For The Love Of… Drugs (T2 Trainspotting review)

Against all odds, the protagonist survived the whole ordeal and came out the better for it.

 

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Shirley Henderson, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald, Anjela Nedyalkova
Director: Danny Boyle
re-released on blu-ray June 27, 2017
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Audience Score 82%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Danny Boyle is an English director, producer, and screenwriter; best known for Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs. He has won BAFTA Awards and Academy Awards for his films and generally prefers to keep the genres and ideas he works with separate from each other, but he has dabbled with sequels having now created continuations of story arcs with both 28 Weeks Later and T2 Trainspotting.

Boyle admits that while his films are all over the map, a consistent theme runs through each – about overcoming insurmountable odds. As Dave Chapelle’s impersonation of Rick James would say, heroin is a hell of a drug.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the 20 years since Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) stole £16,000 in drug money from his friends he has married and been living in Amsterdam. After going through a divorce which renders him homeless and being diagnosed with ACS, he decides to return to Edinburgh. Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner), still a heroin addict, has lost his construction job and is estranged from his girlfriend, Gail (Shirley Henderson), and son, Fergus. Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) now abuses cocaine, owns a pub he inherited from his aunt, and engages in blackmail schemes with his Bulgarian dominatrix girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedalkova). Francis “Franco” Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is serving a 25-year prison sentence and is denied parole due to his violent temper.

Renton stops by his childhood home, where his father (James Cosmo) tells him of his mother’s death. He visits Spud at his flat, preventing him from committing suicide. Spud initially resents the intervention, but Renton offers to help him out of his addiction, telling him he needs to channel his addiction into something else. Renton then visits Simon at the pub intending to apologise and pay his share of the £16,000. They fight, but ultimately make peace.

Begbie escapes from prison and reunites with his wife and university-bound son, whom he wants to join him in burgling houses. Begbie visits Simon, and learns that Renton has returned. Simon keeps both Begbie and Renton unaware of his contact with the other.

Renton, Simon, and Veronika become partners in various crimes, using the proceeds to renovate the second floor of Simon’s pub into a brothel. They fraudulently apply for an EU business-development loan. Veronika begins an affair with Renton. One of Simon’s blackmail targets reports him to the police and Renton seeks legal advice from his former girlfriend, Diane (Kelly Macdonald), now a solicitor. The proceeds of their crimes are used up in legal fees. A menacing encounter with the owner of a rival brothel intimidates Renton and Simon into abandoning their brothel scheme. Veronika tells Renton and Simon that the business-development loan was approved and they have £100,000.

Begbie and Renton accidentally meet in the toilets of a nightclub, resulting in a chase from which Renton barely escapes. Begbie visits Spud and discovers he has been writing his memoirs, with Veronika’s encouragement. From the pages spread throughout Spud’s apartment, Begbie learns for the first time that Renton had left Spud his £4,000 share of the drug deal earnings. When Veronika stops by, Begbie takes her phone which he uses to trick Mark and Simon into meeting him at Simon’s pub.

Veronika asks Spud to leave with her, promising him half of the £100,000 loan money. He declines, but helps her steal the money by forging Renton’s and Simon’s signatures.

Simon and Renton meet at the pub, and Spud arrives to warn them of Begbie’s trap. Begbie arrives and knocks Simon unconscious. Renton hides upstairs, then falls from the rafters and gets caught in cables, which strangle him. As Begbie attempts to finish killing Renton, Simon revives and uses pepper spray on Begbie. As Begbie retrieves and loads a shotgun, Spud knocks him unconscious with a toilet bowl.

The three leave Begbie trapped in the boot of a car parked outside the prison from which he’d escaped. Veronika returns to Bulgaria with the £100,000. Spud channels his addiction into his writing and begins mending his relationship with Gail and Fergus. As Gail reads his writings, the implied title of the book is “Trainspotting”. Renton and Simon resume their old friendship. Renton moves back into his father’s home and embraces him before going into his bedroom and playing “Lust for Life” on his record player.

While this movie doesn’t have quite the same bite and rawness as its predecessor, it is a pure sequel, with the emotional pull between its ensemble cast and Boyle’s treatment of middle-agedness making this movie a worthy installment and bookend of these burnouts in a far off corner of the world.

Pros: It retreads what preceded in glorious fashion, we are happy to revisit the same characters twenty years later, and while the actors have aged themselves, each of the four leads provides the goods. Begbie and Spud in particular shine.

Cons: The constant references to the first film are a bit jilting at first and only feel necessary upon post-mortem reflection of the plot. I struggle with the limited screen time for both Spud and Begbies estranged wives. The relationship between Renton and Sick Boy feels strained, and not from the twenty years after the betrayal.

Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes

Points of Interest: Robert Carlyle decided to stay away from his family during filming because he took on so many traits of Begbie. Ewan McGregor and Danny Boyle had a falling out around the time that Leonardo DiCaprio was cast as the lead for The Beach, and only recently reconciled. During filming, the movie was titled Porno, just as the second novel was titled.

Sometimes what follows an opportunity is a betrayal, but fortunately for us this was not the case with T2: Trainspotting. Danny Boyle does continue his theme of having his character overcomes all odds and walk away a better person for it. Realistically, Renton should have died this time around, but as luck would have it, he gets to walk away. It’s a mesmerizing film to watch, and even as it features some caper flick elements towards the end, it makes sense for the story.

theories Summarized

I’ll admit that I had not seen 1996’s Trainspotting until just before viewing this film, so maybe I can’t hold onto the nostalgia as tightly as some other viewers might, but I think in this case it afforded me with the ability to appreciate both films upfront and without the rose-coloured glasses. This is a solid sequel, which no one should feel ashamed in indulging. And unlike drugs, you won’t feel the effects of withdrawal.

But that said, if you are feeling some Watch Culture aches and pains, fear not creative cuties, we have another serving for you below. Enjoy and I’ll see you tomorrow with some wisdom!

Tim!

Sigourney Weaver Approved (Finding Dory review)

Voice acting might not be getting the respect it deserves from the general public. Voice actors are the backbone of animated films and television, as well as great resources to be used in marketing and documentaries. And yet, you have to be a talented actor in order to achieve any measure of success at it.

If you think about it, voice actors don’t have other actors to use in framing their delivery, nor do they have sets and props to build a setting. And they don’t necessarily need to have a unique voice, but it does help to have a broad vocal range in really selling a feeling.

Take the voice actors in this weeks featured film review. Most of these men and women know how to hold a room.

 

 

 

Finding Dory (2016)

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks,  Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
released on blu-ray November 15, 2016
****** 6/10

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IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Audience Score 86%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Andrew Stanton has had his share of director opportunities within his career at Disney Pixar – A Bug’s Life in 1998 as co-director, Finding Nemo in 2003 with Lee Unkrich as his co-director, WALL-E in 2008, his first live action film with John Carter in 2012, and now Finding Doy with Angus MacLane as his co-director. He also co-wrote all three Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc. Angus MacLane on the other hand, is primarily an animator who has just started to tread water (excuse my pun) in the shoes of director.

The question of course, is “do we really need a Finding Nemo sequel?” Without giving too much away too quickly, I will say this; Finding Dory is a beautiful if not unnecessary attempt at continuing down the line of thought that Finding Nemo already presented us with.

The film introduces us to a young Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who is already suffering from short-term memory loss, worried that she’ll forget her parents, and that they’ll forget her at some point. Eventually she does get lost, but cannot get the help she needs to get back to her family, because of her memory failings, and so years later Dory is still lost and unable to recall her family. We are given a short sequence that showcases her first interaction with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and how they work together to find his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence). The movie takes us on a journey for Dory to find her family, which begins when Dory begins to pick up fragments of memories she didn’t know she had.

With the statement “Jewel of Morro Bay, California” on her lips and Sigourney Weaver’s voice in her head, Dory swims away after from home after an altercation with a squid puts Nemo at risk and Marlin at odds with her. Marlin and Nemo eventually realize that Dory is lost and go looking for her.

And so we witness two separate paths unfold one for the father and son, and a separate one for Dory, each meeting a host of new characters, like Hank the septopod (Ed O’ Neill), along the way in what one can easily describe as a typical quest story. And while there are many funny moments that lead up to the inevitable, if not somewhat obvious, conclusion, there is also a fair amount of CGI magic and good old fashioned heart.

Pros: This is a character story, focusing specifically on the personal challenges of Dory, identity, family, an array of characters with disabilities and how they deal with them. Its in those moments of mental exploration that Finding Dory is the most interesting.

Cons: The story does run very similar parallels to the original, which makes it difficult to see it as a pure sequel rather than a clone of what preceded it. On another level, ironically, it often feels like you are supposed to feel a certain feeling rather than organically fall into it.

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Points of Interest: This is the second time that Pixar has made a movie with no major antagonist, with the first film like that being Inside Out. The real reason Hank has only seven tentacles is because the animators realized a little too late that they could only fit seven on his body. His backstory was rewritten to account for the missing limb.

As I’ve already mentioned, Finding Dory is a fun sequel, albeit one that is often feels like an extended cut of Finding Nemo, and full of the same thematic ideals. It is very smart and has a great concept, but we’ve already been there, done that. It felt great over a decade ago, and is still entertaining today, but it’s not quite the same experience. And the animation is incredible, moreso than Finding Nemo even. But I wouldn’t put it up for animation of the year or as an animated classic.

 

 

 

If you want to become a voice actor, it helps to have some standard acting credits under your belt already, but the most important thing to consider is practice, practice, practice. Developing your talent over time is essential to a good delivery. If you pay very close attention to Ellen DeGeneres in this film, she manages to give a nuanced performance, and yet we never see her face, we only see Dory the royal blue tang fish. Its a testament to her ability to emote and why the film is entertaining, even if a bit derivative.

But what do you think, dear readers? Am I off the mark on this theory? Was Finding Dory an amazing film, continuing the great legacy of Disney Pixar rather famously?

Tim!

Not Just Another Sequel (Avengers: Age of Ultron review)

Do you like to watch epic movie universes? I know I personally do. My all-time favourite cinematic universe is The Fast and The Furious, but there are lots of others that do a fantastic job.

Today I have a great universe to share with you, one that is constantly improving upon its ethos and pulling us further in so that we can enjoy and relate to its characters.

That’s right I am referring to the Marvel comics we all know and most of us are starting to love. I’ve written about the power of superheroes in previous posts and this review details them outright…

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, with James Spader, and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Joss Whedon
released on blu-ray October 2, 2015
********* 9/10

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Audience Score 86%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Joss Whedon is getting to be a pretty big deal at this point in his career. With director/writer credits for The Avengers (and now Avengers: Age of Ultron), 2012’s Much Ado About Nothing, and Serenity, not to mention writing credits for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Firefly, Angel, the Astonishing X-Men TV series, and The Cabin in the Woods, Whedon has shown he can tell a story.

But was Avengers: Age of Ultron a good movie?

With so many high ranking actors in this movie and a writer like Whedon at the helm, I would argue a big yes. I have no major issues with the visual, the story or the relationships as they develop, and the set ups for future Marvel films are enjoyable as per audience expectations at this point.

Much like the first film, we are treated to a few location hops throughout the story (read: New York City, Seoul, and Wakanda), but the plot mainly focuses on the made up nation of Sokovia.

The movie begins with a raid by the Avengers – Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – on a secret HYDRA base which has been conducting experiments on Sokovians. They are using the sceptre previously wielded by Loki to accomplish this.

Enter the only two surviving enhanced – Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Rogers finally captures Baron von Strucker, the head of the base, while Stark retrieves the sceptre. But only after Wanda uses her hex powers to implant a fear-filled vision of future end-game scenario that sees the world conquered and The Avengers defeated, save Iron-Man.

When the team arrives back at Avengers Tower the group plans a party while Tony coerces Bruce into helping him use the sceptre to design the AI needed to create the Ultron defence system he has in mind for the world.  The AI program finally takes while the whole team is out celebrating at the party.

What happens next is pretty wild as Ultron (James Spader) comes to life, and decides it is his sole responsibility to not only take care of the Earth, but that he will need to get rid of the Avengers and force humanity to evolve at the same time. JARVIS (Paul Bettany) is the first casualty in this process.

In a creepy rendition of “I’ve Got No Strings” we get to see Ultron embed himself into one of the drones Stark has been using as of late, then he surprise attacks the Avengers in their home base, and then leaves with the sceptre to create a better body and his own army.

I can’t tell you too much more without giving away the rest of the plot, but it gets even better from there.

Pros: The jokes are infinitely better, and the more of the movies you watch, and more of a fan of the comics you are, the more you will be rewarded as watch. In particular, the exchange with Hawkeye and Pietro towards the end of the film where Clint makes a joke, and also the fact that Ultron’s personality mirrors Tony’s in very funny ways.

Cons: There is a very unnatural death at the end of movie which I didn’t really care for, and which apparently was intentionally done as an F U to another distributor. It felt forced and didn’t really hold me, but you’ll have to watch to see what I mean.

Points of Interest: Seeing the nation of Wakanda, if only for a brief moment, the Hulk buster armour, the tension between Bruce and Natasha, and the unveiling of the new team at the end of the movie were pretty cool moments

Runtime: 141 minutes

New comer Elizabeth Olsen is worth the price of admission alone as her portrayal of the Scarlett Witch was very on point, though admittedly we never hear her superhero name? If you haven’t watched the first Avengers movie, you can probably get by without seeing it, but you are definitely doing yourself a disservice. So do yourself a favour and watch that one first. But I bet you dollars to donuts, you’ll want to see the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe if haven’t yet.

Avengers Assemble!

It really is hard not to enjoy these stories because there are so many archetypes explored and something there for everyone to relate to. Maybe you disagree? Either way, leave your questions and comments. You could even suggest a review for an upcoming week.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this review, because I’m spent for the day. I can only handle so many theories at a given time.

Tim!