Top 10 elevator scenes in movies

Is your screenplay complete without a good elevator scene? Probably not. As a director can you forgive yourself for not including one? No.

So there’s the argument, an open-and-shut case. Any film worth its salt has an elevator scene, so here are a few I’ve picked out I rather like.

What would make your list?

Drive
Oddly tender yet completely brutal, here Ryan Gosling’s character gently holds Carey Mulligan’s character back before he viciously stomps a guy to death.
The Untouchables
In a touching scene Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness and Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone find the mob got the drop on a member of their team in the elevator.
A Cabin In The Woods
Guards with guns race to face whatever comes out the lifts. And what emerges is holy hell – an explosion of monsters, blood and death.
The Departed
Showing no respect for big name actors – and in a genuinely shocking moment – a key character gets shot as soon as the lift doors open.
Terminator 2
The T-1000 chases Arnie and the gang into a lift as they flee the mental asylum. In such close quarters with a killer who has swords for arms it’s frighteningly tense.
Lost In Translation
Murray and Johansson’s characters say goodnight exchanging kisses. Wonderfully played. Murray also has another lift scene, standing a foot taller than the locals.
The Losers
Chris Evans’ character gets into a lift whilst singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing with gusto. Needless to say, no one gets in with him.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire
In a rare lighter moment, Jena Malone’s Johanna Mason strips off in a lift in front of Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch. Some are more pleased than others.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Steve Rodgers starts in the lift with a few guys. A door opens, more get on. Then more. He asks if any want out before they get started. He then gets started.
Inception
Ellen Page’s Ariadne descends in an elevator, sneaking into Cobb’s memories to find Marion Cotillard’s Mal, gorgeous and deadly.

Spy: McCarthy prods buttock

After lengthy success in TV (Gilmore Girls, Mike & Molly), Melissa McCarthy finally broke through to film in 2011’s Bridesmaids, almost stealing the whole thing from the rest of the cast. In 2013 she received critical and commercial acclaim for The Heat with Sandra Bullock and, last year, starred opposite Bill Murray in quirky comedy St. Vincent.

So she’s been building to a big project and here with Paul Feig’s Spy we have the result. McCarthy leads the show but is ably supported by a great cast (all having a ball) which includes Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Miranda Hart and Jude Law.

McCarthy plays desk-bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who gets thrown into the field to foil a plot by evil baddie Rayna Boyanov (a bitchy Rose Bryne) to sell a nuclear weapon. From the off we see Susan on a headset advising charismatic agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law on fine, narcissistic form) as he dispatches bad guys with time to check his hair. Bond eat your heart out.

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Once the Americans learn Rayna is behind a plot to steal a nuke, CIA head Elaine (a pragmatic, spiky Allison Janney) realises none of their current agents can get near her as they’ll be recognised, so up steps Susan, sent off to a series of European locations on a mission to ‘track and report’ only. This disgusts loose cannon agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), who ends up butting heads with her throughout the movie in a series of hilarious encounters (who knew Statham was this funny?).

As a writer-director Paul Feig has formed a stellar partnership with Melissa McCarthy; they’ve now done three films together (Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy) and she knows exactly how to make his material sing, comedically speaking. And in the world of funnies she’s really carved her own niche. Lazy critics might say McCarthy is the female Will Ferrell or, given Bridesmaids‘ common DNA with The Hangover, the female Zach Galifiniakis. Why she has to be the female equivalent of a male actor is beyond me, but that’s Hollywood and the media I guess, still a man’s world to the core.

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Back to Spy, the plot is relatively simple and merely a device for McCarthy to show Susan’s progression from timid analyst to kick ass spy, which she does convincingly. She’s surrounded by quite a lot of British talent too, from fellow analyst, ditzy Nancy (Miranda Hart) to lecherous ‘Italian’ Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz having the time of his life). So it’s an odd mix in a way, but it works well.

Spy has its tongue in its cheek the entire time and there’s barely a quiet moment to reflect on whether all the jokes are landing or not (most of them do). But none of this matters as you won’t be assessing it during (a sure sign the comedy is flagging); you’ll be with Susan on her journey in all its sweary glory. In the year of spy films coming out (The Man from UNCLE, Bond’s SPECTRE) it remains to be seen whether audiences will tire of this genre by the end of the year. If they don’t, there’s a high chance we’ll see a Spy 2 greenlit, so watch this space.

What’s harder, horror or comedy?

Lately I’ve seen some shockers on both sides. Sitting on the sofa as the credits rolls I’m trying to pinpoint exactly what the issue is and why I didn’t engage with the characters or the story.

horror

Take horror for example. The problem is there’s – and I know many would contest this – only a certain number of ways to do horror. If you stray too far from tried and tested methods you risk getting too meta on the audience. However, if you stick too closely to stock scares and tricks people get bored. They’ve seen it all before. It’s not scary.

So as a genre it’s a tough nut to crack. A good example I’ve seen lately would be Stoker and an average one would be Silent House. The former a stylish and creepy tale deftly directed by Korean director Park Chan-wook. The latter an underwhelming remake of a Uruguayan film, La Casa Muda. Both films make reference to – and to some extent directly draw from – the great Hitchcock. Some of what they do works, some doesn’t.

On the comedy front I’m hard pushed to think of anything I’ve seen lately that particularly tickled the funny bone. This year quite a few comedies have flopped: A Million Ways To Die In The West, Sex Tape, Neighbors, The Other Woman… the list goes on. I hear 22 Jump Street was good and, whilst it wasn’t as hilarious as people said, I found The Lego Movie reasonably entertaining. Both were earlier this year though and in the last six months it’s been a bit barren.

So what’s looking promising coming up?

HORROR
High-Rise
This J.G. Ballard novel of a tower block cut off from society gets the Ben Wheatley treatment. Stars Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Elizabeth Moss.

At The Mountains Of Madness
Guillermo del Toro directs this H.P. Lovecraft tale of an expedition to the Antarctic gone wrong. This one’s still in production limbo but it might happen soon.

Maggie
A teenage girl contracts an infection that slowly turns her into a cannabilistic zombie. Her father, Arnie, stays with her whilst she changes. A change of direction for the Austrian Oak.

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COMEDY
Mortdecai
After dabbling in a few other genres recently Johnny Depp is back to what he does best, namely weird wackiness. Adapted from a series of novels this looks promising.

The Jungle Book
Yes, this is happening as a film. With Scarlet Johansson and Bill Murray and Jon Favreau directing it’s bound to be funny. Hopefully.

Pitch Perfect 2
Anna Kendrick and the gang are back in the sequel to this 2012 sleeper hit. Expect big songs, big laughs and Rebel Wilson stealing scenes.

PitchPerfect24

Frank: what doesn’t kill you makes you stranger

A man wearing a giant fake head. A band full of oddballs, real oddballs. Is this a film about those characters we meet in life – if we’re lucky enough – that exist at the edges of normal?

Based on the real life experiences of writer Jon Ronson, Frank starts with Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a talentless wannabe musician who, through a chance encounter with a band manager, gets to play keyboard in the supremely odd band with an unpronounceable name, headed by front-man Frank (Michael Fassbender). Job interview: ‘Can you play C, F and G? You’re in.’

Jon plays one gig then gets offered another and jumps at it, only to discover the band are heading off to the woods and will leave once the album is recorded.frank

Gleeson is a great fit for Jon. He needs to be likeable, but also a little offbeat. And, whilst Fassbender’s Frank is the enigmatic and mercurial figure that steals scenes – waving his arms dancing wildly, finding musical inspiration in everyday objects, addressing a German family in their native tongue – it’s Jon that drives the story.

This is his tale and experience of trying to fit into a group that themselves don’t fit into the world. And there’s the rub. Jon wants to be one of them but wants notoriety, which puts him at odds with the band, particularly the volatile Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

His efforts lead them to a festival in the US and it’s here where the film comes somewhat undone, losing the focus it had in the early half. Screenwriters Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan (the chaps behind The Men Who Stare At Goats) perhaps lost their way.

Or maybe it’s just the case that these characters work better in a tighter, simpler setting. Maybe that’s the point the filmmakers were trying to make – one echoed by Gyllenhaal’s Clara – but it didn’t entirely hold together leading up to the film’s final scene.

Tonally though, this movie is interesting and puts me in mind of Little Miss Sunshine or The Life Aquatic. It’s been described as a musical comedy which, in some instances, is accurate (it has music and comedy), but it’s perhaps more tragic in tone. Frank is the sort of role you might expect Johnny Depp to have played, so it’s refreshing to see someone like Fassbender take it on and add another string to his mighty acting bow.

Ultimately there’s a fair amount to love about this film and feels like you’d get more out of it on repeat viewings. It’s a little slow in places (some of the middle and most of the final third), but it’s highly original and quirky, albeit not hugely cinematic. And Fassbender can definitely do quirky, who knew. Now, if only someone could cast him in a Wes Anderson movie.

Who loves a good chant?

rufio__oPtWhether it’s for comedy purposes or to build the tension in a thriller or horror, a nice memorable phrase repeated over and over has a certain unrelenting quality to it – something is going to happen and chances are it won’t be good for the person on the receiving end. Here are some of my favourites:

Warriors… come out to play!
Picture the scene in this 1979 cult classic, The Warriors: framed for the murder of Cyrus (the most powerful gang leader in New York) the Warriors battle it across the city to get back to their home turf on Coney island. Only to find their bitter rival, Luther – leader of the Rogues and the man who actually killed Cyrus – blocking their path and demanding a fight. Director Walter Hill masterfully cranks up the tension with Luther creepily tapping bottles together and chanting in a bizarre and deranged manner.


Rufio versus Pan

What’s the best way to make an entrance at the end of the ’80s/early ’90s? On a skateboard of course. Then onto a trapeze and into a backflip. Then draw a sword. Who wouldn’t want to be leader of the Lost Boys? Growing up, Spielberg’s Hook in 1991 was a treat and Rufio was super cool – every young lad wanted to be him. In these scenes Rufio makes his entrance and taunts Pan (Robin Williams), then loses to him in a battle of words; a point where Peter begins to believe and the Lost Boys switch their allegiance.


The greater good

Mmmm, a murderous cult. What we learn in this scene is that killing is ok if it’s for ‘the greater good’ and said in chanted unison. Here Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) faces off against the town’s village council in Hot Fuzz (2007), having worked out that they’d been behind a slew of killings… all in the name of ‘the greater good’. Creepy, yet brilliantly funny.


Frank the tank

‘You know it! When it hits your lips!’ When Old School was released in 2003 it was a bit of a sleeper hit. The modern brat pack of Vince Vaughn and co were just getting going, but one man stood out beyond all others. Will Ferrell aka Frank the tank. Gaining his name downing beer at a frat party. Reminds me of that alcholic’s phrase, ‘one is too many, two is not enough.’


Kali Ma

Growing up most of us remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (great title); specifically the moment Indy witnesses human sacrifice with a guy getting his heart torn out. Quite horrific to watch as a kid, but mesmerising. Here’s an idea… Chant ‘kali ma’ in a creepy way whilst moving your hand towards a friend’s chest and see if they freak out.


Give him fur black as black

Hocus Pocus in 1993 was – and still is I guess – a bit of a guilty pleasure, with Bette Midler on fine form as the head of a coven of witches (one of which included a young Sarah Jessica Parker). In this scene early in the film she turns a young chap into a black cat with a nice little, suitably witch-y chant. ‘Give him fur black as black just, like, this.’


Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice

‘Jump in the line, rock your body on time. Ok, I believe you!’ There’s so many great scenes, songs and dialogue from this film. From the possessed dinner party chanting and singing ‘Day-O’ dance to the aforementioned ‘Shake Senora’ calypso finish, it’s movie gold. Beetlejuice is also let out to play by saying his name three times. Go on, try it.


You shall not pass

Not sure if this counts as chanting, more booming. But it’s Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf against a Balrog, c’mon! I think just before his immortal line there’s a chant. I mean, I wouldn’t mess with someone that says they’re the servant of the secret fire, would you?

Walter Mitty: has Ben Stiller come of age?

walterroadApparently Ben Stiller has been trying to get The Secret Life of Walter Mitty to the screen for the best part of two decades. Something you notice as it unfolds, at least in terms of slightly odd events taking place. But then, the film is slightly odd. And I mean that in a good way. As Winona Ryder’s Lydia says in Beetlejuice, ‘Live people tend to ignore the strange and unusual, but then I myself am strange and unusual.’ Same could be said for Stiller, he does odd well.

Here he directs – and stars – in this film, based on a 1939 short story by James Thurber and last brought to screen in 1947 with Danny Kaye in the title role. In terms of the plot of this updated version, it’s a little hard to describe. Wikipedia gives it a go, calling it a ‘romantic adventure fantasy comedy drama’. You can imagine the studio having a meeting; ‘We didn’t leave any genres out did we? No? Good.’ I’m not complaining, it’s just a funny film to put in a box.

Essentially the story follows Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a negative assets manager (processor of photos) who works for Life magazine. Walter is a dreamer and more than most people, walteroften zoning out of real life to imagine some fantastical adventure with the object of his affection, co-worker Cheryl (played with a real sweetness by Kristin Wiig). Life as a print publication – in the way of the modern world – is being phased out to become an online service. For the final issue, legendary photographer Sean O’Connell (enigmatically played by Sean Penn) sends Walter a negative to use for the final cover. Walter cannot find it and sets off on a journey to hunt Sean down to locate the photo – one which leads him on a path of self-discovery through Iceland, Greenland and the upper Himalayas of Afghanistan.

Phew! Epic right? No wonder it took Stiller so long to fully realise his vision. And realise it he does for this is a proper life-affirming film. I often cringe hearing that phrase but I think here it’s justified. In the first third when Stiller is setting up the plot, he gives Walter’s daydreams a real dollop of overblown Hollywood comedy cheese – classic Stiller you might say.

As the story progresses and Walter begins living life instead of just imagining it, his adventures – whilst fantastical – are very much real and the whiff of cheese and melodrama has completely vanished. TheSecretLifeofWalterMitty2013-Still3Indeed, in its place are scenes of real beauty; the sequences in Iceland and other places are lovingly shot and quite breathtaking.

In terms of the film’s tone, it’s interesting. With the offbeat characters Walter meets and its quirky ‘journey of self-discovery’ aesthetic, you wonder what this would have been like in the hands of directors like Wes Anderson or Alexander Payne? That said, let’s take nothing away from Stiller as a director – and indeed Stuart Dryburgh as cinematographer – this is shot in an assured, mature and majestic manner.

There are perhaps one or two too many lingering shots on Stiller’s face; looking progressively more rugged and handsome as he has more adventures, but that’s to be expected if you direct and star in your own movie I suppose. That aside, he largely convinces as buttoned-down Walter, learning to spread his wings, love life and take risks.

Ultimately, Walter Mitty is an upbeat, touching and tender tale, filled with genuine laughs that should leave you with a burning desire to locate your passport and live life to the fullest. It also – quite possibly – represents a new and exciting chapter in Stiller’s career – one worth watching with interest.

Ron Burgundy – how’s the legend holding up?

anchorman2Sequels. Comedy sequels no less. The hardest of all in the sequel kingdom. Do they ever work? Hmm… more often than not they don’t; at least not to the extent of the original. Casting your mind back for a second: it’s been almost ten years since the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy came out; a film which took many by surprise.

At the time Will Ferrell was on the rise. Most notably he’d done Old School and Elf, so you could argue that Anchorman – and character of Ron Burgundy – cemented his place in the modern-day comedy hall of legends. Also, now he’s a big star, it’s hard to imagine Steve Carell who, at the time, was even less well known. He had a part as, believe it or not, a co-anchor in Bruce Almighty, a year before Anchorman. Paul Rudd had been hard at work as a jobbing actor until his most notable role, a two-year stint in Friends. Similar to Carell, Rudd has gone from strength to strength in the years since becoming part of the San Diego news team.

So, in that respect, most of the cast were relative unknowns on the rise which lent to the comedy, in much the way The Hangover did a few years later. There was no pressure on the cast. We didn’t really know who these guys were as actors, or the characters they’d created.

Uneasy lies the crown

Perhaps that’s why it’s taken almost a decade for the legend of Ron Burgundy to continue – once you’ve captured lightning in a bottle, how do you manage it a second time? ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUESThis is especially hard with comedy. Audiences want more of the same, yet something new too. And critics are sitting, poised to pounce on the slightest whiff of a stale rehashed joke.

With that in mind I’m pleased to say, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is… not bad at all. They’ve tried to take the characters to places new. Indeed, the news team have all left the game when we pick the story up, with Ron living the good life with loving wife and co-anchor Veronica Corningstone. As you’d expect, things go quickly awry – largely Ron’s own doing of course.

So he looks to reform the old team as part of a groundbreaking new 24-hour news channel. This takes the characters into new territory and, compared to the original, it has something to say in terms of social commentary; how those in power should not be allowed to control the media and the nature of what constitutes well-researched news versus mere speculation.

Brick finds love

Before you panic, there’s still laughs aplenty. Ferrell, along with writer/director Adam McKay, tread a precarious but largely successful line in terms of running jokes from the first film and new material. In particular, Brick gets a bit of a love story with a female counterpart (brilliantly played by Kristen Wiig) that works well. On the flipside, some of the jokes – and scenes – feel forced, like Ferrell and McKay are trying too hard.

anchorman-blog-jpg_165129There’s also one or two moments where jokes grate, more in poor taste than anything else – high on the cringe scale. Happily, the zingers carry you through. Once you’ve seen this film, chances are the first thing you’ll be asked is, ‘Is it better than the original?’… well, no. But then, often, originals are favoured by most. Simply the fact they were original wins them points. But people do look back with a certain rose-tinted nostalgia; so judging a comedy sequel can be skewed in that sense.

So… in a roundabout way I’d say, whilst this isn’t as good as the original, it’s darn close. And that’s as much as any of us could hope for – which should mean, in Ron Burgundy’s world, his legend is still intact.

The World’s End and a marmalade sandwich

Just one Cornettoooo, give it to meeee! Is what I imagine fans have been singing outside Edgar Wright’s door for the last six years, demanding the final chapter of the Cornetto trilogy. God, has it been that long?

worlds-end-new-trailerWe had a mere three years between Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), yet it’s been twice that wait for the final instalment. Was it worth it? Largely…yes. I consider that a definitive answer. More than my usual balanced, sitting-on-the-fence reviews anyway. I’ll explain why but first, a quick run down of the plot.

Now, for those not in-the-know, me referring to The World’s End as the final of a trilogy can be somewhat confusing.

What links them?

Maybe unofficial trilogy is more accurate. Essentially, in-jokes, small telling references and the core team of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. Plus the very British tone and setting of each film. Oh – and actual Cornettos. Other than that, you’ve got a zombie comedy (Shaun essentially coined the term ‘zom-com’), a playful poke at ’80s action buddy cop movies, and now a sort of warped, apocalyptic, alien sci-fi.

It all begins with Garry King (Pegg) at an AA meeting, recounting the best night of his life; a pub crawl round his home town during his teens with childhood pals. 12 pubs, 12 pints.worlds-end-set-photo However, they never finish the crawl. A plan forms. Reunite the old gang and finish what they started. The crawl begins innocently enough, however they quickly realise the sleepy town is not what it once was, having quite possibly been taken over by aliens…or robots. They can’t quite decide as they’re drunk.

The issue I have is I’m guilty of comparing this to their past work. Ultimately you should judge a film on its own merits. It should stand on its own two feet. Unless of course, it is part of a true trilogy. As this isn’t I feel slightly torn comparing it to Shaun and Hot Fuzz. The former a comedy classic, the latter not far behind and improving with every viewing. This outing is a familiar, yet noticeably different beast.

Largely, The World’s End feels more epic in scope, the characters more layered and complex, and Wright’s direction feels more assured and technically accomplished (he’s clearly learnt how to direct good fight scenes from Scott Pilgrim). 48-the-worlds-end-filmAn interesting twist has Frost playing against type as the straight one for much of the film, as lawyer Andrew Knightley. Pegg’s Gary King is the loose, cavalier wildcard – brilliantly described by one reviewer as a cross between Neo and David Brent. As Mark Kermode says, ‘Damn, I wish I’d said that first!’

If you were to judge this as the final part of a trilogy, I’d say you can see clear progression. Shaun felt like a youthful, exuberant romp with zombies as a backdrop. Hot Fuzz offered a little more of the same, yet felt a shade more developed in terms of storytelling, comedy and action set pieces. The natural, easy chemistry between Pegg and Frost has also grown. The World’s End feels like the natural conclusion – easily the most grown up of the three. A comedy, but with more to say and more complex yet subtle ways of saying it.

That’s not to say it’s not free flowing and a barrel of laughs. Pegg and Frost – in some ways – feel like they picked up where they left off in Hot Fuzz and, whilst (sort of) new additions (Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike) all get some juicy lines to sink their teeth into, it is and always will be the Pegg and Frost show – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Oh, and the title of this piece refers to a redhead flanked by two blondes. If you’ve not seen the film yet, pay close attention to the fate of the marmalade/redhead, administered with gusto by Frost’s character. Gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘Until death do us part.’

On that note…the-worlds-end1

Silver Linings Playbook – smart, edgy rom-com

Seems David O. Russell is on a bit of a roll. Following a six-year break after I ♥ Huckabees, the Writer/Director returned in 2010 with a film which bagged him an Oscar nomination for Best Director, critically-acclaimed boxing tale, The Fighter.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKHis latest effort, Silver Linings Playbook, is another triumph – dramatic, touching, funny and heart-warming. This is down to a smart script, assured direction and stand-out performances – particular from the two leads, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

What’s it all about?
Pat (Cooper) is a history teacher with bipolar disorder, recently released from mental hospital following a violent outburst upon catching his wife with another man.  Despite suffering mood swings and having to contend with a restraining order, he’s convinced he can win back his wife. Then Tiffany (Lawrence) enters his life, herself a recovering sex addict, a condition brought about following the death of her husband.

The two initially bond discussing the types of medication they’ve taken – then begin to form an unlikely friendship. Pat asks Tiffany to give his wife a letter, hoping something which explains he’s getting his life back on track will rekindle their marriage. Tiffany thinks he’s deluded but agrees to help, but only if Pat helps her practice for a dance competition. We all know where this is going right?

silver linings playbookA tale of two wounded souls
Whilst the story may be nothing new – with the exception of the bipolar aspect – this film lives or dies by its leads. Both Cooper and Lawrence deliver career-best performances. For Lawrence, that’s saying something. She’s already had an Oscar nomination for her performance as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone. Here, her latest offering looks likely to get another Best Actress nomination, possibly even a win.

Cooper was surprisingly impressive. All twitchy, unfocused energy with a blunt, direct nature and an imposing presence. You get the sense this is a guy capable of violent outbursts, but really trying his hardest to hold it all together. He also brings comic timing to the character, helping balance out the darker moments. Easily his best work to date. That said, his performance alone would not have lifted the film to the heights it achieved.

silver linings lawrenceLawrence the silver lining
The secret weapon of this film – or true silver lining if you like – was Tiffany. Once again, Lawrence showing the depth of her talent. She’s just astonishing. Obviously there’s a sizeable age gap (Lawrence was 21 during filming, Cooper 37), but she displays a maturity beyond her years – making the attraction between the two wounded souls of Tiffany and Pat wholly believable. She gives Tiffany a wildly unpredictable nature – often switching instantly between vulnerable, raw and conflicted, to steely, fiery and determined. This tends to break down Pat’s defences, leaving him utterly confused, poor chap.

Does this better her performance in Winter’s Bone? Perhaps not, but it more effectively displays her talents and range as an actress – marking her out as one to watch with great interest in the future.

Silver Linings Playbook De NiroDe Niro the dad
As a final note, it’s worth mentioning De Niro, playing Pat’s dad. Another flawed soul with a touch of OCD, cut from the same cloth as his son. It’s arguably his best performance in a long time.

In some of his more comedy-driven roles in the last few years he’s probably overplayed it, to a degree. Here he pitches it perfectly. David O. Russell really does seem to get the best out of the the actors at his disposal, even if he’s known for sometimes rubbing them up the wrong way.

To sum up, Silver Linings is a smart, quirky, dramatic rom-com that tackles some tough issues (marriage, mental health), however it’s buoyed up by a smart script and strong performances – with Lawrence showing that Winter’s Bone was just the start of her ascendancy.

Misfits series 4: First episode review

I got introduced to Misfits a few months ago, loved it and blasted my way through the first two series. For those not in the know, it’s a science fiction comedy drama about a group of young offenders sentenced to community service. On their first day of work they get hit by lightning from a strange storm which gifts them supernatural powers.

A huge appeal of the show on release was how well written the main characters were and the overall tone. Dialogue was realistic, gritty, funny and very sharp. The plot was often very dark, balancing some great dramatic scenes with almost comedy horror at times.

In the first two series it achieved a perfect combination of a brilliant script and story arc, coupled with great chemistry between the actors playing the main characters. Indeed, the first series won a BAFTA for Best Drama in 2010. If you’ve missed it thus far, I urge you to go out and get the box-set to catch up. If you’d like a quick overview of the plot for each series to date, check that out here.

Back to basics…
I have a confession to make, I’ve yet to see series three. I loved the first two but have yet to see the third. With this kind of show I don’t think that’s a problem. Whilst some characters have continued from the third series, enough has changed for the fourth to be seen as a fresh start.

New characters Jess and Finn have been introduced and three characters (Alicia, Simon and Kelly) have left. The new group have another new probation worker (the life span of probation workers in this show is somewhat limited).

Key to the appeal of the show was the balance of the darker, horrific story elements with sharp comedy. In the original series actor Robert Sheehan – who played Nathan – was truly exceptional at getting this right. An incredibly talented actor. Check out some of his best bits here. A major spoiler if you’ve not seen the show, be warned!

New faces
Stepping into his shoes as the comic relief in the third series was actor Joseph Gilgun (who plays Rudy). Some of you will know him as Woody in This is England. Gilgun was well cast, but he was always going to struggle taking over from Sheehan, an actor who really made the comic relief aspect of the show his own and defined the first two series.

Gilgun’s character remains in this fourth series and seems to be taking a more central role as leader of the group. From what I gather he was perhaps not as dominant in series three, but will grow in influence in the current series. I’ve always been a fan and think casting him helped refresh and progress the show from the shadow of Sheehan, who arguably dominated the first two series at the expense of other characters.

For this new series I liked the introduction of Jess (played by excellently named actress Karla Crome) – she reminded me a little of a blend between characters Alicia and Kelly – smart, sassy and intelligent. Although we’ll have to see how she develops as the episodes progress.

Finn (actor Nathan Mcmullen) was a bit of a mystery to me. Not instantly engaging as a character. He sort of sat between being dark and comic, like a diet coke version of Rudy. That said, there was a small scene near the end of the episode that suggests his character may have a darker side and the possibility of an interesting back-story developing.

For me, it’s nice to have this show back. I’d forgotten how much I liked the concept, the tone and the sharp dialogue. I look forward to this current series. If you haven’t seen the first episode of this new series you can watch it here. Or get a taster with the episode trailer below.