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Side Effects Review

Steven Soderbergh, director Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Thirteen (Ocean’s Twelve too but I’m trying to build him up, not condemn him) and more recently Magic Mike, has previously stated that Side Effects marks the end of his directorial career for a few years as he intends to take a sabbatical. So with Side Effects, is Soderbergh going out on a high?

It’s probably best to go into Side Effects knowing very little about it and prepare to just be taken with it. But at it’s very basic the story can be split into two parts: the first half chronicles Emily Taylor’s (Rooney Mara) battle with depression and the meetings she has with her psychiatrist before she suffers traumatic side effects of a new anti-depressant; the second half is about her psychiatrist (Jude Law) as he attempts to unravel the truth and find out who is guilty of the events caused by the drugs.

As a psychological neo-thriller Side Effects requires some top notch acting from its headline stars. And Mara and Law do not disappoint at all. All I could think while Rooney Mara was on screen was “this is the same girl from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?” because she is completely different but still puts in a wonderful performance. Based on her performances that I have seen so far she is set to become one of the best, most versatile actresses of her generation. At only 27, she has the whole world of film at her feet.
I will admit that I am guilty of absolutely lambasting Jude Law in the early years of this century, but since about 2009 my opinion of him could not have changed more. In recent years he has emerged as one of my favourite actors to watch now; his performances are consistently good and that does not change here with one of his best performances to date in Side Effects as the obsessed psychiatrist.

Side Effects really does crank up the tension and suspense in a way that Hitchcock would be proud of. The story is very well thought out and once the first twist hits the audience it’s as if you’re on a roller coaster with twists and turns coming thick and fast, you can never really be sure what it actually happening. There are a lot of clever plot points that are made and this helps to make it such a compelling watch.

Unfortunately though, the twist and turn nature also lets the film down a little. In a film such as this there always comes the inevitable point where you have to tell everything to the audience, which sort of takes away the point of making such a clever film. And in Side Effects, Emily Taylor’s narration does not make it as interesting as it should and could be. The underlying back story that is given at this point does not seem strong enough for the rest of the actions that took place.

Jude Law’s character makes some very good commentaries on the state of counseling and depression which are well worth considering, the whole cast put in very good dramatic performances and while I was in the cinema I was truly gripped. However, after leaving I felt like I was missing out, that I had been unfulfilled and underwhelmed.

Multiple viewings are prescribed.

My Rating: 7/10.

UK Release Date: 15th March 2013

Stars: Steven Soderbergh (director), Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, David Costabile.

Plot: A woman turns to prescription medication as a way of handling her anxiety concerning her husband’s upcoming release from prison.

That synopsis doesn’t really do Side Effects any justice; from reading the plot outline Side Effects sounds like a film that could induce sleep by itself, but upon watching the trailer it becomes clear there is certainly more to it than meets the eye: a shadowy organisation creating drugs with hidden dangers, Jude Law’s murky past… “everyone knows everything” – there are bigger things happening here than just anxiety problems.

Directed by the man behind so many great films (Ocean’s Eleven, Che, Traffic, Contagion, Haywire, Magic Mike) Steven Soderbergh’s latest reunites him with one of the hottest names around at the minute: Channing Tatum. Combine that winning combination with Oscar nominated star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara, and what you have here is a fine combination of talents. It will also be pleasing to hear the man who wrote the script, Scott Z. Burns, also wrote The Bourne Ultimatum. Between them, the cast and crew have knocked up some pretty huge hits!

So the trailer itself, how good is it? It’s good enough to make the audience ask questions and wonder what is going on, that’s for sure. However, it perhaps tries to hold a little too much back and I would have liked to have found out more about Side Effects. Saying that, it’s a good four or five months until release here in the UK and with a first trailer it’s okay to hold things back a little. I look forward to seeing more of this in the coming months.

UK Release Date: 25th January 2013.

Stars: Allen Hughes (director), Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Plot: An ex-cop trailing the wife of New York City’s mayor finds himself immersed in a larger scandal.

Here is Russell Crowe taking on a very different look and perhaps overdoing the tan to play his character in Broken City whilst Mark Wahlberg just looks the same as he always does. I think these two actors have something in common with one another: they have both made some fantastic movies (The Departed, Gladiator) but both have also made movies that tread the line between bad and mediocre (Contraband, Robin Hood).

It feels like with the Broken City trailer we are being told lots of things but we are actually being told very little. The conspiracy or the ‘larger scandal’ are kept secret which is obviously a good marketing ploy to attract viewers but is the very boring story of ‘find out who my wife is sleeping with then i’ll kill her’ really an interesting in? I don’t think so.

I’m a fan of Russell Crowe and I do really like Mark Wahlberg (the same can’t be said for my feelings on the incredibly annoying Catherine Zeta-Jones and when she finally gets out of movies I will be very happy) so I hope that Broken City is a good film, but I can’t see it escaping the pool of mediocre films and it will surely slip into obscurity.

Rock of Ages: Review.

Rock of Ages is the big screen adaptation of hugely successful stage musical of the same name featuring some of the biggest rock songs of the 1980s. Bringing musicals to the big screen isn’t anything new with Mamma Mia, Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street and, later on this year, even Les Miserables all featuring in cinemas.

Rock of Ages is the story of a small town girl and a city boy who meet on the Sunset Strip whilst pursuing their dreams in Hollywood. Their love faces challenges with accusations of betrayal, self doubts and the threatened closure of famous rock club the Bourbon all playing a part in their relationship.

Tom Cruise is Stacee Jaxx; lead singer of huge rock band Arsenal and a stereotypical ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ rock star who has gone off the rails. Although, whilst the marketing of Rock of Ages will tell you this is a Tom Cruise film if you do go see it just for him then you will be disappointed. The main roles fall to professional dancer Julianne Hough and pretty boy Mexican actor Diego Boneta who are both actually really good to watch with a clear chemistry on screen and the two put in very enjoyable performances. Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston and Mary J. Blige all put in sustainable supporting performances whilst Catherine Zeta Jones puts in a performance that makes you question how you never found her annoying at all before this. Paul Giamatti is always reliable and does enough here as Stacee Jaxx’s agent. Russell Brand is awful; his accent constantly changing throughout the film, the delivery of his lines drier than the desert and his all round persona just stinking of desperation to be adored; whoever cast Brand in this film and keeps casting him in other films should really take a good hard look at themselves and ask them why they are doing this.

But it is the musical numbers that draw in fans of musicals and there are plenty of big songs featured in Rock of Ages: Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin, ¬†Foreigner’s Jukebox Hero, Poison’s Every Rose Has It’s Thorn as well as We Built This City by Starship. And the musical numbers are executed very well, fantastic vocals, loud music that create a very real atmosphere and an enjoyable two or three minutes when the songs are on.

Unfortunately though, everything else that isn’t being sung is incredibly dull. A lot of the comedy is misplaced and falls flat and for a light hearted musical the laughs are a pretty important part to enjoyment. The characters are very two dimensional and the dialogue is poorly written and feels very forced at times. It’s a musical so you can look past how quickly people fall in love and form a relationship because that’s what musicals are all about; a sense of utopia. But poor dialogue, poor characters, poor storylines and an all round poor structure take away from the solid performances and good musical numbers because it’s just not enjoyable as a film.

Lots of video games and books that are turned into films are very criticised heavily leading to calls for books and video games to be left on their own platforms and I think the same needs to be said here. Big musicals do well because they include the audience, they make the audience feel like they are a part of the whole performance (something for which Rock of Ages, the stage musical, takes very seriously and is very well known for) and doing this is not possible with films, you do not get the full musical experience watching on a screen.

This is something that should have been left on the stage and, despite Tom Cruise’s involvement and a great soundtrack, all round fails as a film.

My Rating: 4/10.