Tag Archives: Sandra Bullock

28 Days


I’ve always had a thing for 28 Days. So often in Hollywood there are films that try tackle real issues, but not all of them feel like they’ve achieved anything, or even portrayed said issues in a realistic, compassionate way. This one shines a probing, nonjudgmental spotlight onto alcoholism, in all it’s subtleties and absurd truths, like few other films have. Many films portray alcoholism like a raging mania that turns you rabid and irrational, and while that certainly can be the case, I like how here they show what a semi-functioning addict looks like, as opposed to your atypical abusive archetype. It’s also just more pleasant fare too. Despite being a story about great struggle and personal woe, there’s lightheartedness to it that’s welcome in such stressful territory. Sandra Bullock, that luminous brunette, is pretty much instantly likeable in anything, a beautiful, effortless, natural born movie star, giving any film an instant advantage simply by having her headline. Here she plays Gwen, a NYC newspaper columnist who, along with her Brit boyfriend (Dominic West), has a fairly serious problem with the booze. After spectacularly ruining her poor sister’s (Elizabeth Perkins) and recklessly crashing a stolen limousine, the thin line between functionality and outright self destruction is crossed, and it becomes time to seek help. Court ordered into rehab, Gwen ships off to an upstate clinic to sleep off the hangover, but the real progress comes from first admitting she has a problem at all. Like any film about rehab, the facility is home to many quaint, quirky people for her to meet, bond and squabble with, fellow addicts on the road to whatever recovery means to them. Steve Buscemi underplays a sly turn as the program founder and lead social worker, Viggo Mortensen is sorta kinda a love interest, but also not really, in an ambiguously written supporting role, and there’s solid work from Alan Tudyuk, Marieanne Jean-Baptiste, Azura Skye and Margo Martindale too. Parallel to her treatment we see hazy flashbacks to Gwen being raised by her severely alcoholic mother (Diane Ladd), and get a glimpse of how the hectic, sprawling life of someone who drinks just seems like the mundane to them, internally until they decide to swallow that proverbial red pill, step outside the routine and examine their choices. It’s a great little film with an organic, realistic arc for Bullock that she inhabits with grace, humility and humour.

-Nate Hill

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“Half of America just lost their Facebook.” – A Gravity review by Josh Hains

I love Gravity. Love, love, love it. L-O-V-E IT!

I mean, the unseen force that keeps us pinned to the ground so we don’t tumble about and float away into the depths of space. That Gravity. So thankful for it. As for the film, I love it too. You don’t even know.

Now let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves and admit, Gravity is kind of a difficult film to write a review about because there isn’t much of a story or plot for me to pick apart meticulously.

Russians blow up one of their own satellites and the fallout causes debris to collide with the several other satellites including American ones, as well as the Explorer space shuttle and its crew who are working on the Hubble Space Telescope. Two crew members, biomedical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a newbie to space, and veteran astronaut Lt. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), are the only survivors, and must make their way back to Earth without the assistance of Mission Control in Houston, who has gone offline thanks to those satellites getting trashed. That’s it. I’m not kidding, that’s all there really is to it. That’s so simple a caveman could write a review about it. No offence to cavemen.

I’m actually pretty glad there’s not much plot to the film. There was a time when a lack of plot could get a film places, when people didn’t care if a film had the most intricately layered plot, as long as it entertained the hell out of them, and they’d put it upon a pedestal high above other films, giving it some kind of a legendary status in cinema history. Like Blade Runner. Today, a film without much plot often gets ripped to shreds by critics before the audience has even seen the film, automatically creating a negative aura that engulfs the flick and rapidly builds an unwarranted bias and stigma toward the film. Just look what’s happened to Disney’s Tomorrowland. Original ideas aren’t enough for some people, blah, blah, blah, the film looks amazing if you ask me.

Wait…Gravity was one of the best reviewed films of the 2013 season? And it won Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects at the 86th Annual Academy Awards? Oops. Guess I’m late to the party.

Gravity might not have much plot, but that isn’t even the slightest of a hinderance for this full throttle space thriller. In fact, the lack of plot actually works in its favour, allowing ourselves the opportunity to take in all the wondrous sights and sounds, rather than shovelling mountains of unnecessary exposition and plot-stuffings down our throats. Right from the first frames of the film, it’s evident moviegoers are in for a visual treat, thanks in large part to Emmanuel Lubezki’s uber-detailed cinematography, and the all-to-real CGI effects that make up I’d say about 98% of the film’s visual content – only the actors and their suits are real, to my knowledge. Again, this isn’t at all a hinderance, although at varying moments through the course of the film the two leads had a CGI sheen to them. I can only assume this was entirely intentional, given that this obscure look found its way into the final cut. The film is rich with detail, from the finest stubble on Kowalski’s chin that can be made out perfectly despite the camera being several feet away from the character, to the awe inspiring other-wordly view of our home planet; the detail is pronounced, immaculate, and gorgeous. Seriously, Gravity couldn’t look anymore beautiful than it already does. Can you believe me that their visors are CGI? Neither could I, they look so damn real.

In space, no one can hear you scream. In Gravity, sound is everything. From the thunderous score enhancing the urgency of the thrill-a-minute perilous sequences, to the subtleties of the character’s breathing as their oxygen levels dip. Between the stunning cinematography melded with the extremely lifelike visuals effects wizardry, and the moody music and pitch-perfect sounds effects, Gravity becomes an elevated immersive cinematic experience you have to see to believe. Simply hearing about the film or watching it’s then-popular trailer is not enough, you genuinely have to sit back and allow the ride to envelop you completely. If you’re into that sorta thing.

In terms of acting, in several elongated sequences strung throughout the film, we don’t get to see the actors faces as much as we get to hear them. Bullock’s Stone leans toward the panic-stricken side of things, being that she’s a space newbie and all, and she’s distressed enough from early in the film until the final frames to have next to no oxygen for an albeit short duration of the film, which is a bad thing in case you were wondering. Anytime something goes wrong, and believe me, the shit hits the fan (Murphy’s Law is in full, vibrant effect here), she goes into panic mode and can’t seem to keep her cool or maintain some semblance of self control, which again, is expected because she’s a…newb!On the other hand, Clooney’s Kowalski is the calm, cool professional. He maintains as much control as is feasible within the confines of their situation, but never overreacts or panics. He’s always cool, calm, collected, and does his absolute best to assist Stone and help calm her down at various points so she doesn’t use up all her oxygen. I couldn’t help but notice at a later point in the film, when Kowalski gives a motivational push to Stone, that George Clooney has possibly the most soothing male voice I’ve ever heard from a mainstream Hollywood actor. After the rigorous endurance test that is the early portion of Gravity, he actually calmed me down with his inspirational words of wisdom, I shit you not. In three noteworthy moments I don’t want to spoil for anyone who might not have sen Gravity, both actors, with little dialogue and very little of their faces available for our viewing pleasure, convey melancholic aspects of themselves without diving headfirst into sentimentality. These moments feel genuine and organically constructed, never once ringing falsely, and thus constructing raw moments of compassion we feel for their respective characters.

A hot topic surrounding the film has been the scientific accuracy of the picture, with everything from zero gravity to deceleration being scrutinized by the general public (why are people who know nothing about space given the time of day?), along with astronauts and Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Tyson, after his viewing of the film, took to twitter to debunk some of the film’s key aspects, some of which were scientifically accurate, and some of which were simply movie mumbo-jumbo. The film’s director, Alfonso Cuarón, as stated that he is aware the film is not always scientifically accurate, but that these inaccuracies were necessary for the sake of the story. That’s something I can abide by.

As a whole, sure, Gravity has zip for a story. Nada, nothing, right?. But sometimes, watching a film isn’t about whether you’re sucked in by the story or not, but how the film affects you on a visceral, deeply psychological and emotional level. Sometimes, the best films don’t require the brains to navigate through overlong dialogues and meticulously crafted story lines, but rather, the sight to bear witness to the greatness being displayed before your very eyes. But a great film can’t be measured by such things, even though I’ve taken the time to acknowledge them. That’s what I love about cinema, it’s not about how great the story was, or how terrifically riveting the performances were, or how the special effects looked or the way the music rings through your ears. No, a great film is measured by how it makes you feel deep down in those places you don’t talk about at parties. A great film is measured by how deep it reaches you. How deeply it hits you square in the gut like a shotgun blast at point blank range, or how it sinks into the furthest recesses of your heart and makes you long for its company. Or how intimately it affects your mind, and resurrects your love for fine filmmaking. A great film can push the world and all its complications to the side, put you at ease, and take the time to entertain the living shit out of you, if only for a short time.

In Gravity’s case, it took just one incredible moment in a tremendous motion picture to make my jaw hit the floor with its beautifully rendered view of the Earth and the astronauts working near it.

And I’ve gotta admit one thing: can’t beat the view.

A Time To Kill: A Review by Nate Hill 

Ahh, the courtroom drama. Or, in Joel Schumacher’s A Time To Kill’s case, the fired up courtroom scorcher. A massive team of actors gather together here to tell the hot blooded tale of one African American man on trial for a brutal murder that is seen by many as justified, but to the prosecutor working the case is just another statistic that will help him vault over the pole to his next suit & tie victory. It’s based on a book by John Grisham, and Schumacher also adapted his story The Client, with admirable but less energetic results. This is one my favourite courtroom films, mainly due to the feverish energy of the American South that thrums beneath events like a heart ready to beat out of its chest. Every character has a mad glint in their eye and an epic film of sweat drenching them, and it’s easy to see why when you examine the high stakes, hot tempered powder keg of a trial they are involved in. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant as Carl Lee, a simple African man accused of mercilessly gunning down two cracker asses (one of which is a grimy Kiefer Sutherland). These two punks are responsible for the rape and prolonged brutalization of Carl’s twelve year old daughter. A righteous knee jerk reaction for anyone, right? Try convincing a jury in the South of that. Conflict flares up faster than the fire adorning the crosses left on lawns by the arriving KKK, and soon the pressure is on to find the perfect prosecutor and defender for his case. Young upstart Jake Brigans (Matthew McConaughey) is picked to defend, facing off against a seasoned and annoyingly smug prick played by Kevin Spacey. Jake is blessed with the ingenuity and intuition of a law clerk (Sandra Bullock, excellent) and the sagely patronage of a veteran lawman played by a salty Donald Sutherland. It’s a tricky case though, with tempers and racial tension running high and a near constant air of danger for people on both sides of the table. Lee stands by his choice and boils in righteous fury that doesn’t quell the hurt once it’s simmered down, something which Jackson achingly imparts. Jake is swept up in the spectacle of it all, until his relationship with his wife (Ashley Judd) and finally his very life are at stake. Bullock brings the sanity of the big city to this backwater set melodrama and gives some of the best work of the film. Morality is tentatively explored, even though it’s clear as day that Lee was completely justified in his actions, and the outcome of the trial should reflect this. That sentiment is right there with the film’s title. But does it? You’ll have to watch and see. The epic cast lineup also includes work from Oliver Platt, Brenda Fricker, Kurtwood Smith, Charles S. Dutton, Patrick McGoohan, Nicky Katt, Beth Grant, Anthony Heald, Octavia Spencer, M. Emmett Walsh and a moving Chris Cooper in a small role. It’s a long film, but it sustains its energy and pace for the duration, with McConaughey’s refusal to buck the horse and throw the trial a key asset in letting us feel the hurt of a community torn inside out in one act of flagrant evil. It’s up to him and his crew not to right that wrong (realism dictates that it’s too late), but to give a modicum of solace to those further endangered by the very same evil. A winner.