Film Review: JULIET, NAKED (USA/UK 2018) ***

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Juliet, Naked Poster
Trailer

Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie (the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan) and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession.

Director:

Jesse Peretz

Writers:

Evgenia Peretz (screenplay by), Jim Taylor (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

JULIET, NAKED is a British/American production set in both London and the U.S. based on the best selling novel of the same name by Nick Hornby.  The novel is described as a sensitive modern tale illustrating the effect the internet can have on a romantic relationship.   The film gets that message across, though it feels like a romantic comedy without a happy Hollywood ending, which means that audiences might have difficulty liking this film.  JULIET, NAKED is not half bad, but it is not barely half good, falling flat and dragging along for a major part.

The story centres on Annie (Rose Byrne) who when the film opens, has relationship problems with long term boyfriend, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd).  Duncan, a professor at a local university has an obsession with singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).  He is head of the Tucker Crowe website and knows all the works and songs of Crowe.  When a packet of Crowe songs arrives in the mail that Annie opens and listens to, Duncan becomes clearly upset that she has not only opened his mail but listened to Crowe before him.  Duncan also begins an affair with a new professor, that he confesses to Anne.  This is total wishy-washy behaviour and the audience is only too glad to see Annie kick him out of the house.

As the story goes on, Annie meets Crowe in person and begins an affair with him.  The brown stuff hits the fan when Duncan finds out.  Not only does Duncan accuse Annie of doing this to get back at him, but he begins disagreeing with Crowe about his work.

If all this sounds too serious, the film is not, and a lot of humour is injected into the story so that the film can still be labelled as a romantic comedy.  But it is one with a difference as it does not follow the beaten path of the Harlequin-styled story.

All three actors are excellent in their roles.  It is always a pleasure to watch Rose Byrne (NEIGHBOURS and NEIGHBOURS 2) who is always good in anything she is in.  Ethan Hawke, known for his fondness in blues and music gets to sing a few of the songs featured in the film.  O’Dowd who has proven himself proficient in drama (CALVARY) and in comedy (BRIDESMAIDS) makes an unlikable character both likeable and sympathetic.

The film has a few odd segments.  One is the problematic hospital segment where all of Crowe’s children from multiple partners all show up at the hospital when he suffers an unexpected heart attack.  How would they all show up together when they were so difficult to even meet is one question.  They argue and bicker to no end and then are never seen again during the movie.  Annie first meets Crowe at the hospital too and any logical person would have left Crowe or any such person with so much baggage.

JULIET, NAKED is at least good for a few laughs with a few well timed jokes.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwWKaYsNqBM

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Happy Birthday: Rose Byrne

rosebyrne.jpgRose Byrne

Born: July 24, 1979 in Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Is in a long-term relationship with Bobby Cannavale since 2012. They have a son together.

 

 

 

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Movie Review: Neighbours 2 (USA 2016) ***1/2

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bad_neighboursNEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING (USA 2016) ***1/2
Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clara Mamet, Selena Gomez

Review by Gilbert Seah

NEIGHBOURS the Seth Rogen comedy with Zac Efron as a frat neighbour was one of the best comedies of 2014. It featured the funniest sequence in a comedy that year – the Robert De Niro segment in which Efron, Dave Franco and gang all dress up as De Niro to taunt Rogen and wife for calling the cops the night before to lodge a complaint about their party.

NEIGHBOURS 2 has tough shoes to fill. But thanks to good writing from a script credited to 5 writers, the sequel makes it. Jokes like the air bags and the Dean Carol Gladstone character (Lisa Kudrow) from the first film are brought back into the sequel. If a few jokes do not work, one can be sure another couple will in a few minutes. With hardly any time for the audience to take a breather, NEIGHBOURS 2 comes across as intense as the dressed up clown that shows up at a tailgate party, a segment that is almost as funny as the De Niro sequence.

The success of this film lies a great deal on the comedic potential of both Efron and Chloe Grace Moretz. Efron plays the older frat member, now graduated and unable to find a decent job and living space while Moretz plays his younger female version looking to party all the time. Teddy Sanders (Efron) helps her at first in renting her sorority house that just happens to be next to the house that Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) is selling. But Teddy switches to Mac’s side to help him evict the sisters sorority. It is a fairly simple plot but with plenty of comedy potential, with the setups well staged. Efron has proven his mettle in comedy as in the first NEIGHBOURS and the recent DIRTY GRANDPA. Efron can even be funny in moments demanding the audience to show sympathy for his character. Teddy, for example, shows genuine puzzlement on why eggs get hard whereas pasta gets soft when dunked in boiling water, Moretz, however, has the straighter role. Her character serves to anchor the story. Her sorority sisters, Beth (Dope’s Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) and other sorority members are left with the task of providing the laughter.

NEIGHBOURS 2 also lifts comedy to a level of political correctness. The gay jokes are largely positive, with Teddy’s best friend, Pete (Franco) coming out and getting married to his new husband. On the female side, the sisterly bond fosters positive feminism while male chauvinism (such as in the depiction of girls as whores in colleges) is frowned upon. There is also a comedic discussion on the difference between a male teen vs. a female teen losing his or her virginity.

While NEIGHBOURS 2 is funny enough, its desperation to top the original is obvious. The film grabs at any opportunity for a joke, even to have didoes dressed as princesses to get a laugh. The result is the film looking a bit ‘all over the place’ compared to the more focused original despite the almost equal high to hit miss laughter ratio.

 

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Movie Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA 2016) ****

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xmenapol.jpgX-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA 2016) ****
Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Oscar Isaac, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult,

Review by Gilbert Seah

From the first 15 minutes of X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, it appears that director Bryan Singer, the director of the new X-MEN movie (and the director of all the others except for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) is going all out to outdo all the other X-MEN films in terms of yes, everything. The film begins with the first mutant born in ancient times (3600 B.C.) in Egypt. He is none other than En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), and if that name is too difficult to remember, he is also called Apocalypse. He is entombed. Singer has the volume up full blast, the special effects at full throttle, 3D included, so there are tons of rocks, sharp objects and metal thrown out of the screen. If you think Singer will give audiences a break, forget it! The film is nonstop action, effects, noise and explosions all the way – the way an action super hero film should be. But he also builds in the storyline (script by Simon Kinberg), so that it is not just meaningless action.

The story involves Apocalypse resurrected in 1983. There is some humour and irony in him being disgusted by the human race ruled by weaklings. So, he decides to take over the world and rid the world of weaklings. This actually sounds not too bad an idea. So Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is conned into joining him. If Apocalypse gains the power of Professor X (James McAvoy) he can rule the world. So, it is up to Professor X aka Charles Xavier and the good X-Men to save the day. It is also good to see so many super heroes (or mutants) in a single movie – enough to satisfy any action fan. And it seems that it must be a requirement to look good to be in this film. Every male and female are drop dead gorgeous.

The action sequences especially the climax in which all the X-MEN have to join powers to destroy Apocalypse, are super well executed, much better than all the recent super hero films. The film also works because all the actors seem to take their roles seriously. But the oddest is Jennifer Lawrence as the blue Raven. She looks as if she does not want to be in the film, as she is making so much money being famous right now. She gives Professor X the kind of look: “You want to recruit me again to save the world? I have better things to do.”

Unlike DEADPOOL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA, Singer’s film has action segments that are imaginative and cinematically stunning. The best of these has Quicksilver (Evan Peters) save his fellow X-Men amidst slow motion or stopped background to the song “Sweet Dreams”. The final fight scene in which a big silver X falls from the sky would definitely draw cheers from a packed house of elated fans. The one with Professor X’s wheelchair pulled backwards with his head tilted to the side is yet another inspirational storyboarded sequence.

The film also contains great scenes of the world being destroyed. The dialogue also contains lots of quotable lines like: You are no longer students, you are X-Men”, “I have never felt so much power in my life, “ etc.

APOCALYPSE costs a whopping $234 million to make. Singer makes sure it shows. And the results are worth it. This is the best Super Hero Action Movie so far this year. Let’s hope it pays off at the box-office.

 

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Movie Review: THE MEDDLER. Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne

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themeddler.jpgTHE MEDDLER (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Cecily Strong, Michael McKean, Jerrod Carmichael

Review by Gilbert Seah

Just a week after the comedy HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS arrives another film with a senior protagonist. Though the two films are highly different, the target audience might be the same. THE MEDDLER will have tough shoes to fill, as the former film serves up more comedy, commercial style with 2-time Oscar winner Sally Field while THE MEDDLER is a combination of down-to-earth drama and autobiography. The story is fashioned from the writer/director Lorene Scarfaria’s relationship with her own mother.

THE MEDDLER of the film title is Marnie (Susan Sarandon), who after her husband’s death has nothing better to do but to meddle. But her meddling is not bad in any sense as her intentions are genuine. Her ‘meddling’ involves suffocating her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), not giving her any space, helping a fast-food worker with his law degree and offering as much as underwriting $13,000 for Lori’s friend’s wedding among others.

When Lori finally has had enough of her mother and moves away to sort out her career, Marnie is forced to face the worse – not having her daughter around and to rethink her options. So she falls in love.

The trouble with THE MEDDLER that real life stories like the one based on the director’s mother do not turn out to be that interesting on film.

Another problem is that Marnie has no real obstacles to her life. Her life is actually a total breeze. She is financially more than able, thanks to late husband, and she has a loving daughter and two very eager lovers. These factors lowers the film’s interest even more. Director Scarfaria makes matters worse by having one eager lover, the one played by J.K. Simmons sing to his chickens, thus amplifying the desperation of the film’s story.

But the film contains a few neat surprises. Examples are Marnie’s upcoming romances. The way she ditches her lovers or possible lovers is nothing short of plain hilarious.

Sarandon has a track record of superlative performances in films such as THELMA AND LOUISE, LORENZO’S OIL and my personal favourite, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. And she is still a knockout at the age of almost 70. She makes the movie.

But the character of Marnie might not necessarily be a senior or mother. A best friend or younger person could have the same charter mould as Marnie. The script could have picked a different aged or even male protagonist to appeal to a wider audience and put some problems in her life to make the film more varied.

The result is a film more close to life (despite Marnie’s too convenient wealth) that it comes too close to home and monotonous. THE MEDDLER contains less humour and more drama, most of it brought on herself by the character. As such the target audience might prefer to watch a more fairy tale of a film like HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS. Only box-office receipts will reveal the fate of both movies.

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
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