Tag Archives: andrew macdonald

A Life Less Ordinary – Review

18 Apr

I’ve talked all about Danny Boyle before and how I think he is one of the best directors working in the industry today. He always injects a frenetic style into his movies that moves the plot at a sometimes break neck speed, but also just reminds us that we’re watching a movie. Dealing many times with characters who are troubled and occasionally violent, the thought of Danny Boyle making a romantic comedy sounds intriguing. Teaming up again with writer John Hodge and producer Andrew MacDonald, Boyle and his crew have created a darkly comedic and wonderfully screwball romantic comedy with A Life Less Ordinary.

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Robert Lewis (Ewan McGregor) is a janitor with bigger dreams of writing a best selling “trash novel” that people are going to find in airports and take along for their trip whose life seems to start spiraling when he gets fired by Mr. Naville (Ian Holm). Celine Naville (Cameron Diaz), Naville’s daughter, is a spoiled rich brat who is bored with her posh life. On a more supernatural level, O’Reilley (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) are two angels who specialize in love and is charged with making Robert and Celine fall in love. Things seem to take a turn for the worse when Robert ends up kidnapping Celine, who is actually just as interested in the ransom money and the entire adventure. As Robert and Celine keep on the run, O’Reilley and Jackson are always following close behind, pulling the strings and trying to bring the two closer together and hopefully fall in love.

I can be very hard on romantic comedies because I feel like most of them follow the same cliches and some of them are exactly the same movie with slightly different characters. If I’m going to enjoy a romantic comedy, it has to be different but also have a romance in it that feels real and heart warming. A Life Less Ordinary is very different with its supernatural and criminal elements, but it also has a romance that I buy and enjoy watching. Even though this movie is a step ahead of most romantic comedies that come out, I can’t say that it is the strongest effort by Boyle and his gang of film makers, especially since this was the movie that followed up his masterpiece, Trainspotting.

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Another great thing about this movie that made it different from a lot of romantic comedies is that it was actually funny. I can’t tell you the amount of rom coms I’ve watched and saw the jokes coming a mile away, or just find it all obnoxious as a whole. In A Life Less Ordinary, most of the jokes work because they’re presented unexpectedly in the dialogue or they’re situational in the most absurd of ways. The fact that there are angels in this movie and a heaven that looks like it is a whited out police station is absurd enough. Another really funny part about this movie is that Robert kidnaps Celine, but throughout the entire kidnapping, Celine is obviously in charge. This turn of events that makes Celine have the upper hand gives the movie a lot of opportunities for some ridiculous screwball comedy.

As much as I enjoy this movie, there is something about it that brings it down a few notches. The way the movie is set up makes it feel like a bunch of scenes, which it is but that’s never how a movie should feel. In my review for Chinatown, I say how everything in the story flows so well that I hardly even picked up on the fact that I was already deep into the plot. In A Life Less Ordinary, everything seemed like it was put into blocks. Scenes never really flowed into each other. They simply just changed. One part towards the end especially not only slows the movie down, but feels completely out of place and really pulled me totally out of the movie.

A Life Less Ordinary is not only a rom com done the Danny Boyle way, but also the right way. There’s nothing in this movie that is earth shattering or completely changes the way that I look at film in general. What it did was provide me with some light hearted (and a little dark at times) fun which was a good way to spend the afternoon. This film comes nowhere near to Danny Boyle’s best, but it is a good movie that will have you laughing at the absurdity that it has to offer.

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Shallow Grave – Review

14 Mar

Every great director needs to start somewhere, even Danny Boyle. Believe it or not, he wasn’t just always around making movies that make us all go crazy. Danny Boyle has created a lot of masterful pieces of work, and the movie to put him on the map was his 1994 debut Shallow Grave. Now considered to be “a ’90s classic,” I found this movie to be good and entertaining, but I can’t say it was really anything special. For a debut feature film it still is impressive, but plays it way too safe, and Danny Boyle certainly isn’t a director who’s afraid to take chances.

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Alex (Ewan McGregor), Juliet (Kerry Fox), and David (Christopher Eccleston) are three flatmates and very good friends who are in the process of finding a fourth person to share the place with. They find their man with Hugo (Keith Allen), who ends up dying a few days later of an apparent suicide. Before the police can be called, Alex finds a huge suitcase full of money and convinces the group to use this to their advantage. After disposing of the body, paranoia strikes. Soon, the group of close knit friends can’t even trust each other, and with the police catching their scent and two thugs on a killing spree, their limits are tested and violence soon erupts.

Being Boyle’s first feature film, this is a very interesting watch. It’s also the first film for screenwriter John Hodge, producer Andrew Macdonald, and it’s also the first major role for Ewan McGregor. Boyle and the rest of these names would later collaborate again in 1996 on Trainspotting, which I personally believe is Boyle’s masterpiece. Shallow Grave is nowhere near the same level as Trainspotting, but I can appreciate the sort of Hitchcockian/Coen Brothers kind of feel that the characters and the entire plot has.

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I really did also enjoy the performances in Shallow Grave. Christopher Eccleston has a really cool part in this movie, and has to pretty much play two different characters over the course of the movie. Ewan McGregor, on the other hand, only has to play one role but it seems like he’s having a helluva time with it. He almost literally bursts with energy in every scene he’s in, and I could really tell he was just having a really good time with the character. The dialogue is especially important in this movie as each of the tenants each have their own distinct personalities, and the writing really helps in differentiating them, personality wise.

What didn’t really work for me is how safe the screenplay plays it, the lack of style that the movie has as it goes on, and the horrendous soundtrack. Let’s look at these one by one. The screenplay doesn’t really dare going places thrillers like this don’t normally go. I feel like I’ve seen this before, and the only thing that keeps this movie at all interesting are the characters and how they change over the course of the plot. The style and the soundtrack kind of go hand in hand. They both start out awesome with kinetic editing and fast paced techno scoring, but both of these disappear. The style becomes pretty average and the soundtrack, with its overdramatic piano chords, is just horrible.

Shallow Grave is a serviceable thriller that doesn’t really lead to anything special. It’s interesting to see because it’s the start of a lot of people’s careers, but it isn’t a movie that you’re bound to remember because of the content. This hearkens back to the days of Hitchcock, but it doesn’t reach the levels that Hitchcock or the Coen Brothers set. Danny Boyle would go on to become one of the most intimidating forces in the film world, but Shallow Grave is only worth watching if you’re interested in seeing the beginnings of people who are now highly successful.