REVIEW: THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU

CAST

Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Jane Fonda (Monster-In-Law)
Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man)
Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms)
Connie Britton (American Ultra)
Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita diet)
Dax Shepard (Chips)
Debra Monk (The Savages)
Abigail Spencer (The Forger)
Ben Schwartz (The Other Guys)

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) finds out his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) has been having an affair with his boss Wade (Dax Shepard) for a year. After he moves out, Judd’s sister Wendy (Tina Fey) calls to tell him their father Mort has died. The Altmans gather for the funeral at their mother’s home where they reconnect with family friends Horry Callen (Timothy Olyphant), and his mother Linda (Debra Monk). Wendy is unhappy because her husband Barry (Aaron Lazar) is too busy with work. Judd reunites with his older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and Paul’s wife Annie (Kathryn Hahn), who had once been Judd’s girlfriend. The youngest brother, Phillip (Adam Driver), arrives late with older, therapist girlfriend Tracy (Connie Britton) and interrupts the funeral.Jane Fonda and Tina Fey in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)The Altmans’ mother, Hilary (Jane Fonda) tells her children their father wanted them to sit shiva (despite the fact that Mort was an atheist), presided over by the Altmans’ childhood friend, rabbi Charles “Boner” Grodner (Ben Schwartz). Wendy knows about Judd’s discovery of Quinn’s infidelity, about which he avoids telling everyone else. Judd also reunites with Penny Moore (Rose Byrne), a girl who had a crush on him in high school. During a family gathering, Wendy drunkenly badgers Judd to tell the truth about Quinn. Phillip laments being seen as the family screw-up, while also flirting with another girl while Tracy watches. Irritated, Judd blurts out that Quinn was cheating on him and he plans to divorce her. Quinn shows up the next day and reveals she’s pregnant with Judd’s child. It could not be Wade’s child as he is sterile. Phillip finds out about the pregnancy and reveals this to the family.Jason Bateman and Rose Byrne in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)The family goes to temple for a service where the brothers sneak out to smoke joints Judd found in his father’s suit. Annie, upset that she and Paul haven’t conceived, crawls into bed with Judd in hopes that he could get her pregnant, but he rejects her. Wendy visits Horry in his backyard, and expresses her remorse over being involved the accident that caused Horry’s brain injury and then leaving him. A few days later, when her husband leaves for a conference, an upset Wendy sleeps with Horry. Being caught walking home in the morning by Judd, she tearfully confesses she will never love Barry the way she loved Horry. Judd spends the night with Penny, and then spends the day with her. But then Quinn calls him out of fear that she is having a miscarriage, and he admits to Penny that Quinn is pregnant. Judd gets to the hospital to be with Quinn, only for Wade to show up. The baby is fine and is determined to be a girl. Upon being asked to leave by the OB, Judd and Wade get into a fight in the waiting room. When Philip and Wendy arrive, Wendy punches Wade in the face. Upon leaving, Wade tells Judd he’s not ready to be a step-dad and leaves Quinn.Jane Fonda, Connie Britton, Tina Fey, Kathryn Hahn, and Adam Driver in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)The next day, Annie apologizes to Judd, tearfully confessing that she only wants a baby so badly and is so frustrated by her lack of progress with Paul. Judd replies that she should focus and remember the things she does have with Paul, the love they share and not let the need for a baby ruin her marriage. Paul walks in as Judd hugs her and assumes they were kissing. Paul chases and attacks Judd as Tracy leaves Phillip for being unfaithful, resulting in the three brothers fighting. Hillary silences everyone by kissing Linda passionately in front of all the spectators and informs everyone that she and Linda are in love, something Mort was happy with. She admits the Shiva was her idea, in order to come out to all her children at once and get them all to reconnect. The four siblings are shocked at first, but see their mother is happy and accept it.Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Corey Stoll in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)One night, when the power goes out in the basement (where Judd is staying), Judd attempts to fix the problem in the power box, only to be given an electrical shock that knocks him out. He dreams of a memory with his father, where Judd had fallen down from his bike as a child, and his father comforted him and pressed his forehead to his, a characteristic sign of affection Mort used for his children. Judd wakes up crying, finally fully mourning for his father. Judd meets Penny at the skating center, apologizing for not being honest. Wendy leaves with her two kids, waving to Horry from the car, tearing up as she lets him go again. The brothers make amends, and Paul offers Phillip a job at their father’s sporting goods store. Judd decides to quietly slip out, and after loading his luggage in his car, steals Phillip’s Porsche 997. The final shot is of Judd driving on the highway to Maine, a place he has always wanted to go.Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver in This Is Where I Leave You (2014)This film was actually funny, but not in a slap-sticky juvenile way. It was a comedy for grown ups in that it dealt with themes that are applicable to 30 and 40-somethings, such as death of a parent, fertility, running a business, divorce, etc., but it was not a heavy film in that it was not a dark comedy. The father who died as the premise for it was never presented to the audience, which keeps his passing from being a sad event and allows for the levity at his funeral to be appreciated. The film generally seems to focus the most of Bateman’s character and his relationships with others, but he carries that role well. In fact, I thought this performance was one of his finest in quite some time. Tina Fey was great in it too. I thought she was just a comedian, but she can act too!. Overall, this film is worth seeing and is a powerful yet lighthearted journey in the interplay between siblings and the event that all 30 & 40 somethings will face at some point: the loss of a parent. If this film doesn’t get you thinking about your relationship with your family members, then nothing will. Not to worry, the family in this film has enough dysfunction to make you feel better about your own.

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REVIEW: DAMAGES – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Glenn Close (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbors 1 & 2)
Željko Ivanek (Heores)
Noah Bean (Nikita)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)

Glenn Close in Damages (2007)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Philip Bosco (The Savages)
Anastasia Griffith (Shadow of The Sword)
Peter Riegert (The MasK)
Marlyne Barrett (The Wire)
Maya Days (Blue Bloods)
Peter Facinelli (Twilight)
Donnie Keshawarz (Homeland)
Michael Nouri (The O.C.)
Casey Siemaszko (Back To The Future)
Zachary Booth (South of Hell)
David Costabile (Suits)
Carmen Goodine (Alter Egos)
Tom Aldredge (Cold Mouintain)
Victor Arnold (The Seven-Ups)
Todd A. Kessler (Bloodline)
Elliot Korte (Just Another Story)
Garret Dillahunt (12 Years A Slave)
Robin Thomas (Pacific Rim)
Mario Van Peebles (Highlander 3)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Donna Murphy (Spider-Man 2)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)

Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)No grandstanding or overwrought speeches. Hardly any impassioned objections. No interchangable characters. No cases that are wrapped up in a neat, tidy bow before the end credits for each episode make their upward crawl. FX’s Damages shatters every preconceived notion viewers have been trained to expect from a legal drama, and its critically acclaimed first season is now making its bow in high definition on Blu-ray. MV5BMjc4MjU1Nzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA1NzQ2MjE@__V1_The series opens as a young woman — half-naked, spattered with blood, and shellshocked — slips out of a high rise apartment building and frantically darts through the streets of New York. Damages then cuts to the exhausted, disheveled woman in an interrogation booth as a couple of detectives almost disinterestedly look on. Far too deep in shock to speak, the only clue as to who this devastated young woman is or what happened to her is a bloodied business card she was carrying, and as the camera closes in, a title card reading “Six months earlier” quickly splashes across the screen.It may only be a difference of six short months, but the Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) we see when the clock rolls back is an unrecognizably different person. This wide-eyed idealist is in the middle of being courted by one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. Even though an offer is slid in front of her with more zeroes than the prospective first year associate would ever have thought possible, Parsons blurts out that she has an interview scheduled with Patty Hewes later in the week, and the cheery atmosphere abruptly turns cold. Hewes has carved out a reputation for herself as one of the most powerful and unrelenting forces in high stakes litigation, and taking it as a foregone conclusion that Hewes will offer Parsons a position that she’ll eagerly accept, Hollis Nye (Philip Bosco) warns her that Hewes will irrevocably change who she is.Rose Byrne in Damages (2007)As Parsons starts to see each and every one of her dreams suddenly lurch within arms’ reach, some five thousand former employees of billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) have seen their hopes savagely ripped away from them. His corporate empire collapsed after the SEC caught onto his Enron-like shell game, costing his employees their entire retirement fund — upwards of a billion dollars — while Frobisher himself escaped with his checkbook intact. The government was immediately leery of the timing, with Frobisher pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars by cashing out his stock just before a catastrophic SEC report revealed the company’s underhanded accounting practices, but an intensive three year investigation was unable to turn up any convincing trace of wrongdoing. The criminal trial may have been a total failure, but Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) has been tapped to spearhead a colossal class action law suit against the billionaire on behalf of his thousands of financially devastated employees, and she’s hellbent on fleecing this corporate bully of every last cent. As it turns out, Parsons may be the linchpin to shattering Frobisher’s carefully constructed facade, but at least at first glance, that has nothing to do with the neophyte’s legal prowess.Glenn Close in Damages (2007)Part of what Damages such an infectiously addictive series also leaves it tougher than usual to review. Nothing — nothing — can be taken at face value, and there are so many twists, turns, deceptions, and double-crossings in the plot that any attempt at describing what happens even from the second episode would spoil more than I’d like. Just to be clear, this isn’t Anatomy of a Murder; the courtroom is overly familiar territory, and Damages has no interest in retreading it. Tossing aside legal maneuvers and precedents in dusty books, the season prefers instead to pull back the curtain into the extensive prepwork behind an investigation of this scale, including Hewes’ deft manipulation of everyone and everything around her, Parsons clawing her way through months of backstabbing and mistrust, and Frobisher’s stubborn determination to reclaim his family’s name and clear himself of any wrongdoing.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722887-500-281With hundreds of millions — and potentially a hell of a lot more — at stake, it’s an agonizing journey for everyone involved, riddled with blackmail, assassination threats, subterfuge, abortions, bomb threats, murder, blackmail, kidnapping, infidelity, media manipulation, suicide, deranged stalking, toothless, bloody nightmares, and…oh, just for good measure, a book deal. Damages strikes an extremely effective balance in being lurid enough to stay interesting without veering too far over the edge and coming across as some sort of Prison Break-like cartoon. It also gets a hell of a lot more free reign than I’d expect from basic cable, which is made clear early on when Frobisher is screwing a random blonde in the back of an SUV, snorts a line of coke off her hand, and makes a call to have a witness in the wrong place at the wrong time gunned down. The language isn’t neutered either, with a “bullshit” or “shit” spat out several times each episode, used sparingly enough that the profanity still carries a substantial impact.Rose-in-Damages-1x02-Jesus-Mary-Joe-Cocker-rose-byrne-16722572-500-281Unlike most legal dramas, Damages is an intensely serialized series, focusing squarely on a single case for the entirety of these first thirteen episodes. The writers have a knack for lobbing out a big revelation in each installment, continually maintaining the momentum set into motion in the premiere. Damages has a unique structure that suits the material particularly well. For one, no meandering subplots creep in as filler. Virtually everything that happens is either essential to the Frobisher case or to understanding these characters. There are really only three subplots in the entire season: one involving a mentally unhinged stalker, another following the drastic measures Hewes takes to rein in her rebellious teenaged son, and a third swirling around her number two’s possible defection from the firm. The writing mixes in these stories deftly enough, ensuring that the pacing of the Frobisher case doesn’t stumble along the way and that the audience doesn’t get overly distracted. The only of these plot threads that’s ineffective revolves around Tom Shayes’ loyalty to Hewes and the firm; its inevitable resolution is the only particularly predictable element in the entire first season and the only time the writers seem to be fumbling to fill time.D_EP_105_206Damages also effortlessly juggles two separate timelines. There are brief stretches in each episode set in the here and now, revealing tantalizingly vague clues as to what it is that’s left Parsons drenched in blood and shellshocked: a bloodstained shoe, a disappearing corpse, and a garish bookend caked in blood and tangled with hair, to rattle off a few. The majority of the season takes place in the past, starting off six months earlier and inching forward to the present day from there. As Damages go on, we find out who the players are…what these visual teases mean…how entire lives were upended or butchered outright. The series would’ve been compelling and tense even if it had unfolded in a more linear, traditional way, but the additional layer of that second timeline really adds another layer of intrigue, making it that much more of a suspenseful mystery. For all of this to gel under a slew of different writers and directors shows how strong a hand was guiding the series, and the work in piecing it all together in editing is exceptional.Rose-in-Damages-1x05-A-Regular-Earl-Anthony-rose-byrne-16730966-500-281Damages lives and dies by the strength of its performances. As effective as the twists and turns of the investigation into Frobisher’s machinations are, this is inarguably a character-driven series. The centerpiece is, of course, Glenn Close as Patty Hewes. She’s a legal shark, and much like the great white in Jaws, the writers avoid overexposing her to ensure that every appearance — every line of dialogue — carries a dramatic impact. Essential for this sort of puppet master, Hewes remains impenetrable throughout. There are no weepy monologues or impassioned speeches in front of a sobbing courtroom. There’s a vulnerability she tries her damndest to mask — something that leaks through as the season draws to a close, despite her best efforts — but that steely veneer remains intact whenever someone else shares the scene. It’s an exceptional performance by Close, who infuses the character with a strength, intensity, and slightly elusive charm that make it instantly clear why Hewes so utterly dominates the field: beloved by her clients, at least when victory is in sight, cautiously admired by her associates, and terrified by any lawyer ambitious enough to sit on the other side of the aisle.damages7_0Hewes is far removed from any of the attorneys I’ve seen in dozens of other legal dramas. Hewes wants to give her clients what they deserve, of course, but it’s not about altruism or doing the right thing; this is a game to her, and Hewes is a damned good player. Being pitted against an arrogant bully like Frobisher just makes the battle that much more compelling, and Hewes is so determined to pull a win that the law itself is incidental. She’s not a do-gooder or a staunch heroine, and the steps she takes to ensure victory and to get her unwitting pawns to step in line are nearly as repulsive as the lengths Frobisher goes to in order to protect his bankroll. This intense character isn’t watered down to be more easily embraced by some particular TV viewing demographic. Hewes is humanized just enough to make her seem like a well-realized character and not a one-note force of nature, defined largely by her relationships with her family: her husband is a jet-setting financier who she barely sees, and Hewes’ son is a brilliant but rebellious teenager who resents his mother and is teetering on the brink of expulsion.Rose-in-Damages-1x09-Do-You-Regret-What-We-Did-rose-byrne-16752016-500-281Ellen Parsons too is defined in large part by her relationships. Parsons thinks she’s lost her shot at working under Hewes when her interview is inflexibly rescheduled to her sister’s wedding day, and she without hesitation chooses family over her budding career. Two of the driving forces this season are part of Parsons’ extended family: her fiancé David (Noah Bean), whose grueling hours as a surgical intern make any chance of spending time together that much more remote, and her best friend and future sister-in-law Katie (Anastasia Griffith). Parsons’ personal and professional lives are continually colliding, and there’s an instant level of intrigue by how in the space of six months she devolved from an upbeat, optimistic, naive law school grad eager to start her first day at a prestigious firm to an embittered, disheveled mess accused of murder…to see just how her short time at Hewes and Associates so profoundly and irrevocably transformed her. Rose Byrne does a marvelous job playing what at first glance looks like two entirely different characters, and it’s fascinating to think that she so seamlessly weaves the two together throughout the course of the season, despite these moments being shot far out of sequence and not even being entirely sure how these puzzle pieces connected together during filming.Ted Danson in Damages (2007)Ted Danson is another standout as billionaire executive Arthur Frobisher. One intriguing choice Damages makes is that Frobisher himself isn’t a worthy adversary for Hewes. His corporation may have been modeled after Enron, but Frobisher is hardly a Ken Lay. This isn’t the usual corporate stereotype: a balding, bespectacled man in his 60s who condescendingly sips a glass of $1,200 Scotch in some palatial office and barks out orders. No, he’s a reasonably down to earth guy — fit, trim, eager to sit down for a family barbeque, shoot hoops with his teenaged son, or grab a sandwich from a cart on the street corner. Nothing about the man, at least to those who don’t religiously tune into Court TV or Fox News, would point to a couple billion dollars at the bottom of his balance sheet. That said, Frobisher is fiercely protective of his fortune and his name. While it’s never in doubt that Frobisher is guilty of bilking his employees — or that he’s at the very least hiding something — he’s arrogant enough that he’s convinced he’ll be vindicated in court, no matter what his handlers say or suggest. Far from the calculating criminal mastermind these sorts of series are usually littered with, Frobisher is an impulsive screw-up. He stubbornly sticks to whatever game plan seems like a good idea at the time, backed by a big enough bankroll to pay someone to mop up whatever mistakes he makes along the way. The most intriguing villains are almost always the ones who sincerely don’t think they’re in the wrong, and Frobisher’s been lying to himself about his innocence so long that he even seems to buy the party line himself.untitledThere are a couple of other key roles worth noting as well. Even if Frobisher himself isn’t much of a capable opponent, his attorney Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) is as close to a match for Patty Hayes as they come. There’s a particularly intriguing relationship between Frobisher and Fiske — an uneasy friendship borne out of the fact that there’s not much of anyone else to whom either of them can relate. One of Hewes’ greatest assets is Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), her instantly likeable second-in-command. Shayes is bright, talented, and doggedly loyal, but he doesn’t have what it takes to step out from Hewes’ shadow. The fact that he’s a quietly reluctant second fiddle makes him more compelling than someone who unquestionably follows orders with a smile.Rose-in-Damages-1x12-There-s-No-We-Anymore-rose-byrne-16757877-500-281I was thoroughly impressed by Damages. As frequently as the series teases and misleads viewers along the way, all of it seems logical and earned, not just a case of the writers lazily pulling the rug out from under the audience just to keep them off-guard. The season resolves all of the central conflicts before it’s over and done with, and although it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly, there’s a hell of a lead-in for season two and some tantalizing questions left dangling in front of viewers. It’s such an addictive show that I devoured the entire first season in a day, and there are very, very few series that have compelled me to do that. Tightly woven, wonderfully acted, and sharply written, Damages is a series that’s well worth discovering on Blu-ray for those who missed its first season.

 

REVIEW: ANNIE (2014)

CAST

Quvenzhané Wallis (12 Years a Slave)
Jamie Foxx (Ray)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Cameron Diaz (Sex Tape)
Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad)
David Zayas(Gotham)
Stephanie Kurtzuba (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Tracie Thomas (Cold Case)
Nicolette Pierini (The Punisher)
Patricia Clarkson (Easy A)
Michael J. Fox (Back To The Future)
Mila Kunis (Family Guy)
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men)
Bobby Moynihan (Revenge For Jolly)
Rihanna (Bates Motel)
George Clooney (Ocean’s Eleven)

In Harlem, Manhattan Island, N.Y.C, Annie Bennett lives in foster care with several other girls under the care of Colleen Hannigan, a bitter former singer who spends her days drinking or trying to find a husband. Annie spends Fridays waiting outside Domoni’s restaurant, believing her parents will come for her because a note written on a receipt from Domoni’s says they would return. When a city inspector checks on Hannigan’s treatment of the girls, Annie takes advantage of the situation; she manages to copy her social security number from his clipboard and heads off to get her information. Annie learns that there’s nothing more about her than what she already knows.Trying to save a Shiba Inu from bullies, Annie is nearly run over; however, she is saved by William Stacks, a germaphobe cell phone mogul running for mayor. Annie’s rescue goes viral on the internet, boosting Stacks popularity; per suggestion of Stacks’ campaign manager Guy Danlily, Annie moves in with Stacks to boost his popularity further. Annie enjoys her new surroundings, befriending Stacks’ assistant Grace Farrell. Annie also gets to adopt the stray dog from before, naming her Sandy. Bonding with Annie, Stacks reveals that he had humble beginnings in Queens; he never really knew his father due to his work hours, but believed he could understand him if he worked just as hard. Annie also helps Grace and Stacks begin realizing that they like each other romantically.Per Annie’s request, Stacks takes her and her friends in Hannigan’s foster care to see the premiere of MoonQuake Lake. Stacks is uninterested in the movie at first, but soon becomes a major fan, along with Grace. Per Annie and Grace’s insistence, Stacks joins in the after-movie party. After returning her friends home, Annie shows Grace her Friday routine of waiting to see if her parents will return; Grace sympathizes, agreeing to keep this a secret from Stacks. At Hannigan’s, the girls accidentally wake her; Hannigan snaps at them, saying rich people aren’t nice, and will ditch anyone they don’t like any more (recalling her own past). Slightly hungover, she laments about her situation of foster kids and her desire to reclaim stardom.When Annie is asked to read a speech during a charity event, she runs out, revealing that she doesn’t know how to read (despite being 10 years old and going to school). Stacks decides to get her a special-ed teacher, but Guy decides that Annie will only hinder Stacks’ campaign as his popularity isn’t improving any more. Teaming up with Hannigan, Guy plans to have imposters claim Annie as their daughter to boost Stacks popularity to the point where he wins; Guy will then share his payment with Hannigan. However, Guy plans to dump Annie back into the system after the election, not caring about her well-being. By the time Hannigan has second thoughts, Annie has already been kidnapped by the imposters; Hannigan tells Stacks about the plan, getting Guy fired. Stacks, Grace, Hannigan and the girls board Stacks’ helicopter; aided by the police, they chase the getaway car into the park. Annie, thinking Stacks arranged this (due to the kidnappers believing Stacks, not Guy, paid them), is upset and refuses to believe him when he tells her he didn’t know about the scheme. Stacks, to prove his innocence, announces to the press that he quits the mayoral race; Annie then helps Grace and Stacks admit their love. All three dance and sing happily.Later, Annie announces the opening of the “Stacks Literacy Centre”, to help children like herself, who couldn’t read. Everyone sings Annie’s Tomorrow; unhumorously, Hannigan attempts to continue singing after the song is done, only to receive stares that cue her to stop.Not sure why so many feel the need to bash this version of the movie just because they think they’re the top ‘original’ Annie movie fan of all time. Who cares if they made a new version…it’s not even close to being the same as the original. This one is  fun, and all of the actors/actresses are wonderful at acting and singing. I feel that the changes that were made were done so to reflect the times we live in…certain sayings from the original wouldn’t be related to as easily. Nothing wrong with liking both…they’re just movies, so I don’t think you’ll hurt the original Annie’s feelings if you decide to like this one just as much or more!!

CHRISTMAS 2017 REVIEW: I GIVE IT A YEAR

CAST

Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours)
Rafe Spall (The World’s End)
Anna Faris (Mom)
Simon Baker (The Mentalist)
Stephen Merchant (Logan)
Minnie Driver (Ella Enchanted)
Jason Flemyng (Layer Cake)
Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady)
Jane Asher (Runners)
Claire Higgins (Hellraiser)

Ambitious high-flyer Nat (Rose Byrne) and struggling writer Josh (Rafe Spall) fall in love at first sight at a party. After seven months together they decide to marry. The film highlights their struggles during their first year of marriage, switching back and forth from flashbacks of the year’s action to a marriage-guidance counselor’s office. Their wedding goes as planned despite many friends’ comments that the marriage will not last, an embarrassing best-man’s speech, and a coughing priest. When Nat returns to work after the honeymoon, she’s embarrassed when Josh calls her in the office—on speakerphone in front of her colleagues—to tell her she is sexy and that he misses her, causing her to abruptly hang up on him. Later, the two meet with their solicitor to discuss how to handle medical crises (last wishes). Nat becomes annoyed when Josh, knowing she would be late, admitted that he deliberately told her the wrong time, causing her to turn up early.The couple throw a dinner party to use their wedding gifts. Some of their differences are highlighted when they talk about their honeymoon in Morocco: Nat didn’t enjoy the leather museum; Josh remembers it as interesting. When the topic changes to Josh’s former flame, Chloe (Anna Faris), Nat discovers that the two never officially broke up when Chloe departed to Africa for four years. In the kitchen Chloe apologizes to Nat for not realising she didn’t know. The women talk about the constrictions of marriage. Nat’s sister Naomi has issues with her own husband’s annoying habits. Josh’s best man Danny asks Chloe out but is rebuffed.The following day, Nat and her work-colleagues make fun of their new client, Guy Harrap (Simon Baker), the new owner of a bleach company. They believe he will be a stereotypical American who thinks the British are “quaint”. They do not realize that their client has been sitting right there in the same café. Before the meeting, one colleague steals Nat’s wedding ring, believing that the account will have a better chance of success if she appears single. During the meeting, Guy deliberately fulfils their expectations of him: speaking in a brash American way, asking for high-fives and casual fist-bumps, asking Nat to repeat certain words he finds amusing and doing a crude Austin Powers impression. Then when they focus on business talk, he switches to his true self, embarrassing the women for their earlier stereotyping. As he and Nat exit the boardroom, she apologizes for their misjudgment of him, and he says they should get better acquainted for the sake of the account. Feeling the attraction between them, she struggles with telling him she’s married, then ends up leaving without telling him.Josh talks to Chloe about his book while she’s working at a charity office. He invites her to dinner because Nat’s going to a work party that night. Chloe declines, saying she’s going out with her work-colleague Charlie, whom she’s been dating. The scene returns to the marriage-guidance counsellor’s office as the two explain that the realities of marriage do not live up to the fairytale expectation they both had. Unable to focus on his writing, Josh sits at home watching television while Nat’s out jogging. At work, Nat receives a large bouquet of roses from Guy. The couple bicker over domestic issues; Josh leaving the toilet seat up, Nat’s inability to sing the right words to popular songs and their different definitions of the rubbish bin being full. Guy shows Nat around one of the factories he owns, where one of his longest-serving workers expresses approval of her as a potential wife for him. Guy explains that he basically grew up in the factory during his childhood summers. Nat comments that she’s not the marrying type, still unable to tell Guy she’s married.Nat tries to discourage Josh from accompanying her to a work party, but he is determined, irritating her. At the party, he makes a fool of himself with embarrassing dancing and standing next to a poster he can joke about during the night. When he approaches Nat while she’s talking with Guy, she still doesn’t reveal that he is her husband and Guy attempts to shake him off, assuming he’s an unwanted menace. Guy asks her to dinner and Nat declines. Incredibly annoyed at Josh for embarrassing her at the party, she heads home without him. Meanwhile, Chloe and Charlie attend a boring dinner party, then leave early to adjourn to Charlie’s apartment. As they kiss on the bed, Chloe’s colleague Alexandra joins them and Chloe finds herself in an awkward threesome. Feeling too silly to continue, Chloe eventually leaves. The next morning she calls Josh to tell him about it, and he soon turns up at her apartment with coffee and her favourite sweets to cheer her up.Chloe and Josh then go Christmas-shopping. Josh wants to get casserole dishes for Nat but Chloe laughs that this is not a present for a wife and she must help him; they end up at a lingerie shop with Josh uncomfortably trying to make conversation with the shop assistant amongst the shop’s expensive contents. Chloe tries on a lingerie set, and asks Josh what he thinks of it. They end up kissing in the dressing room, although both are embarrassed about it afterwards. Josh ends up buying the lingerie. When Nat meets with Guy at his hotel to discuss their business deal, she rebuffs his attempts to get her into his room. He mentions that he has booked a conference room down the hall, but when Nat enters she finds a romantic dinner complete with doves and a violinist. When Guy makes advances, she finally blurts out that she’s married and can’t leave her husband because it would destroy him, and finally storms out.Guy chases after Nat and they bump into Chloe and Josh on the street. After some initial awkward exchanges, Josh suggests that Chloe and Guy get together and they agree on a double date. Back to the present in the counsellor’s office: Nat explains that they hit a low point around the Christmas period, commenting that her husband’s family are weird—in particular his mother. Josh retaliates that Nat’s family were not overly friendly towards him. The scene shifts to a Christmas family reunion at Nat’s parents’, where a series of embarrassing incidents revolving around Josh occur. Josh unwittingly but clumsily offends Nat’s grandmother during a game of charades, Nat’s father makes him sleep on the upper deck of a bunk bed of a young female relative, and Nat’s parents giving Josh a pair of books titled How to Be a Successful Writer and How to Stop Wasting Your Life. At the end of the visit, while leaving her parents’ house, Nat confronts Naomi about why she stays with her husband as they clearly hate each other. Naomi says that they both “embrace the hatred” and that is what marriage is about. Even though she admits there could be something better out there for her, she ultimately loves her husband.Nat and Josh have a conversation about his suggestion of Chloe dating Guy. The two talk about the prospects of both of them as romantic interests. The four meet for dinner, and spend the evening playing pool. Chloe and Guy seem to hit it off, happily competing against Nat and Josh. Nat becomes more frustrated with Josh’s clumsy and patronising attempt to teach her how to play properly, as well as with her growing jealousy towards Chloe, who can play well. They leave the bar, and Nat asks Guy to talk about packaging details, intending to meet Josh back at their flat afterwards. Chloe and Josh depart together, while Nat and Guy go the other direction. After a moment, Nat passionately kisses Guy, resulting in the ripping of the underwear bought for her by Josh.Meanwhile, Josh attempts to discourage Chloe’s attraction to Guy, and she admits she is and has always been still in love with him, lamenting that Josh never stopped her from leaving and insisting that their current circumstances are impossible, that they cannot see each other anymore. When Nat returns home, she and Josh talk about their relationship. After nine months they decide to get help instead of giving up on their marriage. This leads us back to the counsellor’s office, who ultimately advises them to try to make it to the one-year marker. The couple then put up with each other’s quirks over the next few months, eventually making it to their anniversary. Nat brings out the same expensive lingerie for the special occasion, and struggles to do it up because of two broken hooks, remembering the circumstances in which they were broken—her with Guy. Josh meanwhile leaves the flat, telling Nat he’s remembered he has to do something and that he will meet her at the restaurant. He races to Chloe’s apartment, only to find that she is heading off in a cab with Guy, whom she embraces lovingly. Nat contemplates phoning Guy, but then decides to go to the restaurant, where her friends and family are there waiting to surprise the couple. After failing to contact Josh, Nat sits down. She discovers that their friends didn’t think her marriage would last. Josh makes it to the restaurant party, and tells Nat that he thinks she is the perfect wife, just not for him. He asks her for a divorce and she immediately and delightedly agrees. The couple rejoice at the situation, and immediately leave the party one after the other.Meanwhile, Guy and Chloe are at the railway station waiting to go to Paris on a romantic trip. Josh finds them and professes his love for Chloe. When it’s discovered that he split up with Nat, the two are shocked. Nat appears behind Josh, who awkwardly assumed he is the one she wants to speak to, but it turns out she was there for Guy. After a short exchange they happily discuss how perfect Guy and Chloe are for them. In the end, Chloe and Guy mutually break up. Nat ends up kissing Guy and Chloe shares a kiss with Josh.I really enjoyed this movie! It’s a laugh-out-loud romcom, which is genuinely unconventional. It is awkward in all the right places. This movie is clearly making fun of mainstream romcoms. Definitely worth checking out.

REVIEW: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

CAST

James McAvoy (Wanted)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Jennifer Lawrence (joy)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours)
Evan Peters (Kick-Ass)
Tye Sheridan (The Forger)
Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones)
Olivia Munn (The Babymakers)
Alexandra Shipp (House of Anubis)
Lucas Til (Macgyver)
Josh Helman (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ben Hardy (Eastenders)
Lana Condor (Patriots Day)
Hugh Jackman (Pan)
Tómas Lemarquis (Snowpiercer)
Željko Ivanek (Heroes)
Kodi Smith-McPhee (The King)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

En Sabah Nur, a powerful mutant believed to be the first of his kind, rules ancient Egypt until he is betrayed by his worshippers, who entomb him alive. His four lieutenants die preserving him. Awakening in 1983, he believes humanity has turned to “false gods” in his absence. Aiming to save the world by destruction and remake it, he recruits Cairo pickpocket Ororo Munroe, who can control weather, and upgrades her power.

In East Berlin, shape-shifting mutant Raven investigates an underground fight club and discovers mutant champion Angel, who possesses a pair of large feathered wings on his back, and Kurt Wagner, who can teleport. Raven rescues Kurt and employs the services of black marketeer Caliban to transport him to America. En Sabah Nur recruits Caliban’s enforcer, Psylocke, who leads him to Angel. En Sabah Nur enhances both their powers, transforming Angel’s wings into metal wings.

Alex Summers discovers that his younger brother, Scott, is manifesting his mutation for shooting optic beams. Alex takes Scott to Professor Charles Xavier’s educational institute in Westchester County, New York in hopes that Xavier and Hank McCoy will teach him how to control his abilities. Scott meets the telepathic and telekinetic Jean Grey, and the two develop an attraction. Raven brings Kurt to the institute. Apocalypse’s powers cause disturbances around the world, leading Xavier and Alex to consult with CIA agent Moira MacTaggert, who has been researching the legend of Nur.

In Communist Poland, the metal-controlling mutant Erik Lehnsherr lives with his wife and their young daughter, Nina. He uses his powers to save a coworker, prompting militia to come capture him. When they accidentally kill Erik’s family, he retaliates by murdering them. En Sabah Nur later approaches the devastated Erik and tells him,”Come and see”. Next, Apocalypse takes him to Auschwitz where Erik’s power first manifested. Apocalypse reveals himself as the one true god variously dubbed “Elohim, Shen, Ra.” Erik destroys the camp and joins him.

En Sabah Nur enters Xavier’s mind while Xavier is using the mutant-locating computer Cerebro and, co-opting Xavier’s powers, forces all global superpowers to launch Earth’s entire nuclear arsenal into space to prevent interference. He and his new lieutenants arrive at the mansion and kidnap Xavier. Attempting to stop them, Alex accidentally causes an explosion that destroys the mansion. Peter Maximoff — having learned that he is Erik’s son, and hoping that Xavier can help to find him—arrives in time to use his super-speed to evacuate the students just before the explosion destroys the building, but Alex is presumed dead. Colonel William Stryker’s forces subsequently capture Hank, Raven, Peter, and Moira, and take them to a military facility for interrogation. Scott, Jean and Kurt covertly follow and liberate their comrades using Stryker’s mind-controlled and brainwashed experiment, Weapon X, whose memories Jean partially restores.

At En Sabah Nur’s behest, Erik uses his powers to control Earth’s magnetic poles, causing widespread destruction across the planet and mass casualties. En Sabah Nur plans to transfer his consciousness into Xavier’s body and use Xavier’s power to enslave the minds of every person on earth. Xavier secretly sends a telepathic distress call to Jean, and the others travel to Cairo to battle Apocalypse and his horsemen. They rescue Xavier, but he loses his hair as the process nears completion. Angel is defeated and incapacitated in the battle. Erik and Ororo are convinced to turn on En Sabah Nur and, with the help of Scott, they keep him occupied physically while Xavier fights him telepathically in the astral plane. Finally, Xavier encourages Jean to unleash the full extent of her powers, incinerating En Sabah Nur. In the ensuing chaos, Psylocke flees.

Xavier and Moira rekindle their relationship. Erik and Jean help reconstruct the school, but Erik refuses Xavier’s offer to stay and help teach. Peter decides not to tell Erik yet that he is Erik’s son. As the new X-Men, Hank and Raven train new recruits Scott, Jean, Ororo, Kurt and Peter.

In a post-credits scene, men in suits visit the Weapon X facility to retrieve data on Stryker’s mutant research, including an X-ray and a blood sample marked “Weapon X”, on behalf of the Essex Corporation.For some reason X men Apocalypse has taken a beating from critics and fans and to be honest I don’t really no why. I went to see this film with slightly lowered expectations following the early reviews and maybe that helped because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The cast was great. The old and the new the story was interesting and the villain serviceable. Perhaps it’s because now we get so many comic book movies that people compare too much but I wouldn’t compare the X men to anything else out there. It’s another solid entry in the franchise.

REVIEW: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

CAST
James McAvoy (Wanted)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th)
Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids)
Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games)
Oliver Platt (2012)
Alex Gonzalez (Tierra de Lobos)
Jason Flemyng (Hanna)
Zoe Kravitz (Divergent)
January Jones (American Pie: The Wedding)
Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Caleb Landry Jones (Contraband)
Edi Gathegi (Beauty and The Beast)
Lucas Til (Battle Los Angeles)
James Remar (Mortal Kombat 2)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Brendan Fehr (Roswell)
Michael Ironside (Terminator Salvation)
Hugh Jackman (Real Steel)
Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty)
In 1944, in a German concentration camp in occupied Poland, Nazi scientist Dr. Klaus Schmidt witnesses a young Erik Lensherr bend a metal gate with his mind when the child is separated from his mother. In his office, Schmidt orders Lensherr to move a coin on his desk, and kills the boy’s mother when Lensherr cannot. In grief and anger, Lensherr’s magnetic power manifests, killing two guards and destroying the room. Meanwhile, at a mansion in Westchester County, New York, child telepath Charles Xavier meets young shapeshifter Raven, whose natural form is blue-skinned and scaly. Overjoyed to meet someone else “different”, he invites her to live with his family as his foster sister.
In 1962, Lensherr is tracking down Schmidt, while Xavier graduates from the University of Oxford with a thesis about mutation. In Las Vegas, CIA officer Moira MacTaggert follows U.S. Army Colonel Hendry into the Hellfire Club, where she sees Schmidt (now known as Sebastian Shaw), with mutant telepath Emma Frost, cyclone-producing Riptide, and teleporter Azazel. Threatened by Shaw and teleported by Azazel to the Joint War Room, Hendry advocates deployment of nuclear missiles in Turkey. Shaw, an energy-absorbing mutant, later kills Hendry.
MacTaggert, seeking Xavier’s advice on mutation, takes him and Raven to the CIA, where they convince Director McCone that mutants exist and Shaw is a threat. Another CIA officer sponsors the mutants and invites them to the secret “Division X” facility. MacTaggert and Xavier find Shaw as Lensherr is attacking him, and rescue Lensherr from drowning, while Shaw escapes. Xavier brings Lensherr to Division X, where they meet young scientist Hank McCoy, a mutant with prehensile feet, who believes Raven’s DNA may provide a “cure” for their appearance. Xavier uses McCoy’s mutant-locating device Cerebro to seek recruits against Shaw. Xavier and Lensherr recruit stripper Angel Salvadore, cabbie Armando Muñoz, Army prisoner Alex Summers, and a conceited Sean Cassidy. They all create nicknames, and Raven dubs herself “Mystique”.
When Frost meets with a Soviet general in the USSR, Xavier and Lensherr capture Frost and discover that Shaw intends to start World War III and trigger mutant ascendency. Azazel, Riptide and Shaw attack Division X, killing everyone but the mutants, whom Shaw invites to join him. Salvadore accepts; when Summers and Muñoz retaliate, Shaw kills Muñoz. Xavier takes the mutants to his family’s mansion for training. In Moscow, Shaw compels the general to have the USSR install missiles in Cuba. Wearing a helmet that blocks telepathy, Shaw follows the Soviet fleet in a submarine to ensure the missiles break a US blockade.
Raven, thinking McCoy likes her in her natural form, tells him not to use the cure. When she later attempts to seduce Lensherr by taking the forms of various women, Lensherr tells her she is beautiful in her blue mutant form. McCoy uses the cure on himself but it backfires, giving him blue fur and leonine aspects. With McCoy piloting, the mutants and MacTaggert take a jet to the blockade line, where Lensherr uses his magnetic power to lift Shaw’s submarine from the water and deposit it on land. During the ensuing battle, Lensherr seizes Shaw’s helmet, allowing Xavier to immobilize Shaw. Lensherr tells Shaw he shares Shaw’s exclusivist view of mutants but, to avenge his mother, kills Shaw—over Xavier’s objections—by forcing the Nazi coin from his childhood through Shaw’s brain.
Fearing the mutants, both fleets fire missiles at them, which Lensherr turns back in mid-flight. MacTaggert tries to stop Lensherr by shooting him but he deflects the bullets, one of which hits Xavier in the spine. Lensherr rushes to help Xavier and, distracted, allows the missiles to fall harmlessly into the ocean. Parting with Xavier over their differing views on the relationship between mutants and humans, Lensherr leaves with Salvadore, Azazel, Riptide and Mystique. Later, a wheelchair-bound Xavier and his mutants are at the mansion, where he intends to open a school. MacTaggert promises never to reveal his location and they kiss; later at a CIA debriefing, she says she has no memory of recent events. Elsewhere Lensherr, now calling himself “Magneto”, frees Frost from confinement.
X-Men: First Class” is a top notch film with a heck of a lot of plot packed into it’s 2 hour and 12 minute running time. Part of the success of the film certainly can be attributed to director Mathew Vaughn’s (who, interestingly, was originally to direct “X Men: The Last Stand” after Bryan Singer departed but before Brett Ratner stepped in) unique take on the material as well as Bryan Singer’s involvement again with the series.

REVIEW: SUNSHINE

CAST

Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins)
Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours 2)
Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Cliff Curtis (Runaway Jury)
Troy Garity (After The Sunset)
Hiroyuki Sanada (Lost)
Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange)
Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes)

In 2057, the sun is dying and the Earth is freezing. A crew of eight pilot a colossal nuclear bomb aboard the spaceship Icarus II, with the intent to jump start the sun, and return to Earth. As they pass Mercury’s orbit, Icarus II discovers the distress beacon of Icarus I, the first ship to attempt their mission, which disappeared seven years earlier. Reasoning that two bombs have a better chance of success than one, physicist Capa recommends Captain Kaneda change course and commandeer Icarus I. Mace, the ship’s engineer, opposes the deviation as risky. Navigator Trey calculates a trajectory to intercept Icarus I, but forgets to realign the shields that protect the ship from the sun, causing damage to several shield panels.

Kaneda and Capa embark on a spacewalk to make repairs, assisted by Pilot Cassie, who angles the damaged portion of the shield away from the sun. The angle however allows the sun to destroy the ship’s oxygen garden and oxygen reserves. As Icarus II’s autopilot returns the shield to its original alignment, Kaneda orders Capa to safety and repairs the last panel, moments before he’s immolated. Trey blames himself for the loss of Kaneda, and psychiatrist Searle assesses him as a suicide risk, sedating him.

Icarus II docks with Icarus I. Capa, Searle, Mace, and now-Captain Harvey search the vessel, leaving Cassie and botanist Corazon on board Icarus II. They discover Icarus I’s mainframe has been sabotaged, making its bomb delivery impossible. In the ship’s log is a rambling message from Captain Pinbacker, who abandoned his mission. The crew of Icarus I is found charred to death in the solar observation room, where they were long ago exposed to the un-shielded sun. Suddenly, the two ships explosively decouple, destroying Icarus I’s outer airlock, stranding the four crew members on it. Mace suggests one crew member stay behind to manually operate the airlock while the other three jettison between airlocks, using the vacuum release for propulsion. Searle volunteers to stay behind. Capa is sealed in the only space suit, while Harvey and Mace wrap themselves in salvaged insulation material. Searle releases the airlock and the three crew members rocket into space. Harvey misses the airlock and freezes to death, while Capa and Mace make it back to Icarus II. Searle, having spent the mission obsessed with looking into the sun, voluntarily exposes himself to its full, deadly force in the observation room.

Corazon calculates that there is enough oxygen left for four of the five survivors to reach the sun. After a contentious vote, Mace decides to kill Trey, but discovers Trey to have already committed suicide. Capa learns of a stowaway on-board and discovers an insane Pinbacker. Pinbacker attacks Capa and traps him in an airlock. He then kills Corazon, and removes the mainframe from its coolant bath, shutting down the computer. Pinbacker pursues Cassie, who flees into the bomb payload.
Mace attempts to manually lower the computer back into the freezing coolant, but when his leg catches on the descending computer he becomes trapped, and the computer disabled. As he freezes to death, he radios Capa to escape the airlock, decouple the bomb from the ship, and activate it as it plummets into the sun, delivering the payload to its destination. Capa blows the airlock, separates the bomb from the ship, and enters the payload, where he finds Cassie. Pinbacker ambushes them, telling them God ordered him to send all humanity to heaven. As they hurtle into the sun, Capa escapes Pinbacker, reaching the bomb controls. Not sure if it will work under these extreme conditions, he watches as the bomb begins to successfully ignite, at the edge of the sun itself. Back on Earth, on the frozen Sydney Harbour, Capa’s sister witnesses the Sun returning to its full power.This is an amazing film, and is easily one of the best of 2007 . A perfect mix of style and substance.