Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Woody Harrelson”

The Edge of Seventeen

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 8th January 2017

3 stars, Rated M, 104 mins

When you’re a teenager, films about teenagers totally speak to you. You’re like “OMG, finally!” Someone who understands what it’s like dealing with raging hormones and being unpopular and the traumas of high school life is putting all that up on the big screen and showing you it’s all gonna be OK.

edge-of-seventeen

If you’re reading this as a child of the John Hughes era, you know what I’m talking about. Hughes was a grown-up filmmaker with an incredible memory of what it was like to be young. His films may have been all-American but his characters were universal. Or at least, aspirational. He gave us losers who became winners in their own way. That’s still an important message for the youth of today.

To this end, The Edge of Seventeen will speak to today’s teens and they should totally go see it. If, however, you find the whole teenage thing too angsty to take seriously, or too excruciating to revisit, you may want to give it a miss.

Written and directed by relative newcomer Kelly Fremon Craig, the film stars True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld as the fraught Nadine, who lives in the shadow of her football-playing stud of an older brother (Blake Jenner from Everybody Wants Some!!) and therefore falls apart emotionally when her best friend Krista and brother fall in love. Nadine is the type of teen we all recognise (and since I work with hundreds of teens every day, I see her in many of them) – earnest about the state of the world and her place in it; anxious about fitting in socially; smart and perceptive; and she has a great wardrobe of hi-top sneakers. (Actually, the sneakers are my favourite thing about her.)

Steinfeld plays Nadine the only way she possibly can with such an on-the-nose script – slightly over-the-top, eye-rollingly dry, lots of “OMG!” moments that verge on slapstick. Woody Harrelson provides a nice counterpoint as the very still, ironic teacher to whom Nadine takes all her problems. Harrelson says all the things teachers cannot, but wish they could, say. (Cute as it appears in the script, no real-life male teacher would read aloud a sexually explicit text message or jokingly encourage suicide.) Their odd-couple tête-à-têtes provide some of the film’s highlights.

But the Best Thing Ever is Hayden Zseto’s unlikely romantic lead, Erwin – the nerdy, easily-flustered classmate who takes a shine to our heroine. Stealing every scene and putting the Adorable into the story, Zseto is going to be a big star.

Overall, the story gets rather tiresome. Don’t get me wrong! I spend all day with teens, and their concerns are real. Just sometimes tiresome. But hopefully watching The Edge of Seventeen will make them feel better.

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Now You See Me

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 4th August 2013

A terrific cast of magicians, each with his or her own forte, a zingy script and a story that moves at the speed of light – like a magic trick itself, Now You See Me promises much in the build-up, boasting all the elements of a rollicking good film.

Look behind the smoke and mirrors and you may realise there is absolutely no character development and the plot possibly has a few holes… But you don’t want to look too hard, because this film is entertainment with a capital M.

Four illusionists (perhaps a more accurate term) are enticed into a game of They Don’t Know What by They Don’t Know Who. But being adventurous egotists at the top of their respective games, Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg (reunited from Zombieland), Isla Fisher (The Great Gatsby) and Dave Franco (forging his own path out of the shadow of brother James) embrace the opportunity to fool the world. Putting on hi-fi magic shows in Vegas, they are ostensibly under the patronage of Michael Caine’s millionaire, Arthur Tressler. But who’s really behind all this larking about?

The rendering of the magic acts is sensational, all spinning camerawork and souring music – overblown but undeniably fun and exciting. If anything, the starry cast is there to dazzle us into not noticing the feeble plot. An exotic Melanie Laurent joins the typically shambolic Mark Ruffalo, while Morgan Freeman just looks to be having as much fun as the name Thaddeus Bradley suggests.

Directed by the bloke who brought you The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans, the film is a bit of a cheap trick but it’s refreshingly gangster-free and at least there’s only one car chase.

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