The Vow – Movie Review

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are a happily married couple living in Chicago and as with all couples, they are deeply in love. That is until a car accident takes place and Paige goes into a coma from which she wakes up with amnesia, not remembering any of the past five years: her years with Leo.

Struck by the fact that his own wife doesn’t remember him, Leo decides to make her fall in love with him all over again. Simultaneously, Paige’s parents: Bill (Sam Neill) and Rita Thornton (Jessica Lange) try to use this new opportunity that life gave them in trying to mend bridges with their daughter. Leo, however, doesn’t necessarily fit in their plan of getting their daughter back to law school and into the arms of a man they approve of.

What’s refreshing about The Vow is that it is actually based on a true story and as such the events that take place in the movie, albeit sappy and cliche at times, have an element of sincerity to them that other movies of the same genre lack. Apart from annoying voice-overs by Channing Tatum about moments in life and other useless balderdash, the movie doesn’t feel annoyingly sweet like your usual over-sugary romantic comedies.

Channing Tatum, however, is dull throughout. Even the moments where he has to express emotion come off as flat. He’s also in tears almost all the time. It gets grating at times. Rachel McAdams is the movie’s real draw. She’s a great actress who commands every frame she is in like child’s play. You keep rooting for her character even when she gets slightly annoying by falling for her ex-fiance, whom she doesn’t recollect breaking up with. Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, as Paige’s parents, are great in whatever screen time they get.

Simply put, if you are a guy wanting to take out your girl for a movie this Valentine’s day and you know she’s into romantic comedies, The Vow will work wonders with her without getting you to want to rip your hair off. If you’re into a light movie that will entertain you for its duration and the theatre you went to has no other options, then The Vow isn’t necessarily that bad. Although it might feel like been there, done that (imagine a romantic version of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s 5o First Dates), you can’t but give the movie some slack for being a true story as is shown by the last frame before the credits start rolling.

6/10

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Movie Review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Movie Poster

I would be lying if I said I weren’t a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I find the character fascinating and intriguing. I find the cases Holmes investigates riveting. So it was with utmost pleasure that I went to watch the sequel to the original Sherlock Holmes movie, titled: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

While the opening was a bit rickety and all over the place, the movie soon finds it sound and sets in. Opening in 1891 London, with Europe on the brink of war, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is pursuing professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), whom he believes is the cause of many explosions around the world, seemingly unrelated to each other. So Holmes sets out with his best friend Watson (Jude Law), along with a gypsy sidekick named Simza (Noomi Rapace), to unravel the mysteries behind Moriarty’s plan.

The movie’s highlight is definitely the chemistry between its two male leads: Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Their scenes together are always a breath of fresh air, bringing some comical relief to very tense scenes. Acting wise, Downey is as good in the sequel as he was in the first movie. He carries the movie almost all by himself with Jude Law strutting along to provide much needed support at key points in the movie.

Noomi Rapace is never allowed to stretch her wings in this. Her character is never pursued and is kept as such – an unimportant female sidekick, which the first movie also had in the form of the gorgeous Rachel McAdams who also has a very brief appearance at the beginning of Game of Shadows.

When it comes to its plot, Game of Shadows is convoluted, complex and at times difficult to keep track with unless you’re very focused on what’s happening on screen. In a way, it’s not a movie you want to watch if you have nothing better to do. Of course, everything gets answered eventually but it’ll be a much enjoyable experience for you as a viewer if you were very attentive at all the minute details. However, plot-wise, many of the deficiencies in the first movie are also present here: The villain’s intentions are never fully clear, the female sidekick is always left at the sideways.

As in the first movie, the director Guy Richie has a knack for speeding up action scenes and then slowing them down immensely. Sometimes, such as in a chilling forest chase scene, this works brilliantly. Other times, however, it feels useless. He builds the production in his movie with more or less tertiary layers that help somewhat in the buildup of the plot, but at the end of the day, it’s Downey’s character that helps propel the movie forward.

The whole movie, in fact, can be considered as a two-act play. The first act is one of guns, explosions and gymnastics whilst the second one is more of a big chess game. If you’re a fan of action sequences, the excitement of the first part will carry you through the second. If you’re a fan of puzzles, the first part is fast-paced enough for the second part to set it before you know it.

A Game of Shadows has more action sequences than its predecessor and they’re all very well executed, be it the scene involving the gypsy Simza escaping an assassin with the help of Holmes or a chilling train scene that will go on and on without you wanting it to stop. And at the end of the day, the movie – despite its many flaws – remains very entertaining and as engaging as its predecessor. Some might have felt it was a let down but I beg to differ. The movie was just so much fun to watch. You won’t get out of it feeling like your life has changed. After all, which movie does that to you? But it will leave you feeling like you had two hours of your life well-spent as you leave the theater.

You will most definitely enjoy the gorgeous cinematography, the great special effects and the exquisite chemistry between Law and Downey on screen. All of these three together form a combo for a very enjoyable movie you shouldn’t miss.

7.5/10 

Midnight in Paris – Movie Review

Presenting Woody Allen’s latest cinematic offering, Midnight in Paris is magical – be it in its plot or its effect on you as a viewer.

The moment the movie starts, you know you’re in for a ride. Flashing scenes from the breathtaking French capital, from Versailles to its rooftops. From the Louvres to les Champs-Élyséesit’s all there, to a backdrop of true Parisian music. That opening scene sets the tone of the movie: this is a feature from Paris, to Paris, about Paris. And it doesn’t disappoint.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a highly successful Hollywood screenwriter on a vacation with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams) in Paris. Despite his job being very lucrative, Gil doesn’t feel satisfied. He is trying to write a novel about a man who works at a nostalgia shop and has no idea why he can’t truly connect with what he’s writing. He feels out of place in the the world of 2010. His dream world is a rainy 1920’s Paris. Inez disagrees.

On one fateful night, as a Parisian clock strikes midnight, a slightly drunk Gil hops in an old-fashioned peugeot that takes him to meet people he had never thought he’d meet: Scott F. Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Cole Parker, etc… He sits with these giants of his favorite epoque and discusses with them his life, his hopes, his fears. He also meets Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) who gives him some valuable advice about his novel. And while in her study, he looks at Pablo Picasso painting his mistress Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

A relationship soon develops between Adriana and Gil, as he “time travels” to see all of his idols night after night, all after the clock chiming midnight.

Owen Wilson delivers a credible performance as an aspiring novelist, trying to find who he is in the world. His performance is nuanced, especially when he comes off as goofy as he admires his idols of the past. He embodies the Woody Allen-persona to a great extent, as it is the case with most Woody Allen movies that the protagonist is an extension of himself.

But the person that shines the most in this movie is – naturally – Marion Cotillard. Whenever she’s on screen, she steals the scene. It could be her splendid beauty, but I’m sure it’s more her superb acting that doesn’t come off as acting at all. She’s oozing sultriness while staying grounded. She radiates sexuality but manages to be conserved. Just place Cotillard in her natural French element and she’ll give you a tour-de-force breath-taking performance. In a way, she knows how great she is. But she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows she’s stealing every second she is on screen, but she doesn’t let it get to her head, similarly to the city Woody Allen chose to center his movie around.

Other interesting appearances in the movie are made by Carla Bruni, current French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife, as a museum curator whom Gil asks: “Do you think it’s possible to love two women at the same time?,” and while Woody Allen has recurrent elements to his movies about infidelity, gorgeous women, etc… his treatment of those themes in “Midnight in Paris” comes off as fresh and sweet, probably helped by the backdrop he uses.

Gad Elmaleh, infamous Moroccan-French comedian, makes a brief appearance as a private detector hired by Inez’s father to check on Gil and his midnight Parisian wanderings.

And out of all the performances by the first rate actors and actresses, it’s Rachel McAdams that comes out short, simply because she has the most underdeveloped character out of the bunch. McAdams gives her best to bring life to her character but to no avail, as Inez ultimately comes off as materialistic.

At the end of the day, “Midnight in Paris” is Paris. It bewitches you, enthralls you, takes you on a magical journey you will not forget. It’s not set in stone, like most of Woody Allen’s movies. Its ending is not resolved, it’s left to be discovered… the purpose of the movie is not to provide answers, as much as to give a general perspective. The movie does give the viewer one message though: live your life fully in your time – there will always be times you think are better. But your time is now.