How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008) Real Life, But Not

Poster for How to Lose Friends and Alienate PeopleThis, sort of, biopic about Brit journo Toby Young is entertaining fodder. Never mind that it took me around seven years to finally watch this film, there were reasons…Okay? Essentially, like most amusing features based upon humorous memoirs, the film is about real life, but not really. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is pretty much fictional from the first frame. Where Toby, renamed Sidney, for the film worked in New York for Vanity Fair magazine, Pegg’s journalist works for Jeff Bridges, in the guise of Clayton Harding owner of Sharps a celebrity focused glossy.

It is fun, at the start of the film to see Thandie Newton, as herself, interacting with Pegg’s character, probably a payback for appearing together the previous year in Run Fatboy Run! and what’s wrong with that?

The romantic interest in the film is played by, alternatively, Megan Fox, who had not yet insulted her Transformer’s producer Michael Bay and Kirsten Dunst who had just finished her Spider-Man run as Mary Jane. There are a number of respectable names in the film. Gillian Anderson, whose character may, or may not be a cougar who tempts Young into dancing with the devil so to speak.

Everyone in the film looks ridiculously young, no pun intended. Pegg looks like he has regressed age-wise from the superior television comedy Spaced and Fox looks very different as well, having not gone that final step with plastic surgery that “refined” her face, and body even further. Sadly, there is no cure for “toe-thumbs.”

Jeff Bridges could have been Shemped at the start of the film as he talks to Pegg’s character looking away from the camera. In fact, the Oscar winning star could have phoned his role in as it did not require an enormous amount of effort on his part. The same could be said of Dunst.

Danny Huston, however, excelled as the sleazy and oily king of the paps who heads up the “show and tell” portion of the magazine. I will admit a soft spot for Huston whom I fell in love with initially in 40 Days of Night and then later in The Warrior’s Way and American Horror Story.

The beginning of the film offers such familiar British acting worthies as Chris O’Down, James Cordon and Fenella Woolgar as well as the more famous English stars in tiny cameos, Daniel Craig, Kate Winslet; and Australian star Toni Collette.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is amusing and at one point it borrows from the second of the Cornetto trilogies, Hot Fuzz, where they do a riff on the “Can I have your autograph” gag. Compared with other Pegg offerings, this film is much better than, say, Burke and Hare but not quite on par with any of the Cornetto trilogy films.

On Netflix at the moment, along with A Fantastic Fear of Everything and while the biopic is definitely worth a look, the latter film can be missed without too much guilt. 3.5 out of 5 stars for this older funny film.

1 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Hugh Jackman Leaves Wolverine Behind for His Birthday

Hugh Jackman Leaves Wolverine Behind for His Birthday

It is a well known fact that Hugh Jackman got his start working in musicals as a song and dance performer. He still cites his role as Curly in Oklahoma! as being a personal favorite and what will always be his idea of career perfection. But it was his being cast as Wolverine in the 2000 film X-Men that made Jackman a household name.

Dream House (2011): A Pleasant Surprise

Dream Home (2011): A Pleasant Surprise

The 2011 film Dream House was a pleasant surprise. I had no real intention of watching the film as the marketing on it left a lot to be desired.  But as it was on Sky Movies I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did.  It turned into a pleasant surprise, despite the somewhat jumbled editing and plot holes.

Directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father) and starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, the film is a psychological thriller that was marketed as a horror film. The film, when released got almost universally panned by critics. Although that does seem to be the modus operandi when films are not pre-screened for critics.

The other problem the film encountered was that Jim Sheridan had major problems with the producers Morgan Creek Productions. Morgan Creek took the film away from the director and did their own final cut on the film. Sheridan then  attempted to have his name removed from the production. Two of the film’s stars,  Craig and Weisz, also refused to do any publicity for the film.

Daniel Craig was completely disgusted by the final product.  But in interviews after the fact revealed that while he did not like the finished film, he did meet his future wife Rachel Weisz so it was “a fair trade.”

The film follows Will Atenton (Craig)  who has quit his desk job and is going to write a book. He has a leaving party and goes to his new home away from the city and starts his new job as novelist.  His family consists of wife Libby (Weisz), and their two daughters Trish and DeeDee.

The small family seem to have an almost idyllic life until they start being threatened by someone who is watching their every move and the local police will not help them. Apart from a reluctantly helpful neighbour, Ann Patterson (Watts), no one in the small town is on their side.

Will decides he must help his family alone and he learns that the house  his perfect family live in was the scene of a gruesome murder.

Dream Home (2011): A Pleasant Surprise

The story moves on quite well and the pacing, though uneven, is still on-par for the genre. Despite the director’s unhappiness  with the final product, it is overall a very satisfactory film. Dream House, for all its negative reviews is a pleasant surprise. The plot twists, when they appeared were genuinely surprising and by the end of the film, I almost had a tear in my eye.

Almost.

It would have been nice to see the film that Sheridan, Craig and Weisz had imagined. It is not unusual for producers to snatch a film from  a director after disagreements arise. In this case you are left wondering just how powerful the original vision must have been.

All the actors do a brilliant job in the film. Craig proved, once again, that he is not just a “Bond” one-trick pony. He had shown his acting chops well before he took on 007 and it was nice to see those chops reaffirmed. Weisz is as usual a  pleasure to watch, she always brings a huge degree of believability to any role she undertakes.

Naomi Watts does her standard good job as the neighbour who knows much more than she lets on. Honourable mentions have to go to Elias Koteas and Martin Csokas as the film’s two “boogie-men.”

The film looked brilliant in terms of cinematography and set design. The switching between the “dream house” and its uglier more derelict appearance was done masterfully and with just enough of a seam to show how the character’s were seeing it.

Plot holes and dangling storyline were not a huge issue, although the actual plot device had been done before, most notably in Jim Carrey‘s The Number 23But Dream House was, overall, a pleasant surprise and well worth the time spent watching it. I was suitably impressed, despite the film’s troubled beginnings. I’d give it a four out of five stars for entertainment.

MIchael Smith

United Kingdom

11 September, 2013

English: Naomi Watts at the Cannes film festival
English: Naomi Watts at the Cannes film festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sam Mendes back to direct Bond number 24.

Sam Mendes back to direct Bond number 24.