Still Alice

Viewed – 25 July 0215  pay-per-view

Few can argue the versatility and sheer talent of actress Julianne Moore who I think has come on leaps and bounds over the years to become the new Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren.  This award winning drama could also be the pinnacle of her career so far.

still alice

Moore plays Alice, a college professor who is diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease, a rare onset of the illness considering she’s only 50.  With her husband and two daughters around for support we watch as the symptoms gradually get worse and worse and she struggles to cope in her life as the person she’s always been gradually slips away.  It’s a hard hitting subject make no mistake, and is portrayed well if you know anything about the disease.  My mother used to work with elderly patients suffering from the disease so as I watched the film with her she marvelled at how accurate it all was.  Moore is simply amazing and heart-breaking, expressing every little detail of frustration and bewilderment as she starts to forget things or lose track of what she’s doing or where she is.   Alec Baldwin is decent as her husband but the casting of two of the blandest actresses currently working (Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart) as Alice’s daughters let’s the side down somewhat as they struggle to convey such strong emotions on expression-free, personality-free faces.  Honestly, does Stewart only have one look no matter what she is saying?

Above all else though this is Julianne Moore’s gig and she’s every bit worthy of those Oscar and Golden Globe nods.  The movie portrays a very cruel disease intelligently, finding room for humour amongst the despair and I came away surprised at how much the story moved me.

Verdict:  4 /5

When casting goes wrong

We’ve all been there, the anticipation, the excitement for a new adaptation of our favourite book or a continuation of a much loved franchise, only to have our hopes dashed when they announce who is playing who.  See below a few such roles I think were badly miscast.  Do you agree?

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns

kate bosworth

There may be many things wrong with this misjudged sequel to the much loved Superman franchise, even if Kevin Spacey is kind of great as Lex Luthor … I’m sure few can forgive the overly moody, personality-free performance of Kate Bosworth as one of comic-book worlds most loved characters.  Thankfully rectified in Man Of Steel’s Amy Adams.

Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

shmi skywalker

This is another movie that has many problems, but none more so than the meant to be earnest and emotional but actually wooden and amateurish performance of Anakin’s slave mother.  Surely this could have added much needed weight to young Anakin’s story instead of just making this viewer cringe.

Val Kilmer as Batman / Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever

bruce wayne

Personally my least favourite Batman movie, Jim Carey aside and yes I actually prefer Batman & Robin!  But Kilmer here had no presence, no charisma and just didn’t suite either the dark knight or the playboy millionaire persona.  Shudder.

Julian McMahon as Dr Doom / Victor Von Doom in The Fantastic Four

Dr Doom

Yes he’s from Nip/Tuck and kind of pulls it off as a charming nutjob – but the Dr Doom of the comic-books was a hulking, muscle-bound overlord that no matter how much he tries, McMahon just can’t pull off.  A poor-mans bad guy in what turned out to be a poor-man’s X-Men movie (that wasn’t an X-Men movie).

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights

james bond

The looks, perhaps, but the wit and charm of either Connery or Moore?  Not a chance.  The follow-up movie Licence To Kill was at least a good story but Dalton was on borrowed time from the start and just didn’t deliver anything resembling the spy many of us grew up loving.

Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

dragon tattoo

Hot off the set of Bond, where he was surprisingly good, he steps into the shoes of actor Michael Nyqvist and lacked much of the believable emotion of Nyqvist’s performance in what turned out to be one of the most disappointing remakes in a long time – even in the hands of David Fincher.

Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd


As the recent Dredd proved this character demands a no-name star beneath that iconic helmet to truly become judge, jury and executioner.  At the time Stallone was big business and he transformed what should have been a faithful comic-book adaption into another Stallone action-fest.  Not a good one at that.


Viewed – 26 March 2009  Blu-ray

This entertaining teen comedy / thriller follows the (surprisingly) true story of mathematical wiz-kid Ben Campbell, who attracts the attention of teacher Kevin Spacey who also happens to run a secret club of card players on a mission to score big money in Las Vegas.  Thinking he has discovered the answer to his money worries, Ben reluctantly tags along, and soon finds his gift for card-counting and the return of fast-cash going to his head, and events quickly spiral out of control.

This is an energetic and well acted ‘romp’ with plenty of style and excitement that kept me glued, and lead Jim Sturgess proved a likable, charismatic presence that was easy to believe in.  Supporting cast, especially the always dependable Kevin Spacey were good (although Kate Bosworth remains for me at least, all looks and no substance), and the story, although a little light and fluffy considering the danger and risk involved, proved enjoyable enough to not start looking at my watch – and I was always wondering just what would happen next.  As with other films like Casino and Leaving Las Vegas, the glitzy look of the neon drenched Vegas was a big pull for me (and looked glorious in high definition, I might add), even if the film played things a touch too ‘safe’ to really be worthy of recommendation over those two classics.  Otherwise, if you want a couple of hours of entertainment with some great moments and a cheer-at-the-screen ending, this will do the job well enough.

Verdict:  3 /5

Beyond The Sea

Viewed – 23 August 2008  DVD

For some reason it has taken me a long time to get around to watching this.  I was first attracted to the idea of a Bobby Darin biopic when I saw Kevin Spacey perform Mac The Knife on a chat show -and was stunned.  If any actor was born to play this role, it’s Spacey – and here, in the movie of the actor / crooner’s life directed by Spacey himself – the results are quite remarkable.

Bobby Darin was basically a low-rent Frank Sinatra who eventually found fame in both singing and acting, mostly down to his boundless enthusiasm and magnetic charisma.  He married actress Sandra Dee and was a hit at various big name venues such as the Copacobana and the glitzy clubs of Las Vegas.  Yet he was also plagued with illness; as a boy he was said to not be expected to live beyond 16 years of age.  Although such claims were to eventually catch up with him in his late thirties, what he achieved in between is stuff of Hollywood and music legend.

What I was most impressed by with this film, was the way it avoids a warts and all biopic for more of a swansong to the man, his music and the effect he had on those around him.  Kevin Spacey is simply astonishing, proving himself a magnificent showman – and delivers brilliant song & dance numbers in both realistic and fantasy sequences giving the whole film a magical, surreal look & feel that makes me think of musicals like Singing In The Rain.  I was almost expecting Fred Astair to make a cameo.

Add to this a quality cast (including Bob Hoskins, John Goodman, Brenda Blethyn and Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee), fantastic visuals and dance choreography – and this is probably one of the most purely entertaining films you’re likely to see.

Verdict:  5 /5