Win Win

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsCourtesy of the Cineworld mailing list, I managed to wangle two preview tickets for the new Paul Giamatti film. I knew nothing about it before screening, and sometimes this is a good thing. It meant I was all the more pleasantly surprised by…

Win Win

“Whatever it ******* takes!”

See it if you like: heartwarming dramas with genuinely funny moments

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A well-meaning but skint lawyer takes on guardianship of an old man, and finds things somewhat snowballing from there.

I like being surprised by films. It’s one reason I’m not a huge fan of watching trailers, especially not for blockbusters or comedies where they insist on showing you every single good moment. I think that’s part of the reason I liked Win Win so much – I had no preconceptions.

Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a rarity amongst lawyers in that he’s not dodgy, nor is he rich. In fact, business is bad. When the chance comes up to take guardianship of old Leo Poplar (Burt Young) in exchange for $1500 a month, he takes it. Then dumps the old fella into a care home anyway. Tut tut.

Things become complicated when Poplar’s grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) appears out of nowhere, looking for grandad. He’s trying to escape from life with his drugged-up mother (the as-ever gorgeous Melanie Lynskey), and the Flaherty family end up taking him in.

The disaffected youth turns out to be a bit of a wrestling prodigy, and Flaherty’s life starts to look up – the “win win” situation of the title. Of course, as in every film, the lies start to trip our protagonist up…

Win Win is very well scripted. It’s almost like a TV drama in the lack of extremely tense moments, or huge focal scenes. Instead, it’s just a nice story with some wonderfully believable characters. Mike’s wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) is a wonderfully varied character, unsure whether to punch Kyle’s mother in the face, throw the somewhat unusual boy out or let her maternal instincts take over and look after him.

I could have watched this film for another hour, I was so engrossed. Genuinely entertaining, clever, funny and well-acted. Oh, Shaffer didn’t have to act too hard in the wrestling scenes. He won the New Jersey State Wrestling Championship last year, aged 17.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Ironclad / The Adjustment Bureau

Random choices for a Friday and a rarity in that I’d not seen a trailer for either film before we watched them. In fact, I’d not even heard of Ironclad before I checked out the performance times the day before.

Ironclad

“Hit them. Hard.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Mad king decides the Magna Carta doesn’t really suit him and decides to take England back. Can one small castle manned by 19 individuals stop him?

Ironclad is one of those excellent historical films that makes you want to go and look stuff up when you get home. Given my public school education (for American readers, this actually means “private school” in England – no, it makes no sense me either), my knowledge of English history is of course utterly abysmal. I didn’t even know, until last night, which king had actually signed it. I didn’t even know where it was signed (other than “at the bottom”).

The story is simple. King John, being a bit of a dick, has decided that the document which granted rights to the country’s population doesn’t really suit him. So he’s got the Pope to write it off and is about to start taking the country back under his iron – and rather nasty – rule. One castle stands in his way. He must control it to be able to begin his re-conquest.

A small party of Knights Templar get wind of this plan, and rustle up some support from a Baron, his men and a mercenary or two. They take the castle, recruiting its meagre population and prepare for the worst… an army of 1000 Norse warriors blackmailed by John into fighting for him on the promise that if he gets England back then the Pope will leave their country “un-Christian’d”.

So the film is essentially about the siege, and it’s incredibly gripping. Characters drop like flies, quotable dialogue flies around like a medieval Aaron Sorkin script, blood squirts and bones are crushed. It’s high in gore without focussing on it.

Although the cast across the board are very good indeed, I’m going to single out Paul Giamatti for his role as King John. Utterly mental and obviously a complete egotist, John hates it when things don’t go his way. He’s ruthless, greedy and vicious. No wonder the country wanted him gone. He also gets the best (and probably longest) speech in the film, all full of flailing limbs and frothing spit.

Gill thought the film dragged, and struggled to see some of the fight scenes as we were sat quite close to the screen so we lost the effect somewhat. She could be right on the latter, but I found the pace about right. Each intervening scene had enough being discussed and with such good use of language that I was entertained between all the grisly, exciting set pieces.

I tweeted as such right after the film and in reflection I’m still agreeing with myself. Up to now, this is the best film I’ve seen this year. In terms of pure enjoyment, I loved it. It’s never going to go down in history as a classic, I admit that. But I would go and see it again, and I can’t say that about anything else I’ve seen since January 1st.

The Adjustment Bureau

“What the hell is going on?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Man finds himself stuck in the middle of a hiccup in “he above”‘s great scheme of things… and decides to do something about it.

Quick question – has anything Philip K. Dick wrote not been adapted for the screen yet? The Adjustment Bureau is based on his short story Adjustment Team and must rank as one of the best. Again,I  had no idea what it was about when I saw down to watch it, and that’s the way it should be with films of this ilk. Trailers can only take away half the fun.

Matt Damon is David Norris, a gifted young man running for public office and doing well at it. He bumps into Elise (Emily Blunt) by accident and she inspires a great speech. This is the only time Norris is “supposed” to meet Elise, but something goes wrong in the way the world works and mysterious men in hats are sent out to repair it.

It’s hard to describe it more than that without giving away any of the fun stuff so I’ll stop there.

There’s a definite romance story, some science fiction, a nasty bad guy, a hint of religion, some neat effects, and a back story of manipulation not dissimilar to the masterful Dark City. The best thing is that it doesn’t really mess with your head the way that Inception did (or at least tried to – was that film really so complicated?). It’s easy to watch as pure entertainment without having to strain any lobes.

The ending could have been a little better, in my opinion, though it did tie things up nicely.

A nice story of one person up against all the odds the world has to throw against them, with good performances across the board. Surprisingly enjoyable.

Enhanced by Zemanta