Tag Archives: drama

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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Wednesday Watch: ‘Southland’.

Is there a more pillaged genre than the cop drama?

I’d wager my modest savings (half a curly-wurly and a full collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles commemorative coins), that there is not. Either side of the pond, channels and networks are swamped with carbon copy Police guff, offering up the same trite, clichéd, grizzled tales.

There was public outrage and lynching’s post cancellation of ITV bull-shit fest, ‘The Bill’ – which only emphasises how starved of decent Police drama us Brits have been. Not only was it crap telly, ‘The Bill’ and similar shows were offensive to the regular bobby. With ‘creative’ liberties taken in order to shit out an easily digestible half hour of brainless television. This was not the Police – not at all.

Rarely, are we party to true brilliance on television, even more so when tales of the daily exploits of the Police are involved. The last evidence of this was HBO’s ‘The Wire’. Not only was this unrivalled in terms of its storytelling, character development and honesty, David Simon’s creation happened to be arguably the best television show ever committed to film -that or ‘The Sopranos’.

To stand tall amongst the dross takes a great deal of ingenuity and bravery. Thankfully, in the wake of shows like ‘The Wire’, a vibrant and more urgent approach has been adopted to television, and no more so than in the fantastic ‘Southland’.

‘Southland’ follows the capers of South LA beat police. Each hour long episode intertwines several narratives leading to a climatic finale, much like any drama, but it is the style in which this is delivered to the viewer that sets ‘Southland’ apart from the baying crowd.

The show is shot in a now familiar documentary style and the broken, bloodied streets of South L.A are comprised of a vibrant palette of colours. The production is slick and impatient, forcing the viewer in to the searing heat of the conflicts that are so readily and frequently pelted in the face of the officers.

It is uncomfortable at times, incredibly gory and also tremendously moving. The relationships are believable, with due diligence paid to the monotonous nature of modern Policing and the relationships that are built over long night shifts and brutal early turns. You are in that patrol car with the characters and therefore it is difficult to not empathise and become emotionally attached to them as a result.

This is cemented by a fine array of character actors making up the cast with no outright ‘stars’ to distract, but more a collection recognisable faces from this show or that film you have seen. This works in favour of the show, building upon the everyman nature of the characters.

Michael Cudlitz is the pick of a very talented bunch as veteran senior beat officer ‘John Cooper’ – a ruthlessly by the book officer who nurses a painkiller addiction and complicated private life. It may sound cliché on paper but on screen this is electric, important television and the characters are clearly defined and expertly drawn out.

As television continues to push boundaries and bleed into film, ‘Southland’ leads the charge. It is criminally under viewed but critically lauded. This is cult television at its strongest.

Yes, that is the chap from ‘The O.C’.

‘Southland’s’ footprint can also be seen in this week’s fine cinema release, ‘End of Watch’ (to be reviewed Monday), that also utilises similar cinematography and is stooped in an immediate and frantic style. It is unsurprising that David Ayer, the director adopted this style to the film, ‘the job’ needs to be documented that way for the sheer danger and unpredictability to be translated truthfully to the screen. Take note BBC.

Four seasons in and the show has survived massive budget cuts and countless threats of cancellation, similar to the heritage of ‘The Wire’. Yet, in the face of this adversity, ‘Southland’ has improved immeasurably, continuing to shock and move on a weekly basis. This is now important television and can be mentioned in the same whiskey soaked breath as ‘Hill Street Blues’ or NYPD Blue’. If you have the smallest interest in TV drama or Police, do get involved.

‘Southland’ can be seen on More Four or picked up on DVD/Blu-ray.

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