Category Archives: Film

Monday Movie Review: ‘Ruby Sparks’ (2012).

Whilst I attempt to keep up appearances as a chap of meaty, man-size proportions, I tragically have a dirty, sordid secret. One that if known would wipe all remnants of my masculinity away in one foul swoop. I am not speaking of a concealed vagina nor a third nipple (that has long since gone) but I do have a soft and tickly spot for something no man should really ever claim to have.

That vice is the romantic comedy.

Whoa there sport! I’m not talking gloopy sugar-fests like ‘Love Actually’ or ‘The Notebook’, so please lower those furrowed brows. My kind of romantic comedies, or I should say romantic dramas, have a twitching brain and an ability to spark genuine thought and post-film pondering. To give you a scent of what I dig, my ‘rom-com-dram’ favourites range from ‘Vanilla Sky’, ‘Knocked Up’, ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ to today’s reviewed movie-film, ‘Ruby Sparks’.

“Ruby what?!” You yell, and you may have a point, but please stop yelling, your voice is whiny and annoying.

Released this year, ‘Ruby Sparks’ stealthily slipped under the prying eyes of the masses and was subject to a very selected release in the UK which was reflected in meagre box office performance. But, don’t let that stop you from checking this one out because ‘Ruby Sparks’ is a stone cold fox of a release. I skipped in with fairly muted expectations on a wet Thursday afternoon but waltzed out a jaunty and exultant young man after witnessing a movie that jockeyed position to take number three on my top five flicks of 2012. (Skipped, waltzed and jockeyed – maybe I should be concerned).

‘Ruby Sparks’ is the tale of a young writer-type, Calvin (Paul Dano), who is struggling with chronic writers block. Crumpling under the weight of his early but now waning success after writing a bestseller at the precocious age of 19, Calvin has been unable to finish a novel since. His life is one of mundane routine and he deeply craves the love of another woman. Calvin, after a dream whereupon he meets a young girl, begins to write a story based on the female. To his amazement, the female then becomes real. Her every thought and move mirroring the words that Calvin types.

You would be excused to think it all sounds massively hokey and a bit like a 2012 re-imagining of ‘Mannequin’ but you would be bloody wrong as this a very smart and original film. Chiefly, this is testament to a script that is punchy, original and smacks of reality. To achieve this is impressive considering the premise of the story being so unbelievable. I sympathised with Calvin and wanted him to find a woman who satisfied his wants and aspirations but similarly I felt for Ruby who was essentially being manipulated and bent to his will.

Thankfully, Ruby’s character isn’t written as an irritating ‘Juno’ type pixie girl either, and this benefits the story. As Calvin is effectively creating his dream spouse it is hard to not empathise as their relationship inevitably descends in to chaos. She is blameless throughout yet punished when she does not abide to Calvin’s preconceived notions of what he wants the relationship to be. This could easily have been ham fisted in its approach and Ruby, in the wrong hands, would have been a massively annoying twerp.

The early sparks of love are translated perfectly as Calvin’s life immeasurably improves the more that Ruby (Zoe Kazan) bleeds into it. There are definite echoes of 500 Days of Summer in the light but tragic style in which the narrative is delivered.

Paul Dano is brilliant as the young writer and convincingly portrays a fragile but talented scribe, so much so that I intend to watch a few more of his canon. Zoe Kazan, as Ruby is not at all irritating and kooky and cute enough to make Calvin’s love for her seem plausible. There is notable support in the shape of Steve Coogan, Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas.

The film chugs along at decent pace shifting from a bright and breezy introduction before moving in to dark more thought provoking territory. After the credits rolled, I was left quite affected. Much in the same way I felt after watching ‘500 Days of Summer’. Rather than fluffily investigating love, jealousy and solitude, Kazan’s narrative attacks those subjects in a unique and original manner.

Essential viewing.

Furthermore, The Ross Report is changing formats to three days a week. Circumstances dictate that I must pull back a little, so please bear with me and keep on reading, its massively appreciated.

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Monday Movie Review: ‘End of Watch’ (2012).

Buddy cop films have been around since the dawn of time – not literally but you get my drift. A list that is seemingly endless when we consider flicks such as ‘Turner and Hooch’,’ K-9’, ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, ‘Dragnet’ and so on. I have barely scraped the surface with that little lot, and in amongst this genre have been some fantastic blockbuster movies, carving lasting characters in to our memories, most notably probably being the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series.

Today’s movie review is a stark change from the norm, thus far I have re-opened case files on some older favourites of mine, but today I am going to be current. Excited? You should be a bit.

As touched on in last week’s ‘Wednesday Watch’, the general public (although mostly moronic), possess an infatuation with Police and their day to day experiences. Unfortunately, thanks to below par television and wildly creative but ultimately bullshit movies, the general public only get a skewed version of patrol life.

Thankfully, every once in a while, a movie like ‘End of Watch’ explodes on to the screen and re-invigorates and re-imagines how Police can be portrayed on the silver screen. Before I go in to full gush mode, let me just say this is in my top five films of 2012.

I had very high expectations going in and was relieved that my early optimism was not misplaced. David Ayer, the director, is a chap I have grown a true affinity for over the last decade. His first foray into plod territory came in the brilliant ‘Training Day’, before moving on to the below the radar but equally fantastic ‘Harsh Times’. Mostly, his stories are punchy, affecting, and original and contain fractured characters that are very well rounded and believable. Much of this same is contained in ‘End of Watch’.

‘End of Watch’ marks Ayer’s directorial debut, the script was written over a period of days and the entire production process was speedily wrapped up in just over 18 months. Similarly, the narrative rockets along and rarely lets up marking an interesting parallel with the original creative process. The film feels urgent and fizzes along with a frantic energy.

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Initially, the jumpy handheld nature of the filming is jarring and not particularly comfortable but this is smoothed out as the characters develop and the action ratchets up. The glue that holds all this frenetic energy together is the truthful relationship between the two protagonists, Brian Taylor (Jake Gylenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena). As we dip in and out of the myriad of action set pieces, much screen time is spent within the confines of their patrol car. The two leads bullshit each other and discuss their deficiencies, families and deepest concerns. Whilst there is a slight overuse of “bro” talk, Ayer’s script deftly brings the viewer into this private arena and consequently allows us to understand both men, who are at the end of the day, simply humans doing a job.

These interchanges between the very likeable characters are the highlights of the film, which is a huge compliment considering how excellent the action is. Essentially, each grizzly incident that Taylor and Zavala come across is handled expertly. The shaky cam adds another angle to proceedings and throws the viewer full force in to the throng of the gun-fights. Interspersed with the violence are several disturbing locations that the two officers happen upon and they leave a memorable impression The film is shot in a similar vein to something Michael Mann might produce given the same subject matter, the colours are vibrant and much of the action is under the cover of darkness only elevating the atmosphere of fear and tension.

I am not going to say that everything rings true though. One particular scene where Pena’s character has a brawl with a local hoodlum was a little contrived and pushed the limits of believability. Plus, the third act dices with blockbuster standards of action. But, the film gets away with this and that is down to the work put in to develop the characters early on and also the way in which those set-pieces are delivered. This is not Michael Bay.

Gylenhaal and Pena are excellent throughout. You can tell that the prior research put in has been taken seriously and the performances that they put in are of the highest quality, with particular credit to Gylenhaal. It’s great to see this fine actor in something vital again, after turgid blockbuster fayre like ‘The Prince of Persia’. He excels here and is ably supported by the accomplished Pena.

As the credits began to roll, I felt a genuine warmth for what had proceeded, without ruining the ending it is difficult to translate my emotions but I cared for the characters, in the same way I cared for Christian Bale’s doomed character in ‘Harsh Times’. I will continue to watch Ayer’s career with great interest.

David Ayer, congratulations, you have done ‘the job’ proud.

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Friday Filth: Kate Upton (trust me on this) and Channing Tatum.

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It’s grot-day, otherwise known on the Ross report as Filth Friday. Due to my 12 hour working day this will be the briefest of brief blogs.

A wise pervert once said that a picture tells a thousand words. Well, that’s dandy because I’ve got a stack of snaps to share.

My choice was difficult this week after being inundated with requests from work colleagues, but I’ve stuck to my massive guns and selected a lady I think you will all dig.

Today’s eye candy hails from the States, allow me to introduce the saintly Kate Upton as this weeks object of affection. From what I can muster, Miss Upton is known chiefly for her sizeable assets and a collection of trouser tearing viral videos.

Take a look at this ‘Cat Daddy’ vid. It makes no sense, but who really cares when making no sense is this foxy.

As for the females, I’m throwing you a morsel of man. It may seem an obvious choice but I also realise that including this chap in my blog will, without fail, drive traffic and views to the site.

No apologies for that.

Therefore, bean flick yourselves to Mr Channing Totum, I mean Tatum. Tee-hee.

Plus, ‘Magic Mike’ was very decent and his comedic chops were earned in ’21, Jump Street’ alongside the human version of a deflated skin balloon, Jonah Hill.

Enjoy and I’ll be coming back-atcha like Cleopatra on Monday.

 

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Monday Movie Review: ‘American Psycho’ (2000)


“I feel my mask of sanity is about to slip…” ~ Patrick Bateman

Last week I exploded the ultra-violent ‘Fight Club’, so as a gentle change of pace (NOT – 2007 Borat reference, geddit), this week I shall peer into the twisted, sadistic and also ultra-violent mind of serial killer Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s 2000 film, ‘American Psycho’ – I fully acknowledge there may be a theme developing here. Yet, I make no apologies for this, primarily because I am a stubborn twat and this is blog is called The Ross Report last time I bothered to check.

But before I go balls deep into my revered movie chat, I have a darkly humourous tale to relay regarding ‘American Psycho’ and my dear old Grand-papa.

It was Christmas Day 2007, as is Bilko family tradition, Grandad Billington stays over for the yearly festive shenanigans. This particular year I graduated from University. Carelessly, I had left a copy of my dissertation perched atop the coffee table in the living room. Curiosity getting the better of him, Grandad reached over and began a merciless 60 minutes reading through my life’s work. Being the dullard I am, I paid little attention – partly due to the beer induced fug I was blissfully ensconsed within but chiefly because I was sat in a brand new gaming chair lobotomising droids in ‘Halo 2’.

My dissertation was entitled, ‘Masculine identity, violence and homoeroticism in Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Fight Club’ and Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘American Psycho’. Innocuous enough right? Well, kinda…

The dissertation.

As I stared blankly at the TV, I happily mused,”Oh, Grandad, what a good sport you are, reading my dissertation.”

After 30 seconds passed, the beer delay complete, my thoughts violently evolved and transformed into, “OH FUCK, GRANDAD PLEASE STOP READING THE DISSERTATION.”

For any mortal who has delved into Bret Easton Ellis’s original novel they will clearly understand the point I am getting at here, however if you are unitiated, the novel details a sociopathic yuppie killer who revels in violence, sex and his materialistic cravings. All three are interspersed with each other leading to jaunty little passages such as this:

“I tried to make meat loaf out of the girl but it becomes too frustrating a task and instead I spend the afternoon smearing her meat all over the walls, chewing on strips of skin I ripped from her body”.

And…

“I want you to clean your vagina. Sabrina (a call girl he has employed), dont just look at it, EAT IT!”

Both of which were quoted in my dissertation, amongst other filth.

Just as quickly as the blood rushed to my cheeks it dissipated from Grandad’s, and never again will I be that innocent little scamp of grandson he once knew.

Story time over.

Mary Harron’s film does a very decent job of translating Easton Ellis’s words to celluloid. The narrative style is painfully descriptive and at times incredibly monotone in it’s delivery – yet this is not a criticism in any way, as it is clearly intended to be read that way by Easton Ellis. However to truly embrace the character of ‘Bateman’ and to buy into the story, the novel requires patience. The film however dilutes this somewhat and focuses on several gory set pieces and also, I would argue, a softening of ‘Bateman’s’ character. Understandable considering this is a Hollywood re-imagining but still it is disappointing having read the novel beforehand.

The entire film is dipped in satire and retains a jet black humour throughout. Whilst it is memorable for Christian Bale’s performance as the lead, dancing to ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ as he stisfies his nocturnal bloodlust or sprinting maniacally around his apartment complex covered in claret, the film attempts to explode themes of homoeroticism and materialism. Partly it is succesful, the styling is faithful to the era and many of the memorable ‘rant’ passages from the novel find their way into the film. I wont go into further detail with regard to the themes (I did that in my dissertation and lost a head of hair as a result) but they are clear and evident should you choose to read the novel or watch the film. I would argue that those themes are not explored deeply enough in the movie though.

As for Mr Bale, this is career defining fayre. Before he battled Bane or larked about with The Joker, Bale logged the best performance of his career as ‘Bateman’. He is equal parts frightening, unhinged and hilarious.

A brilliant performance is ordinarily measured by whether you can take your eyes off of the actor – I could not. Even after countless re-watches, it is Bale I come back for. An ongoing joke between my friends references a particuar scene in the movie where ‘Bateman’ is porking one of his many prostitutes before shooting a glance at his wall-length mirror and flexing a ripped bicep. Hilarious? Of course, but it is also one of many brave, ultra confidence scenes performed by a then fairly unknown actor.

Harron captures the mood and vapidity of the 1980’s brilliantly. The clothes, music and yuppie culture are dialed up almost to a point of lampooning but do the job of re-creating the transparent atmosphere of Easton Ellis’s narrative. Great support is found in Reese Witherspoon as ‘Bateman’s’ on/off fiance and Jared Leto (who really needs to pack in this singing lark and get back to acting) as ‘Paul Allen’, ‘Bateman’s’ quasi-nemesis.

This is not a perfect film by any means, chiefly due to it’s heavy-handedness at times and glossing over of the true themes of the novel, but it is still a great watch, and worth seeing purely for Bale’s breakthrough performance.

However, if you are hunting for the true Psycho experience, get the book, brace yourself and enter the brilliant but fubar’ed mind of Bret Easton Ellis. Just dont lend it to my grandad when you’re done.

This is a prime taster of what to expect:

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