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Away We Go is the latest from Sam Mendes, shot immediately after the exceptional Revolutionary Road, and, although not nearly as depressing as that film, it’s also not nearly as powerful.

I must admit, when I first saw the trailer for Away We Go, starring John Krasinksi and Maya Rudolph, I wasn’t that keen. It looked funny, sort of, but maybe too quirky. However, I found the film (directed by Sam Mendes) was definitely better than the trailer led me to believe. It still isn’t a classic, instantly fall-in-love with it movie, but it is entertaining, and worth a watch. So if you’ve seen the trailer and haven’t thought much, don’t be put off.

Away We Go describes expectant couple Burt and Verona’s journey to find the perfect home to start their new family. After Burt’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels) announce that they are moving to Belgium (in a fairly hilarious exchange), the two leads discover there isn’t anything else tying them to the place they live. So, away they go to find a better home and better people to live amongst. Instead, however, the journey turns more into a trip to discover what kind of family they really want to be when their child arrives into the world. Each place they arrive presents different people and characters, and Burt and Verona’s fears and hopes for their own future start to reflect the problems and successes of each different family. These fears and hopes, the bumps in their relationship, and their severely bad choices in friends, all come to a head along the journey to Burt and Verona’s new home.

Away We Go is a very quirky movie, but it’s also very slow. Really, I didn’t connect with the characters or with the story until the always-great Maggie Gyllenhaal makes an appearance halfway through the movie.  Her character’s wispy insanity (‘I love my babies. Why would I want to PUSH them away from me?’) finally breathes life into Burt, who snaps after barely one night in her company. It’s after this point that the movie becomes more involving, because before it, neither Burt nor Verona seemed particularly likeable, or their relationship that real.

For Sam Mendes, whose films American Beauty and Revolutionary Road both left me feeling like drowning my sorrows in a bottle of bleach, Away We Go is surprisingly uplifting. It has many sad moments, and offers many harsh truths about how hard it really is to raise a family the way you’ve always wanted to. The overall tone of the movie, though, is that life can work out – just maybe not always the way you imagined you’d want it to. I’m a big fan of the established-artist-written soundtrack, and this one, by Alexi Murdoch, is no different. His lyrics and voice suit the movie and the tone perfectly – never too sad, but never overly cheerful either.

 This film has a great ending, and a great message; so if you’re alienated by the trailer or the slow start, don’t write it off. Maybe it is more of a wait-for-DVD kind of movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s slow, strange, has a lot of very irritating characters, but Away We Go is nonetheless entertaining and funny, and worth a watch. 

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"A year ago I met a man who was down on his luck…"

Before I write anything about this movie, I have to admit one thing. I love Robert Downey Jr, and I’m going to love anything that he’s in. Including mindless crap like ‘Johnny Be Good’. So, there is an obvious bias in this review. That said, though, this is one incredible movie. Even if you didn’t like Downey to begin with, I challenge you to not fall totally in love with him and with this movie.

Joe Wright directs this true story based on the columns, and subsequent book, written by journalist Steve Lopez (played by Downey) for the LA Times. Steve met Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Junior (N-A-T-H-A-N-I-E-L, played by Jamie Foxx) while looking for a column subject in downtown LA. Steve was drawn to Nathaniel when he heard him playing music on a violin with only two strings. Nathaniel has a form of schizophrenia, and, despite once attending Julliard (a world class performing arts college in New York), now lives on the streets. The movie covers the story of Steve’s subsequent involvement in Nathaniel’s life. Along the way, Steve takes steps to try to help Nathaniel get better – involving him in the community of LAMP, a LA homeless shelter, and trying to get him to move into an apartment, or go on medication. But the real Steve Lopez is still unsure that his ongoing friendship with Nathaniel has helped him, and so the film focuses more on the help that Nathaniel gives to Steve, and the great bond that develops between the two men.

The screen adaptation, written by Susannah Grant, has changed little of the original story. Having read the book, I can confirm that the highs and lows of Steve and Nathaniel’s story haven’t been changed much. The only exception is the introduction of Steve’s ex-wife/editor, played brilliantly by Catherine Keener. In reality, Steve is still married. Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers were both involved in the production, and there are several featurettes and interviews with them on the film’s website about the true story of their friendship.

Obviously, I think the performances in this movie are great. But they really are. Jamie Foxx, who I think tends to go overboard in the roles he plays, is great as Nathaniel, and really gives energy and emotion to the role. Catharine Keener is also wonderful as Steve’s ex-wife, and she helps paint the picture of what Steve’s life may have been like before meeting Nathaniel, at least in the film version. Downey is amazing, even without my bias. His happiness at Nathaniel’s breakthroughs, and his sadness on the bad days are so tangible, and he really manages to convey the greatness of Nathaniel’s musicianship, which may not have translated fully onto the screen. I loved every second he was on screen, but I’m sure I’m not going to be the only one.

Joe Wright, whose previous films include ‘Atonement’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’, has done a great job with this movie. It was filmed in Skid Row in LA, and he got real people on the streets to play roles in the movie, and it really shows. It’s so real. It could so easily have turned into a deliberate tearjerker, but instead it has become a beautiful story that everyone should be able to take something from. At the heart of the film, after all, is this great story of this great friendship. In the era of ‘bromances’, this is definitely one you cannot miss.

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Fob's Filmspot: Oscars Recap (2013)

fobsfilmspot:

Overall, I’m not sure I particularly enjoyed this year’s Oscars. And usually I do. But generally I don’t think Seth was all that great. The opening with William Shatner was a cool gimmick, but it went on a little long, and I don’t really think it suited the opening monologue? He did have some good…

Source: fobsfilmspot