Karaoke? Yeah baby!

Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-500-Days-SummerSpontaneously bursting into song, that’s what it’s all about. By ‘it’ I mean random and unexpected musical scenes in films. They are like little rays of cinematic sunshine.

And, like all good moments of music that you experience in your life, a lot of these will have stayed with you as fond memories; for me, I’ve always had a soft spot for the songs in A Life Less Ordinary and Empire Records.

Some of these you may have seen coming – karaoke for example – but some, I imagine, took you by surprise in a wonderful way, as they did me. Here’s my selection:

‘Don’t Stop Believing’ Chris Evans – The Losers
Need to ensure no one gets in the lift with you? Just sing Journey with gusto. An unexpected and genuinely hilarious scene, one which works due to Evans’ ballsy delivery.


‘Beyond The Sea’
Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz – A Life Less Ordinary
A great scene in this underrated Danny Boyle film. It got me hooked on Bobby Darin for a fair while and remains one of my favourite Cameron Diaz performances.


‘Sugar High’
Renee Zellweger – Empire Records
It’s hard to pick one scene in a film packed with musical gems. This one is so much fun that it makes the cut. And Zellweger is so sweet singing her little heart out.


‘Hey Ma’
Anna Kendrick and Jake Gyllenhaal – End Of Watch
Apparently on a long drive the two actors were mucking about singing in character with director David Ayer in the back seat. He caught this and stuck it in the movie. That’s a moment.


‘Brass In Pocket’
Scarlett Johansson – Lost In Translation
This Sofia Coppola film which gave Scarlett her break remains my favourite of her performances. As she donned a pink wig, Bill Murray’s resistance was futile.


‘These Eyes’
Michael Cera – Superbad
Comedy that stands the test of time, now that’s tough. This film holds up though. A modern classic, encapsulated in this memorable scene. The hurtin’s on me yeah!


‘Here Comes Your Man’
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – 500 Days Of Summer
I have to say, I know one or two girls that would fall over themselves to get a piece of Gordon-Levitt. Here he gives us a masterclass in how to effortlessly rock a tank top.


‘Afternoon Delight’
Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner – Anchorman
Remember the first time you saw this film? Every scene held a wonderful surprise. This one was a classic example as I doubt anyone saw this 1976 song by the Starland Vocal Band coming.


‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’
Tom Cruise – Top Gun
I am sure I’m not the only one that’s had mates reenact this in the direction of unsuspecting women; essentially cornering them till the song is done. Ladies do love a crooner.


‘New York New York’
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Filmed with Mulligan singing live in one unbroken shot, this scene is so raw and affecting that I’ve only been able to watch it twice. Along with Fassbender, Mulligan elevated this film to pure art.


‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’
Steve Buscemi – Con Air
Supremely creepy, yet mesmerising in a way. An innocuous little scene in the middle of this – clearly quite bonkers – Michael Bay movie has Buscemi singing like a loon as their plane prepares to crash.


‘Blue Shadows’
Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short – Three Amigos
This 1986 John Landis classic was packed with wonderfully witty musical ditties. Whilst ‘My Little Buttercup’ tends to get all the plaudits, honorable mention should go to this song too.

On my mind… Anna Kendrick

pitchperfectThis week I have mostly been thinking about Anna Kendrick. It’s not my fault I swear. In fact I blame her entirely. It all started with Pitch Perfect. Actually… that’s not true. Whilst watching that film over Christmas did inspire me to write this piece, my little love affair really started with Up In The Air.

She’s a most interesting actress – and if you had to pinpoint her appeal I’d put it down to a few factors. She chooses her roles with care, often playing interesting characters that are put in quite complex situations; also she tends to play characters that develop in subtle and often joyful ways – something difficult to do convincingly.

And finally she manages to bring a wonderfully endearing quality to the parts she plays, whether it’s the lead or a supporting role, she holds the screen well and disarms us with her wit, charm, intelligence and adorable nature – all wrapped up in one tiny, cute package.

In terms of characters played and films in which she’s starred, here are my favourites:

Up In The Air (2009)
Most of us remember our first proper job out of education being tough, but what if your first job is firing others from theirs? In Kendrick’s breakout role she played a rookie ‘downsizer’ brought in to fire people from their jobs in the most efficient way possible. She beat rising star, Ellen Page, to the role, and you can see why – her performance was a delight.


50/50
(2011)
A comedy about cancer? Surely not. Loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, this film sees Kendrick as young therapist Katherine, helping Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Adam deal with his illness. Kendrick played her part beautifully, giving Katherine real warmth and believability as an inexperienced therapist who has blurred the lines between doctor and patient. Watch the clip below to hear Kendrick’s thoughts on the role.


End Of Watch
(2012)
Another role as a supporting girlfriend you say? Well, yes. Here she plays Janet, the girlfriend then wife of Jake Gyllenhaal’s cop, Brian Taylor, in this tough thriller/drama, written and directed by David Ayer and set in South Central Los Angeles. Kendrick’s Janet acts as perfect balance to how Taylor acts when on patrol, softening him in the film’s quieter moments. Watch the non-scripted scene below where the two actors – in character – just improvise. It made the film and you can see why – really touching.


Pitch Perfect
(2012)
The second highest grossing musical comedy behind School Of Rock and with a sequel on the way it’s fair to say this film was a success – another to add to the Kendrick filmography. With the tagline ‘Get pitch slapped’ and projectile vomit scenes, this was no Glee. And Kendrick was the smart and sassy centre of it all. In the riff-off scene below there’s a really sweet bit where she turns to her friends with a big ‘look at me’ grin. So cute and so Anna Kendrick.

Behold! Cinema’s best movie bromances

Romances are ok, but in all honesty they’re for girls aren’t they? Far better to go for a good bromance, there’s nothing fluffy or lightweight there. Male bonding, get in!

Often a good bromance is deeply rooted in a dramatic situation or blossoms in the face of adversity – it’s a complex relationship with meat on the bones. With that in mind, I’d like to celebrate a few of the best out there. Remember, it’s like they say in Top Gun, ‘…after the taste of success, one of life’s little joys…is the boys!’

Riggs-And-MurtaughLethal Weapon films (1987-1998) – Riggs and Murtaugh
Did they coin the term ‘buddy cop movie’? Unlikely. But they did make a strong claim for the best set of films to wear that tag with pride. The bond between Mel Gibson’s Riggs and Danny Glover’s Murtaugh was a joy to watch throughout.

Bad Boys (1995) – Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey
Will Smith at the height of his powers riffing off Martin Lawrence. Even Michael Bay couldn’t spoil the love shining through, loosely hidden beneath bitching and practical jokes. ‘Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do!

Swingers-Jon-Favreau-Vince-VaughnSwingers (1996) – Mike and Trent
You’re money and you don’t even know it.‘ Trent (Vince Vaughn) spends the majority of the film boosting Mike’s (Jon Favreau) self-confidence following a breakup, proving that – ultimately – it’s your mates that help you through.

Jerry Maguire (1996) – Rod Tidwell and Jerry Maguire
There’s countless scenes to pick – the whole movie is pure bromance. Ok, there’s a bit of romance in there, I’ll give you that. But for every romance scene with Zellweger’s Dorothy, Cuba Gooding’s Tidwell gets a bromance scene to match.

shaun of the dead ed shaunShaun of the Dead (2004) – Shaun and Ed
Hot Fuzz (2007) – Nicholas and Danny
To be honest you could take any of the films that feature Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, such is the real life friendship these two have it shines through, lending itself perfectly to characters they play. You could watch them hang out all day.

Starsky & Hutch (2004) – David Starsky and Ken Hutchinson
Ben Stiller’s buttoned-down Starsky and Owen Wilson’s cavalier Hutch – a perfect mismatch with bromance in abundance. Wished they’d done a follow up in some ways. Here’s the knife-throwing scene to bring back happy memories.

superbadbromanceSuperbad (2007) – Seth and Evan
Two rising stars at the time – Jonah Hill and Michael Cera – gave their characters such sweetness and depth. You really felt for them, particularly at a tender moment near the end where they’re parting company and moving on with their lives.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson
Guy Ritchie struck gold bagging Downey Jr for the lead with the dependable Jude Law as the trusty Watson. An enticing cocktail of razor-sharp wit and action followed and a new buddy action franchise was born.

2009_the_damned_united_018The Damned United (2009) – Brian Clough and Peter Taylor
Acting giants Michael Sheen and Tim Spall play Clough and Taylor and both put in brilliant performances, as you’d expect. You think maybe they’re not that close, till they fall out and reunite in a touching scene.

End of Watch (2012) – Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala
Made all the more poignant and heartfelt by the way Gyllenhaal and Pena built the bond between their characters with every scene. Just two LA beat cops who are brothers in all but blood. You’re right there with them to the bitter end.

End of Watch takes in-car banter to new level

End-of-watchIs David Ayer more of a writer than a director? His writing credits include U-571 (once described as the most historically inaccurate film of all time), Training Day (a career high), S.W.A.T. (enjoyable but unmemorable), Harsh Times (great performance by Christian Bale) and End of Watch (his best yet?).

It’s probably unfair to just say he’s a writer. As a director he began his career with Harsh Times, then followed up with Street Kings and now we have End of Watch. It’s clear he plays to his strengths. Many writers get told to write what they know. Ayer grew up in South Central Los Angeles and this comes through in his work. Many of his stories revolve around cops, gangsters, drugs and violence and are all well-observed with a distinctive look and feel.

Fate with a badge and gun

With his latest offering I found myself asking, is Ayer the master of in-car banter? Picking up where Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke left off in Training Day, we now have Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two street level LA cops, just trying to do their jobs and make it through the day.end-of-watch-jake-gyllenhaal-close-up Ayer gifts their characters with believable dialogue, which Pena and Gyllenhaal deliver effortlessly with easy chemistry. These guys are brothers in all but blood.

You could call this a buddy cop movie, but Lethal Weapon this aint. It’s a thriller, the tone is gritty, visceral and very real. The banter between the two leads serves to diffuse any tension that builds from a result of the job they do. It also contrasts nicely for the audience. We’re relaxed when the guys are riffing off each other in their patrol car, yet completely on edge when they’re answering 911 calls in gang-ridden neighbourhoods.

Found footage…again

Plot-wise, the film starts simply enough, as vehicle for us to become familiar with the lives of the two leads. They then fall foul of a gang that greenlights them for assassination. In terms of methods used, Ayer opted to tell this tale in ‘found footage’ style, with the two cops filming their everyday lives for a documentary. This largely works. You can willingly suspend disbelief, aside from the odd scene where even a hardened LA cop would put away the camera for his own safety.End-of-Watch_03 What doesn’t work so well is when the gangsters also seem to have cameras and be filming their activities. There’s a limit guys.

That said, it’s a minor point. Overall, this film lives or dies by its leads and it’s safe to say it’s alive and kicking. Prior to filming, Gyllenhaal and Pena spent months riding around LA with real cops and it shows. Their chemistry drives the film and gets under your skin – you really care about their fate and this builds throughout as the tension ramps up.

Does it beat Training Day?

As an overall experience I would say no. Not much will touch Denzel’s award-winning performance. However, in terms of chemistry between characters, it has to be up there. There was perhaps a worry Ayer was beginning to lose his way – as both writer and director – but this represents a huge return to form.

Indeed, award-winning film critic Roger Ebert gave this four out of four stars last year, naming it as his fourth best film of 2012. That should make it a must-see in anyone’s book.

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