Lars And The Real Girl (2007)
Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner & Patricia Clarkson.
Written by Nancy Oliver.
Directed by Craig Gillespie.
Lars (Gosling) is a 27 year-old man living in the garage of his deceased parents’ house, now occupied by his older brother Gus (Schneider) and his pregnant wife Karin (Mortimer). He is a social misfit who feels pain when touched, shunning the company of everyone around him, including a sweet young woman named Margo (Garner) who constantly attempts to win his affection. When Lars introduces his new ‘friend’ – a life-size “anatomically correct” sex doll – to Gus and Karin, they assume he has lost his marbles. In steps the local doctor-cum-psychologist (Clarkson) who convinces everyone to play along with Lars’ delusion, confident it is nothing more than a phase. The word ‘quirky’, when applied to film, is an easy way of dressing up pretension – but its use is totally justified when describing Lars And The Real Girl. Featuring a memorably idiosyncratic performance from Gosling, this original little film is superbly written and consistently amusing and poignant. In what could have been reduced to smut is thankfully genuine, and manages to avoid any inclination to the low brow.
Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Xander Berkeley & Nicholas Girard.
Written by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen.
Directed by Pierre Morel.
Bryan (Neeson) is a former intelligence operative whose teenage daughter is kidnapped in Paris and sold into sex slavery. Utilising the skills and contacts he acquired during his time in espionage, Big Bry proceeds to tear the French city apart in search of his daughter. Although it takes time to get moving, this taut thriller manages a pace in the second half that puts most films of this nature to shame, leading to a bloody finale. Co-written and produced by Luc Besson, the man behind such films as The Fifth Element and Leon, Taken is still a formulaic ride – slick and entertaining, yet almost instantly forgettable. Liam Neeson rarely gives a poor performance, and his towering frame is used to excellent effect in this film. He seems right at home delivering blows to the trachea, torturing a guy called Marko and wielding pistols like John McClane – racking up a bodycount of at least fifty by films’ end.
The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)
Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, John Cleese & Kathy Bates.
Written by David Scarpa.
Directed by Scott Derrickson.
A giant sphere arrives in Central Park from outer space and a strange being exits, accompanied by a huge robotic guardian. Wounded and in military custody, the being takes human form and manages to escape with the help of scientist Dr Helen Benson (Connelly). When it is revealed that the purpose of the visitation is to save Planet Earth from its’ human inhabitants (ie; wipe us out), the good doctor Benson must convince the destructor to change his intergalactic mind. This rotten remake of the 1951 film of the same name appears to be stuck in some curious time warp. Its sensibilities are laughably outdated, re-imagining the original films’ discourse without becoming contemporary. It seems hardly worth the effort and it’s tough to imagine how these actors were drawn into this mess. Featuring some downright horrendous dialogue and some plot developments that teetered on the ridiculous (such as, how did the military whip together that capsule they enclosed around the robot so fast and then, transport it to an underground location?), this clunker should have been titled The Day The Audience Fell Asleep.
(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and posts weekly film reviews on this blog.)