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Archive for September 13th, 2009

When his parents are unable to help him with his rent whilst away at college and fund his European vacation James (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to take a job at a rundown theme park. The games are rubbish and the rides ancient but the place does have its charms most notably Em (Kristen Stewart). Set in the 80’s it avoids the usual pitfalls of “period” films. We don’t get ironic conversations about the latest technology and gadgets. This film is extremely well written and could have been set at any time in the past forty years. For that matter the theme park is also irrelevant, it could just as easily be set in a record shop (Empire Records), Supermarket (Cashback or Go) or a high school (any number of John Hughes films). The characters are clichéd but not to the detriment of the film. Eisenberg’s James is the perfect blend of geek, hopeless romantic with just the tiniest glimmer of cool, think Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous or any one of a number of parts played by Michael Cera. Ryan Reynolds provides great support as Connell the parks maintenance man and would be rock star. Stuck in an unhappy marriage and still working at the theme park in his 30’s he could come across as a looser but driving his classic Plymouth Duster and playing in a band he is a folk hero to the kids in the park. But Kristen Stewart is the real revelation, she is so perfect as Em that all but the most obsessive Twilight fan will forget Bella Swan within five minutes. She has really grown up since the tomboy we first saw in Panic Room. Em is emotionally damaged, from the death of her mother and the affair she is having with Connell. She is the perfect foil for Margarita Levieva’s Lisa P who is sexy on the surface and desired by all the men in the park but is ultimately an uninteresting airhead. On the strength of this I am really interested to see her play Joan Jett in The Runaways.

adventureland

The film has been really poorly marketed, directed by Greg Mottola of Superbad fame the trailer and marketing suggest it will be a similar type of film. This causes two problems, it will put off people who will actually enjoy it and attract people who will dislike it. What we actually get is a far more thoughtful and tender film, the characters have an emotional vulnerability of real people that is lacking in post American Pie movies that would probably be more appropriately labelled teenploitation than teen comedy. I have a feeling the real fans of these teen comedies are actually younger than the characters they portray. Adventurland is more likely to appeal to an older audience who have already lived the so called coming of age period of their lives, like me!

One day I will not finish a review with the lines “my only complaint“, however that day is not today. My one complaint is that Kristen Stewart and her character Em are far more interesting and engaging than Eisenberg’s James, maybe they should have made her the central character of the film!

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Whiteout

Commercial film magazines and websites have to review every film that comes out; good, bad or average. Bloggers tend to spend their time raving about the films they love and condemning the ones they hate. But lets be honest most films fall into this average bracket achieving two or three stars out of five in magazine reviews. I am as guilty of this as the next blogger of ignoring the average films but for some unknown reason I felt compelled to review a movie that is decidedly average.

whiteout beckinsale

Set at a research base in Antarctica in the days leading up to winter. U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is due to fly out and intends to hand in her badge and quit her job. She is both depressed by two years in the south polar region and haunted by her previous life in Florida (show in overused flashbacks). At the same time the base doctor (Tom Skerritt, who at 75 is finally beginning to show his age) who is also Stetko’s closest friend and is planning to fly home having spent even longer on the ice. Everyone’s plans are put on hold with the discovery of a dead body and a killer who uses an ice axe as a weapon. All this is connected to a Russian plane that crashed fifty years earlier that we saw in a prologue to the film.

There are two basic problems with the film, the is nothing here we haven’t seen before and much we have, secondly they really fail to make the most of the setting. So much more could have been done with the stunning scenery and the claustrophobic interiors of the base. There are good things about the film. Beckinsale is as adorable as ever playing a damaged heroine and her performance is solid and believable. The action scenes are handled well and the film is kept to a trim 100 minutes.

In conclusion it is a predictable but ultimately enjoyable thriller that is worth a look if you have seen all the better films that are on at the moment. Otherwise wait for the DVD or for it to crop up on TV.

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