Tag Archives: ewan mcgregor

T2 Trainspotting – Review

7 Apr

One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1996 Danny Boyle film Trainspotting, which is based on a 1993 novel of the same name by Scottish author Irvine Welsh. This film seems to have always been with me since it seems like a week can’t go by without me referencing it or just having it cross my mind when a certain song comes on. I just love this movie to death, and to me it’s a perfect film. For years, a sequel has been talked about and going through different phases of production, but here we are in 2017 and we finally have T2 Trainspotting. This is a time of sequels and reboots and remakes, so a lot of people may be turned off by this idea, but Welsh did write a sequel in 2002 called Porno. With Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and Irvine Welsh all back on board for this sequel, I was also on board and this film did not disappoint.

20 years after deceiving his friends and running off with a whole bag of money, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) finally returns to Scotland with the hopes of reuniting with friends and family. His friends all seem to be in different states of decay with Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) managing a run down bar and addicted to cocaine, Spud (Ewen Bremner) still a heroine addict who’s lost nearly everything, a Begbie (Robert Carlyle) in prison with a strong personal vendetta against Mark fueling his every action. Pretty soon, Mark and Simon get over their troubles with one another and turn, once again, to a life of crime with the plans of converting Simon’s bar into a brothel. They enlist the help of Spud and Simon’s girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) to help wth the transformation. Things start to get out of hand, however, when Begbie escapes from prison and starts gunning for Mark, while Simon and Spud do their best to cover for him. Amongst all of the crime and the business plans, this gang’s past is quickly catching up to them and there’s nothing they can do about it.

I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t nearly jump out of my seat when I saw each character return in their respective introductions. These are some of my favorite characters ever put to the screen, because no matter how troubled and deceptive they are, you can’t help but love them. It’s been 20 years since the original film came out, but the way these actors seamlessly return to their roles, it feels like the first film could have come out yesterday. The shenanigans they get into are very reminiscent of the first film without it ever feeling like Danny Boyle, John Hodge, and Irvine Welsh are just capitalizing on its success. This isn’t a film about nostalgia for the audience, but more so about the dangers of becoming to enraptured in your past that you’re unable to look forward, which is the case for most of the characters in this movie.

If  were asked to describe this movie in one word, I could easily give you the answer: seamless. This is a seamless transition into a sequel that feels so natural, it’s almost as if this were always meant to be. The end of the first film isn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it does leave the audience wondering if the certain betrayal that happens is enough to make them change their lives. This film answers that question with a resounding “no.” This is an excellent postscript to the questions that can arise at the end of the first film while offering a deeper understanding of these complicated characters as they enter middle aged life. While there is a sense of nostalgia and love of Trainspotting with small references to scenes from that movie, it comes with the danger that too much nostalgia will ruin your foresight, a theme that I just can’t get enough of.

While T2 Trainspotting is just the sequel I needed, it does come with a storytelling flaw that stops it from reaching the esteemed heights of its predecessor. I this movie, Mark and Simon are turning back to a life of crime in order to turn Simon’s bar into a brothel. Cool. I’m into that story. Meanwhile, Spud is dealing with his own problems, which get explored more when he’s brought into Mark and Simon’s plan. Also cool. What’s upsetting is that certain interesting plot points go nowhere after awhile in favor of something completely different to happen in the final act of the movie. Luckily, the plot points that are abandoned are not the most interesting parts of the movie, but it feels like a lot of time was wasted for such a big part of the story to just be completely abandoned like it never existed. It leaves the second act of the movie feeling disjointed and certain scenes feeling unnecessary. It’s kind of a weird decision and I’m not sure I fully understand why they took the movie in that direction.

T2 Trainspotting is exactly the sequel that the first film needed even if it doesn’t reach the level that its predecessor did. The bottom line is that I loved this movie. I really, really did. It’s like these actors never stopped playing these characters since they return with what seems like such ease. Danny Boyle and his crew also seem to not miss a beat with the kinetic editing and often outlandish style of the film. If certain plot points were cleaned up, I would have been very pleased, but the most interesting parts of the movie remain intact as the characters face elements of life that they just aren’t prepared for. I can’t wait to see this one again.

Final Grade: A-

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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.

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.

Haywire – Review

23 Aug

There’s a lot of things about Haywire that made me really excited. For one thing, Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite directors and seeing him tackle an espionage action/thriller film would be awesome. Secondly, the cast looked out of this world awesome, with the lead  character being an MMA fighter. And finally, I heard nothing but great things about the action sequences. I felt concerned right before the film started that I would be disappointed with it, and disappointment with this movie would be a big letdown.

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Mallory (Gina Carano) is the top employee of a company, led by Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), which gets hired out by different corporations to get certain jobs done. This time, the contractor is American government official Coblenz (Michael Douglas) and his Spanish contact, Rodrigo (Antonio Bandaras).  The mission goes well but she is soon betrayed by another agent, Paul (Michael Fassbender), which starts her on a mission of vengeance that will rope in her father (Bill Paxton) and a close employee (Channing Tatum).

It’s difficult to summarize this movie because there are so many twists and turns packed into a 90 minute movie. What I gave is pretty skeletal, but I certainly don’t want to ruin the movie, especially one that is as entertaining as this! Steven Soderbergh does it again, and this time he takes the spy genre and throws his own unique vision over it all. The only thing that really wears the film down is its plot. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it seemed to just take a back seat to everything else. It’s a simple story with a lot of complex twists and characters. In that sense it became more about the action and the characters more than the story, which is fine, but it’s sort of weird for this genre of film.

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This cast is way too big to ignore. Gina Carano, who is known for being an MMA fighter, does fine but can come off as a little flat sometimes. More on her later though. Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Antonio Bandaras are adequately sleazy and easy to distrust right off the bat. I really liked Michael Douglas’ performance as the government official who is working for himself, pretty much. I still don’t know what he’s all about and Douglas played it perfectly. Bill Paxton was fine, nothing too special, but fine nonetheless. Now we come to Channing Tatum. Ok, I see why people don’t like him, but I stand by a statement I previously made in another review. If you put him with the right director and/or give him the right role, he acts very well. This is one of those times, and Soderbergh also seems to agree, casting him in Magic Mike and Side Effects as well.

Now this is the part I really want to talk about. The action sequences. You know how cool the fight sequences are in The Bourne Identity and its sequels? Well, picture those scenes, with a camera that is far from the action, and completely still. Those are the fight scenes in Haywire. This is where Carano shines the most. Using her skills as an MMA fighter, the interesting camera placement by Soderbergh, and the lack of any music, these fight scenes are really something to behold. You can see every punch, kick, or defensive maneuver that a character does, and the sounds of grunts, hits, and broken bones only help to immerse you in what is happening.

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Haywire is definitely a great way to spend 90 minutes of your time. With Soderbergh’s attention to style, the action sequences, and the all star cast, Haywire is a surprisingly memorable movie. There are plenty of ways to mess up an espionage film, but this one borrows from the ’60s and reinvents itself into something new. I recommend Haywire to everyone. It’s awesome.

Deception – Review

17 Apr

I’m feeling kind of weird. I feel like I’ve just been led on, lied to, then treated like a child. This isn’t anything personal, so don’t be concerned about little old me. No. I just watched Deception. Thinking more and more about this title, I can’t help but wondering if it was given in relation to the plot and themes of the movie, or if it’s because the film makers were just trying to warn the viewer that this movie only exists to lie to you and then disappoint on pretty much every single level that this movie has to offer.

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Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is an accountant who is presently hired to do the books for a law firm where one Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) is employed. Wyatt is a smooth talking confident man who appears to take Jonathan under his wing after a chance encounter. Jonathan inadvertently stumbles upon a sex club called “The List,” which Wyatt is a member of. As Jonathan gets more into this club he meets a woman that he only knows as S (Michelle Williams). He breaks the rules and begins to fall for her. S is promptly kidnapped, which forces Jonathan to act out for her kidnappers and take part in a multimillion dollar heist in return for her safety.

Read that last sentence again. Never have I ever been so jerked around by a movie in my entire life. Having plot twists can be great and can really disorient and shock, but the twists that happen in Deception are so beyond ludicrous that I can’t believe the screenplay was even passed and the film actually made. The screenplay to this movie is so terrible, from the dialogue to the completely unbelievable narrative. I was literally shocked.

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One thing I will give this movie is the way that the actors handle the script. I don’t know exactly what they were all thinking, already being talented and established actors not hurting for work, when they read this and decided it was a good idea to take the job. Ewan McGregor is completely in character as a quiet and weak man who has stumbled onto something way above him. Jackman is plays his suave, condescending character with ease. Williams is fine, but certainly nothing special compared to these two other actors. There is some horrible dialogue that the actors really try to make serious, which sometimes works and sometimes it doesn’t.

What really makes me angry about this movie is that it started out so interesting, and I was pretty into it, but 40 minutes in I completely lost it. The plot not only changes direction, it goes completely off road making for a very uncomfortable, messy, and annoying ride. Even when I was sort of enjoying the movie, it seemed so afraid to take risks with the plot device of the sex club that I started asking myself, “What’s the point?” My attention wasn’t held any better with the absolutely bland set design. From the offices to the apartments, they were all so fluorescent and sterile that it was just ugly. This might have worked if this was shot completely in digital, but on 35 mm and HD video, it just doesn’t turn out well.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve despised a movie so much. Saying it’s a subpar thriller is an insult to subpar thrillers. I can’t tell if the film makers tried to hard or nowhere near hard enough. I can’t even say it’s not memorable because there’s no way I could forget the narrative atrocity that is Deception. It’s ugly, boring, and stupid. I can’t stress it enough that you stay far away from this piece of trash. It’s an insult to my intelligence and stole two hours of my life that I will never see again.