tim can go back in time whenever he wants, cleverly sidestepping the dull repeating-the-whole-day-again thing. Also since his method of time travel – finding a dark place, clenching his fists, and picturing the event in his life that he wants to go back to – is clearly ridiculous, you never take it seriously enough to question it. However having said that, there was a beach walk that Tim takes with his father (Bill Nighy) towards the end of the film. This was clearly repeatable at any time. So why not any other meeting with his father? (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the film).

It’s clever and funny, and being a Richard Curtis film, has a fairly safe warm feel to it. However there is an edgier side too, with the spectre of addiction, illness and the death of loved ones creeping in. There are flaws though : in the final section there was just too much cloying sentimentality between Tim and his father. Also after Tim and Mary have children much of the fun goes out of the film – although being cynical you could say this mirrors real life.

Not perfect but funny, warm, and intriguing. 7/10

Going through a break-up can make you dance in a strange way as Lola (Greta Gerwig, on the right) proves here while dancing with her friend Alice.

“I’m slutty but I’m a good person”, a line Lola (Greta Gerwig) says to her best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) after she has led him on, slept with him, and then had sex with someone else. It pretty much sums her up. She actually comes across as very likeable and well meaning. It’s just that she does things that someone not so likeable would have no chance of getting away with.

She does have a good excuse though – she is currently an emotional and needy mess having just been dumped by her fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) right at the point when they have been making the final plans for their wedding.

This was described by my digital box as ‘a sparkling comedy’. A description which does the movie a bit of an injustice since if you’re looking for a sparkling comedy you will be disappointed. It’s more of a romantic drama that features some quirky and amusing situations.

I actually thought this could have been good if there had been more drama in the second half of the film. This could have then led to the story spiralling off into interesting and unexpected directions. However as it is this section of the film just meanders along and then there is a wooly play-safe type of ending, where we find out that everything is probably going to be just fine for Lola and her friends. This means after a promising start to the movie that not a lot happens of interest, and what does happen is all a little boring, expected and comfortable, which is a shame.

To sum up : it’s really a snapshot of Lola everyday life, albeit one that shows how she copes after the break up of an engagement and it feels a little like a chick-book brought to life. It is interesting for a short time, but mostly it’s just ok. 5/10

“Hey! You caught us having sex, now you’ll have to wait at least another 20 minutes for something else interesting to happen.”

This is a romantic comedy but you can tell it’s really trying hard to be a bit edgy. There’s kids in it, but to avoid that horrible sickly-sweet feeling you get when you see perfect kids in a movie, here they talk about ‘penises’, ‘vaginas’, and their mom having sex. Not in a shocking way mind you – just in a toned-down romantic comedy style. So yes like all good romantic comedies it’s amusing without ever being properly funny.

On the romantic side, Justin Bartha seems a bit ineffectual and is not really a weighty enough partner for Catherine Zeta-Jones. Although that is kind of the point of the movie – she is dating a much younger guy, who has a lot less life experience than her –  the lack of proper chemistry and drama does mean you don’t really care that much about their relationship. They break up for a while and then it’s “Oh look they are getting back together, that’ll be nice for the kids”. It’s that kind of thing. If you got to the end of the film and they were still apart it really wouldn’t bother you that much.

The Rebound does deserve praise for at least trying to be different in it’s style – it’s a bit spikier, a bit less bland than most films of this type. So it’s a better-than-average romantic comedy but when judged against all other genres, that equates to an average 5/10