A weaker outing from the brilliant Judd Apatow. This is 40′s familiar (possibly overused) cast is not as effective this go around. Once again treading relevant waters. Apatow is known for his ability to keep his pictures heartfelt and grounded while still being able to evoke hilarity out of common situations. This time, the comedic twists, nor the emotion are as potent as his previous efforts. This “sort of” sequel to Knocked Up is “sort of” not near as entertaining. For all of this mouthing off, it actually wasn’t that bad. It still has more depth and laughs than any spoof or hackneyed comedy picture. But if it wasn’t for the performances of John Lithgow and Albert Brooks, I would have completely discarded this film. Also starring Apatow’s family, who’ve become quite frustrating as they’ve become more orbited as well as the always hilarious Paul Rudd. This is 40 has the potential but fails without consistency.
A few years after the events in Knocked Up. Pete and Debbie begin to struggle with their age and the needs of their two daughters as they continue to grow. While undertaking initiatives to better themselves physically and emotionally, Pete and Debbie begin to unearth buried tribulations. They decide to confront their parents about the neglected youth they suffered through and the financial problems surrounding the family. On top of that, Debbie and Pete become more involved in their own children’s lives which has, initially, a negative effect. While Pete and Debbie continue to learn as they go, unforeseen events begin to destroy their relationship.
You can obtain as many guest appearances from relevant celebrities you feel necessary. But unless you entwine them into the story with meaning, it becomes painfully apparent that it is just a ploy to keep the sinking afloat. With This is 40, the issues present, more than Apatow’s other chapters, seem to deal with problems outside the norm which renders its overall theme ineffective. The pop culture references and endless annoyances of youth don’t add any hilarity to the film. In fact, conversely it dwindles its intended broadness and damages its overall relevance. This Is 40 is Apatow’s most emotional picture to date, but the humour is faded and the connectivity is not as strong or as universal as in his previous films. While it may conjure up some big laughs, its overall tone and reliability suffers.
I couldn’t resist putting a picture of this in the review.
This Is 40: 6 out of 10.
The quirkiness of its approach to aggression and mental illness may be off-putting to some, but Silver Linings Playbook is an undeniably realistic and accurate depiction of psychological instabilities and the people who deal with them. Of course personally being able to relate to the illnesses portrayed is an advantage. However, one does not need to be at a disadvantage to enjoy and understand the craft and perfection in Silver Linings Playbook. Directed by the dependable David O. Russell (The Fighter) and featuring oscar nominated performances from Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), and Robert De Niro (Goodfellas). Silver Linings Playbook is a faithful adaptation for the countless who have been helped by the original text and for ones who need to feel hope and know they are not alone. It is a nice change of pace to see that optimistic, although controversial film making still exists amongst the endless pieces of high budget dribble released every weekend.
Pat Solatano Jr (Cooper) convinces his mother Dolores (Weaver) to discharge him from the mental health institution after his court ordered stint is complete, against medical advice and without the consent of Pat Sr (De Niro). With conditions that Pat Jr must live at home with his parents, take medication, and attend mandatory therapy sessions, Pat Jr attempts to get his life in order and return to his wife. Pat Jr attends dinner with close friends and it is here where he is introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence), a recovering sex addict who’s husband has recently died. Through their mental issues, Pat Jr and Tiffany find common ground and become friends while they help each other to get over their tribulations.
It was uplifting to see the strength in the supporting and leading male actor categories at the Oscars this year. When Bradley Cooper and especially Robert De Niro walk away empty handed after their performances in Silver Linings Playbook, it becomes clear there was some serious competition. Robert De Niro gives the best performance of his illustrious career with his take on an aging OCD victim. Jennifer Lawrence, the only actor in the film to win an Oscar for her performance, is radiant as always. She melts with Cooper and together they become flawlessly dysfunctional. Feeding off their problems to become unified and eventually able to heal. David O. Russell once again unleashes a compelling tale of distress and succeeds in showing not just the work and time needed to breakthrough hardships, but as well as the support needed from family and friends. Silver Linings Playbook is the most elevating and rewarding film of the year.
Silver Linings Playbook: 8.5 out of 10.
The first film I’ve chosen to review is one that many people have never heard of, Starter For 10. This romantic-comedy Directed by Tom Vaughan, remains relatively unknown despite its stellar cast of current stars such as James McAvoy (X-Men First Class), Rebecca Hall (The Prestige), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League) and Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double). Starter For 10 follows Brian Jackson (McAvoy), a scholarship student at Bristol University in 1985. Brian is extremely intelligent and grew up watching “University Challenge” with his father. During the semester, Brian meets the activist Rebecca Epstein (Hall) and while trying out for Bristol’s “University Challenge” team he succumbs to the charm and beauty of Alice Harbinson (Eve). The three get tangled in a love triangle with severe consequences. To make matters worse, the “University Challenge” captain Patrick Watts (Cumberbatch) who is overly dramatic challenges Brian at every opportunity. Can Brian qualify for the “University Challenge” team? Will he be able to escape the love triangle without harming Alice, Rebecca, or his friends?
Make no mistake about it, this was and is McAvoy’s emergence. Don’t get me wrong, Hall, Eve, and Cooper are extremely effective and are no less than perfect in any of their performances. Benedict Cumberbatch steals every scene he is in and sets the stage for his shot to stardom with this hidden gem. However, McAvoy flexes his acting chops in all forms and executes flawlessly, enough to break your heart with compassion. Without giving too much away, Starter For 10 is essentially the structure all romantic comedies are based upon with a twist that separates it from the pack, that twist being intelligence. The writing is clever and nothing short of spectacular and is what really divides Starter For 10 from the cluttered trash known as the current romantic comedy standard. Starter For 10 invests in each character which ultimately leads to the audience investing in the characters, making the viewing and understanding experience much more rewarding. With the overwhelming romanticism, subtle humour, and the classic, favourable character you consistently root for, Starter For 10 exceeds expectations and fulfills the criteria that makes every good romantic comedy worth watching while adding the intelligence factor that sends it over the top.
Starter For 10: 8 out of 10.
Hopefully later this week I can get my Oscar predictions posted with a separate list with the films and actors I think should have been nominated and won.